My path to student loan repayment began like most people’s: I paid the minimum. For the first year of my student loan repayment, I only paid what I had to. One day, I’ll pay more, I told myself. One day…
I wasn’t sure when that day would be. I was working as a reporter, lucky to be employed at all. High salaries and expected raises were not something I had to look forward to.
Speeding up my Student Loan Repayment
Once I moved down to where my boyfriend lived and switched careers, I was able to start paying $500 extra on top of my loans. I’m on track to pay them off within 2.5 years.
Here’s a recap of where that $500 came from:
- $150 came from spending less money driving to see my boyfriend, since we were now in the same city
- $250 came from putting my savings goals on hold (like buying a new car)
- $50 came from a small increase in salary
- $50 came from saving money on car repairs, since I was no longer driving 400 miles a week
You don’t need a high salary to save a lot of money. Your habits determine that more than your paycheck. For example, I don’t go out to restaurants for lunch, I drink coffee at work and a normal Saturday night means staying in with my boyfriend. (Tip: if you’re frugal, date someone who’s frugal. You’ll never have to feel bad for saving money).
Changing Behavior to Pay Debt Faster
I don’t live like most of my friends, even though most of them have debt. Because of these habits, my student loan repayment is happening on a pace that really feels liberating.
We all have different paths to student loan repayment. This is just mine. That’s not to say that I don’t wish I went out more. Most of the time I eat leftovers and only buy alcohol on special occasions. For all the suggestions people have about potlucks and watching movies at someone’s apartment, sometimes you just want to have a night out at a bar with all of your friends. For now, I’m keeping those motivations at bay by focusing on the good feeling I get when I send that student loan repayment check each month.
For me, a splurge is buying $5 worth of cookies that will only last a couple days. But that’s ok. I’m in aggressive student loan repayment mode. One day, I’ll have more money to splurge, perhaps to buy some milk to go with those cookies.
What’s your strategy for student loan repayment?
Zina Kumok lives in Indianapolis, where she works for a local non-profit. She’s been interested in personal finance ever since her mom forced her to listen to Dave Ramsey on the radio after piano lessons. She writes about paying off her student loans at her personal Tumblr blog, Debt Free in 3.