In March 2013, I graduated from college with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Nursing- and a $36,000 tab.
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.
After the birth of our daughter (and an unpaid maternity leave) I decided to get aggressive about paying off my student loans. 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 55k 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, housing, pet food, and nanny. That’s it.
My Student Loan Payoff Plan: Pay off $27,000 in student loan debt from February 1 to November 1, 2016.
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:
#1. I realized that student loan debt is NOT good debt.
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.
#2. I trimmed my 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.
#3. I contributed 90% of my paychecks to my loans.
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.
#4. I listened to financial podcasts and read books to keep me focused and motivated.
I listened to financial podcasts and read a ton of books to motivate myself during my payoff. Some of the podcasts I listened to included Paula Pant at Afford Anything, The Money Guys, Stacking Benjamin’s and Dave Ramsey.
#5. I picked up a few extra shifts at the hospital.
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.
#6. I made many short term sacrifices and got used to being uncomfortable.
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.
#7. After I became debt free I kept my new lifestyle so that I could keep saving and investing at a significantly larger rate.
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.
Advice for anyone going to college:
- Get the best education you can while spending the least amount of money possible.
- Don’t take out more loans then you need to.
- Live as frugally as you can while in school. It’s temporary and you will thank yourself for it in the long run.
- Make an aggressive plan to pay off you student loans as soon as you graduate.
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