Hey everyone! Today I've got a GREAT read for you by Chonce from MyDebtEpiphany.com. As much as I hate student loans, I do love to see the strategies that other millennials are using to get rid of them. Enjoy! ~M$M
If only I could graduate already. If only I could make it through these next few semesters…I really hope they fly by because I’m tired of struggling to make ends meet and working this dead end part-time job. I’m sick of the ‘broke college student’ life. If I have to keep settling for low wages and less hours, I’ll probably lose it. I can’t wait to land a job in my field, start making some real money and improve life. I’m almost there.
Sound familiar? This is probably the internal dialogue that so many college students have when they’re coming to the end of their college experience. This is what was going through my head during the last few semesters of undergrad.
Luckily, I did make it through college and graduated with a degree in journalism. It felt so spectacular to walk across that stage and receive my degree. The day was filled with family and friends, great food, lots of pictures and even more long-lasting memories.
As the day went on I tried to live in the moment but I kept having the same recurring thoughts: What’s next? I don’t have a job lined up. How am I going to find a job and make use of this degree?
Graduation day came and went, then reality set in and my mood almost instantly plummeted after coming to the realization that I was a broke college graduate with a part-time job that paid me $400-500 per month IF I was lucky. Moping around and feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to help my situation though. So…
I Went On Vacation
To celebrate our anniversary and my graduation, my boyfriend and I booked a cruise to the Bahamas. We had a blast, but I still felt limited. We couldn’t do everything we wanted to do though because money was extremely tight and when it was time to leave, I was more than ready to hop on the plane and head home because I was flat out BROKE again.
When I got home, it was waiting for me.
Read also: Should You Travel If You Have Debt?
I Had $30,000 in Debt
I racked up about $21,000 in Federal loans during undergrad and I financed a car for about $9,700 in order to get back and forth to work. The interest rate for my car was sky high ($100 of the $233 minimum payment went straight to interest) and I knew mail would be flowing in about my student loans soon.
After two months of perfecting my resume, pitching employers and selling myself at interviews, I landed my first official ‘Big Girl Job’ as a content writer for a small business.
It was a great job, but starting salary was $28,000/yr and I was shocked that my employer didn’t even ask to see proof of my degree.
At this point, I was so grateful to land a higher paying job, but I started to feel the weight of debt and I wanted it gone ASAP. I had a strange epiphany where I realized that despite everything I accomplished and enjoyed over the past few years, I was still being held back by my debt and needed to break free. With debt, I couldn’t:
- Save up enough to get married to my boyfriend
- Vacation as often as I would like
- Start maxing out my retirement early so I could reap the benefits of compound interest
- Set up a college fund for my son
- Spend and save freely without feeling like I was broke
- Be 100% in control of where my money goes and my financial future
I realized that I was going to have to put in work to be able to do the things I mentioned above and get rid of my debt. It’s unlikely that I’ll win the lottery and I don’t have a juicy story to round up donations on a crowdfunding website. But there were plenty of things I could do to help my situation.
I Could Cut Dead Weight from My Expenses to Free up More Money
Realizing that becoming debt free and financially stable was a passionate goal of mine, I decided that I couldn’t afford a life I truly didn’t have the money to pay for. I stopped using credit cards to pay for extra items and cut cable, got a cheaper cell phone plan, stopped buying tons of clothes and started tracking my spending like crazy. Slowly but surely, I was able to stop increasing my debt total and release some of my money to put toward paying back the debt and build a cash cushion for emergencies.
Speaking of Emergencies, I Could Build My First Emergency Fund
Life is unexpected and it’s a horrible feeling to live in fear of anything going off track (because it will). My first step in my aggressive debt repayment journey was to save up a fund for emergencies when they occur. Most experts recommend having 3-6+ months’ worth of expenses saved up but I chose to only set aside $2,000 and shift the rest of my focus to debt repayment.
I Could Start Budgeting and Being Honest about My Wants and Needs
Budgeting is a must if you want to manage your finances properly. It’s definitely worth the time and effort even if it’s just jotting down your expenses and goals for the month. No one said you have to be a spreadsheet guru.
I Could Become a Whiz in the Kitchen
Dining out is so expensive and even though it’s fun to get out and try new food every once and a while, this is not an expense category I want to waste too much money in. Learning how to cook new and delicious meals at home was as easy as searching for new recipes and how-to videos online.
I Could Learn About All the Cheap Hangout Spots and Events
This was easy. Being in debt and living on a budget doesn’t mean you have to be bored to death and unable to have any fun. You just need to replace your expensive hobbies with free or frugal ones and locate all the free community events in your area for outings. You can do this easily by searching online and subscribing websites and other sources that provide that information.
I Could Earn More Money
After six months at my job, I got a raise. I am set to get another raise in December. I also gave myself a raise by establishing a side hustle. I’m a freelance writer on the side of my day job and I’m also getting into selling items and clothes on Ebay for extra money. After I pay taxes on my earnings, the extra cash is great and has helped me accelerate my debt payments tremendously.
Read also: 8 Side Hustles You Can Start This Weekend!
I’m still in the thick of my journey, but I’ve come a long way from being a hopelessly broke college student saddled with student loan debt. Despite my low salary, I managed to delay my gratification while working toward debt freedom and I’ve never felt so powerful or in control of my own life.
I’m on track to pay down $10,000 of debt this year and I plan to pay off the rest of my balances next year to give me a debt free date of December 2016.
In less than 18 months, I’ll be debt free and you can do the same if you’re struggling with debt. Don’t settle for the myth that living in debt is normal and don’t trap yourself in a specific income bracket because you can always earn more.
Focus on what you can do to improve your situation and let the things you can’t do fuel your motivation to push forward.
— Chonce is a freelance writer who’s obsessed with frugality and passionate about helping others increase their savings rate, eliminate debt, and work toward financial stability. She chronicles her journey to becoming debt-free on her blog, mydebtepiphany.com.