For my first 2 years out of nursing school I made the minimum student loan debt payment of about $420 a month. But when I finally sat down and looked at how much of that was going towards interest and how long it would take to finally pay off (13 years, yikes!) it made me sick to my stomach.
By that time I was down to $27,000. Becoming a Mom made me realize that being debt free AND having money in my bank account was way more important then spending money on stuff I didn’t need.
Prior to starting my BSN, I had a pretty nice savings account set aside. Because of that, I was able to pay for 1 year of my prerequisite classes and my first few months of my nursing program upfront in cash. If it wasn’t for that I would have had well over 50K in student loan debt at graduation.
While I was on maternity leave, I started listening to financial podcasts specifically focused on paying off debt. Most of this was done while my daughter and I went out for walks and she was napping. It motivated me to change my thoughts about my current student loan status.
I took everything I had learned from those podcasts and formed my own simple plan: Don’t spend any money on anything that is not an actual need. At that time, my true needs included grocery shopping, pet food, and nanny. That’s it.
I am happy to announce that I hit my goal right on target! Here is how I paid off $27,000 off student loan debt in 9 months:
There is no such thing as good debt. I don’t care if there is a 0% interest rate. Debt is debt. It is still a black cloud handing over your head that never goes away unless you force it to.
So long $5 Starbucks coffee (lucky for me my husband loves to make great coffee at home). Bye bye restaurant meals. Farewell clothing budget.
I also forbade manicures and pedicures (unless done by me). Also, I cooked all of our meals at home, packed all my lunches for work and made all my daughters baby food.
If there was something that I thought I needed but wasn’t sure, I gave myself a week to think it over. Even if it was something small. 99% of the time I ended up deciding that it wasn’t important enough to buy.
When I met with friends, instead of going to lunch, we would go for walks or to the park. Fortunately this is easy when you have babies.
After taxes, retirement and taking out money to pay the nanny, I took the rest and threw it at my loans. It was anywhere from $1500 to $3500 every 2 weeks depending on how many shifts I worked.
I did the math to figure out my payoff date.
I started on March 1st, 2016 and my goal was to be completely paid in full by November 1, 2016. To make sure I stayed on track I planned a celebratory family trip to Palm Springs for the 2nd week of November.
As a new mom, it is hard to find time to read books or search the internet for resources on paying off student loans. Listening to financial podcasts was my single most important way to motivate myself during this process. I could multitask by listening to them while out for walks with my daughter.
Some of the podcasts I listened to included Paula Pant at Afford Anything, The Money Guys, Stacking Benjamin’s and Dave Ramsey.
As a per diem float nurse I have the option of working as much or little as I want. For the purpose of paying off my loans as fast as possible I tried to work at least 3 shifts a week. Since I was a new mom I didn’t want to go overboard though. The reason a became a nurse was so I could spend more time at home once we had children.
No longer was I spending money on anything that wasn’t a necessity. I did this by taking a look at the things I could reasonably live without. This was the first time in my life I stopped buying clothes and shopping for things I didn’t need. To my own surprise, I’m still alive. In some ways life is actually easier now because I don’t have a ton of extra stuff hanging around cluttering my house. I spend the time I would have spent shopping on doing other things that are more important to me.
While this is not a repayment strategy, it does help me find motivation to continue down the right financial pathway now that my loans are gone. Having money in the bank is so much better then having debt. It feels amazing! And my savings gap gets bigger and bigger every month because I focus on growing my assets instead of buying unnecessary stuff that will probably end up in a dump in 5 years anyway.
Don’t be the sucker who spends their entire life paying off student loans. They will NEVER go away if you don’t make them, even if you file for bankruptcy.
Do you have student loan debt? If you work hard and focus on what is actually important in your life, living student loan debt free can be a reality for you too. Now get to it!
Sarah, Mother Nurse Love
Sarah Jividen is a registered nurse, blogger, writer, wife, and mother with an aspiration to empower nurses and moms to take better care of themselves. Sarah lives with her husband in a beach suburb outside of Los Angeles where they are raising their two-year-old daughter, newborn son and two rescue kitties. In a rare moment of free time you may find Sarah practicing yoga, socializing with friends, sampling dark beers or attending a local concert venue with her husband.