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“How I’m Paying Off $80,000 in Student Loan Debt—on a $30,000 Salary”

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When I was 17, I signed papers that solidified my relationship with student loans. I was young and uninformed, and I didn’t really know what kind of relationship it would be. Over the next several years, I also went to graduate school and accumulated more debt at an even higher interest rate. Since then (7 years, in fact) I’ve been diligently paying back my student loans.

When all is said and done, I will have paid $81k toward student loans, plus interest. That’s a hard number to swallow, but I’ve learned not to get overwhelmed by it. I believe in my education and I made certain choices, and now I am working my way out. Here’s how.

1. I gave myself a debt reality check.

After undergrad, I started working and paying the minimum on my student loans.

I thought that paying the minimum was all that was necessary; I hadn’t yet felt the gravity of the situation.

It wasn’t until I was considering graduate school—and saw how expensive my program would be—that I finally started to have an understanding of what I was getting into.

My reality check came when I was in graduate school. I had a account tracking my student income as well as my debt.

Seeing the numbers in print made me physically ill and overwhelmed. I started questioning everything, including my decision to go back to school.

How was I going to pay this back?! My graduate loans were at $58k, and had a mixed interest rate of 6.8% and 7.9%, and I saw paying interest as flushing money down the drain. At that point, my daily interest was $11 per day.

After being honest about my situation and feeling the weight of my loans, I started to think of tactics to pay off debt.

2. I took control of my finances.

After I graduated, I realized that no one was going to get me out of debt but me. Regardless of my political stance towards student loan debt and education, I knew that I couldn’t wait for the government to “save me.” When you are in debt, it’s easy to get angry and want to blame someone—the media, schools, the government, the credit card companies, etc. But at the end of the day, you have to take charge of your own financial life.

When I got serious about money, I started putting all extra cash toward debt.

I’ve always worked at nonprofits and never had a large income. Currently, I make in the ballpark of $30k before taxes.

I use to make excuses for myself and think I could never get out of debt or excel my repayment because I didn’t make enough money.

After a little wallowing, I decided to change my way of thinking. I started to think of my circumstances and how I could stretch my dollars. You know what? I was able to find a little more every month. I moved to a low-cost area, where I split a studio apartment with my boyfriend. I don’t have a car, pets, kids, or a gym membership. I bike almost everywhere. I live a pretty frugal, minimalist life so I can prioritize my debt and future travel plans.

3. I worked more, and paid off more debt.

By late 2013, I had paid off $16k in debt. With such a low income, I couldn’t have done it without a side hustle. I love side hustling because you can learn new skills, try out a different career, have exciting experiences, meet new people, and make extra money to fund your goals and dreams! I have worked as a brand ambassador, event helper, babysitter, writer, Taskrabbit, and more.

All my extra income goes toward my debt.

In the past 6 years, I’ve paid off $37k, with $24k of that being in the last 2+ years. It’s nice to see progress.

With $43k to go, I’m almost at the halfway point out of my $81k total. I’ve realized that it’s important to just keep going, stop judging yourself, and trust the process.

There will be highs and lows, moments that you plateau, and times where you want to throw in the towel. Above everything, it’s important to just keep going.

This article was originally published on GOGIRL Finance. More by GOGIRL Finance on Levo:

6 Ways to Prepare for Unemployment After Graduation

How to Stay Motivated While You Pay Off Debt

The Secret to Reaching Those Big Goals

Photo: Thinkstock


Student Loans #Debt #College Graduate #Paying Off Student Loans Lifestyle
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Author…your diligence is commendable. Now for the BUT..but surely having gone to grad school you know that nose-to-the-grindstone should be supplemented with research and assistance. Read this article and give thought to teaching or working at a specific non-profit, in order to benefit from student loan forgiveness. At raise time negotiate with your employer to help pay off a part of your loan. If there are any 17 and 18 year olds reading this, use this article as a wake-up-call to the new college paradigm. Taking on $80,000 in student load debt is silly. It will hamstring your financial situation for years, maybe decades. Look at alternatives. Check out; check into your local community college; go talk to your dream employer and see if a degree is even necessary to gain entry to that work place. Fully educate yourself on your options and job prospects before signing a student loan contract that will follow you year after year after year...until paid off.

Maurice Robson
Maurice Robson

What amazes me is that student debt is at 7 to 8% while banks pay only 1.8% on their short term loans from the gov't.

I love that you started, "taking control of your finances". That is key when trying to pay off debt. When you're not afraid to face your financial situation, and you deal with your issues head on, it speeds up the process of becoming debt free. Good for you!

Great if you went to school for teaching or maybe nursing! But the fact is that most of these forgiveness programs only apply to certain degrees/careers, teaching, nursing, etc. If you went to school for something else, it is unlikely that these programs will apply to you. These are also only for federal student loans, so this also wouldn't help anyone who had loans from any other bank or institution.

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