Hey everyone! Today I have a great post for you from Jen over at SavingWithSpunk.com. Jen was one of my blogging students back in the day, and her site is doing really well. This post brings up one of the things that I think is probably discussed the least when it comes to paying off debt – high amounts of stress.
I have readers email me all the time that are so stressed out, but don't know how to manage that feeling while they pay off their student loans. I think this post will really help! Enjoy! ~M$M
2015 Was a great year for me.
I got engaged, threw a fabulous wedding, and had a wonderful honeymoon in the Smoky Mountains. Then we made the decision to lean in and pay off my car and all our student loans as fast as possible.
That’s how I got shingles.
Well, I didn’t get them as much as I “developed” them because I’d had chickenpox. Everyone thought it was because of newlywed and holiday stress and I totally let them believe that. But truth is, I was stressed to the max about paying off those loans.
Out of the roughly $85,000 of debt we started our marriage with, $61K was mine. Knowing I carried over double the amount of debt my husband did gave me a lot of guilt and I felt pressure to work twice as hard to pay it off.
My sweet husband probably has no idea I thought this, I don’t even think I knew until recently. I worked three, sometimes four, jobs, I was up at 6 am and home after 10 pm, never had a day off, and I didn’t pick very easy side hustles.
I made it on this schedule for about two months. But four days before Christmas my body said, “Nope.”
For those unfamiliar with shingles, it’s a strain of the chicken pox virus that attacks the peripheral nervous system and causes excruciating nerve pain, blisters, and itching. It’s usually caused by aging or a compromised immune system but can also be caused by stress and trauma.
Looking back on it, I too can see why my body thought working 14-hour days was stressful and traumatic. I hear all kinds of stories of people working long hours and paying off massive amounts of debt quickly, I just wanted to be one of them.
Since then my husband and I have paid off over $68K of debt in 21 months with no other health scares. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to paying off debt but I definitely don’t recommend starting out like I did.
Here are some things I would change if I could go back:
1. Don’t Take Just Any Side Hustle
I picked up a weekend job working at a foster-care group home. I’d worked there before but quit because it wasn’t worth all the stress. When they asked me to come back I accepted against my better judgment.
That job took way more energy and focus than I had to give it. And I only made $10 per hour, I could’ve been working in paradise at Trader Joe's for that! I’m all about having side jobs to speed up your debt payoff, but seriously consider what job you’re taking.
It’s ok to take a lower paying easy gig that works with your schedule than a stressful high-paying one that keeps you out all day and night. And consider what freelance services you can offer. They may take a little time to get going but often turn out to be the most lucrative.
2. Treat Yourself
Reward yourself after each debt payoff milestone. Whether it’s dinner out or a trip to the beach, you should celebrate your accomplishments. We do that once a month now.
You might think spending money on frivolous things will set you back. But I find I’ll pay a loan off faster because I know there’s something good waiting for me after.
3. Find a Work-Life Balance
I was always looking for my next side hustle and never gave myself a Sabbath. And now that I can work my side hustle from anywhere I’m still struggling with this.
The further you can separate yourself from work in your downtime, the more restful it’ll be. Even if you fall a day behind on work (God forbid) remember that life is a journey and your debt is a tiny freeway on it. Give yourself permission to embrace a little spontaneity.
Debt is the worst but your mental and physical health are too important to ignore. That’s why I feel passionately strong about teaching people to find their own motivation for paying off and using sustainable strategies to get it done. I even created a free course on it!