I was up at 5:00 this morning to attend my first-ever Body Pump class, so I’m in an especially chipper mood today.
And now to bring this party to a screeching halt – I’d like to discuss my student loan situation. The first time I blogged about this subject was roughly 10 months ago, when I had about $33,000 of debt.
At the time, my plan was to pay just a little extra each month and continue contributing aggressively to my savings and investment accounts. My rationale was simple, and not unsound: my student loans carried the low interest rate of 2.07%, and I could probably make more than that investing in index funds.*
Fast forward 10 months ——> my philosophy has changed. I want that debt to go away. Right now.
Why the sudden change?
- My interest rate just increased to 2.4%. Because this is literally the first time my rate has changed since I graduated college, I was under the impression I had a fixed rate (
stupidrookie mistake). After playing around with a debt repayment calculator, I realized this “small” increase would result in paying almost $1,000 more in interest over the course of repayment. And of course, the federal government has the power to change my rate each year, so who knows where it will go from here? I don’t like any of this.
- This blog: No More Harvard Debt. This guy paid off $90,000 in student loans in 7 months! His approach was extreme: he liquidated retirement accounts, took on roommates, and sold prized possessions, among other things. His razor-sharp focus on the goal of paying off his debt has inspired me to do the same.
For the last several years, my student loans have been paid via automatic bill pay. This is generally a good thing – I’ve never been late on a payment, and I don’t really have to think about it.
But on the flip side – I don’t really have to think about it. Sure, I budget for it faithfully every month, but that only requires 1.8 seconds of thought. Until last August, I never took the time to dig into the numbers and consciously track my progress. Lacking consciousness about it meant that I never really felt the burden of the debt.
My, how things have changed. This debt now feels like an anchor weighing me down, sabotaging my path to financial freedom, and ultimately holding me back from the life I dream about.
(I’m only being a little dramatic, I swear.)
The Nitty Gritty
Here are some hard numbers/facts:
- I started with $38,290 of debt in August of 2006.
- I have 10 separate loans ranging in amount from $852 – $4,123. (Yes, I have pursued consolidation, but was told my interest rate couldn’t be beaten.)
- In August of 2015 – when I got motivated to pay it down faster – I owed approximately $33,000.
- Since August, I have paid $4,062 extra toward my student loans. This is in addition to my automated payment each month.
- I currently owe $27,748.
- I’m on a graduated repayment plan. I began with a monthly payment of $118 upon graduation, and currently pay $153. This number will steadily increase every two years to $452 in the year 2027.
Okay, stop right there. There is no freakin’ way I’ll still be paying on these loans in 2027! I’ll be 45 years old for Heaven’s sake! No. Just…no.
So What’s The Plan?
Naturally, the plan is to pay these suckers off as soon as humanly possible.
Based on my current income, I could pay them off in three years while maintaining the quality of life I’m accustomed to. (For perspective: I’m already super-frugal, but I do budget for a yearly vacation, a few fun weekends per year, and the occasional dinner out.) This would mean paying $500 each month in addition to the automated $153 payment. That’s a decent goal: it will definitely hurt to see that money flying out the window, but I won’t have to feed my family ramen noodles every night for dinner.
But that’s not good enough. Three years is a little too long. I need a stretch goal.
I’m setting a deadline of December 31, 2018 to pay off my student loans. This gives me about 2.5 years to pay off $27,748 on a (paltry) teacher’s salary. To accomplish this, I will need to pay $153 (regular payment) plus $800 extra each month.
That’s a scary number for me.
So Much Cognitive Dissonance
These are all thoughts running through my mind right now:
“But I want to take a trip to San Francisco next summer!”
“But I need to spend $120 on a gym membership so I can go to fitness classes!”
“But my daughter wants to start gymnastics!” (“And she needs cute new clothes for 3rd grade!”)
“But our TV is about to kick the bucket, our couch has seen better days, and our basement is a cold gray dungeon that needs some serious TLC.”
“But I’m 34 years old – I should be able to afford wine that costs more than $6 a bottle!”
“But I want to advance my career and/or learn a new skill. It’s going to take money to do these things!”
“But, but, but…”
Sigh. “But I really need to pay off my student loans.”
To Make Matters Worse…
- I got an awesome new job, but it comes with an
awesomenew pay cut. To the tune of $5700 per year.
- In September we’ll have to start paying for before/after-school childcare for my daughter. To the tune of $400 per month. (I now realize how spoiled we’ve been by not having to pay for this the last three years.)
But On The Bright Side…
Okay, I’ve complained just about enough for one post. Life is good, and I am very blessed. My husband is going to benefit from a decent salary increase soon with his new job. And while I have to take a pay cut this year, it’s only temporary. If I stay the course, I will get a raise of about $10,000 per year next September. Plus, how stinkin’ spoiled am I to have a 2.4% interest rate on my loans?!
I’ve set my deadline, and now I can’t ignore it. Now – how do I actually plan to pay my debt? I’ll save that for another post…
Do you make minimum payments on student loans, or do you try to pay extra?
Do you currently have any “stretch goals?”
What small step did you take to reach one of your goals today?
I made a $1,090 payment toward student loans!
*Some people will disagree that paying off student loans should take priority over saving for retirement and building other assets, particularly when the interest rate is low. That’s okay – I actually share that sentiment. But I feel so burdened by this debt right now that it’s eating away at my soul. And that’s never a good thing, so I just need to get rid of it ASAP.