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They are like a dark, brooding cloud that hangs over your life. While you’re in school, you barely even think about them. You’re living it up in the dorms, studying your butt off and trying to get through each year. But what happens after you graduate?
It was the day before graduation and I was stoked. I was finally going to be done with nursing school forever! (Literally the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life!) In order to graduate, you had to pick up your cap and gown, get some alumni merch, and sit down with a financial aid counselor for 5 quick minutes. So I sat down at the table for financial aid and I was confused.
Why do I still need financial aid if I’m done with school? The woman on the other side of the table gave me a paper with all of my government loans on it. The number on that paper was big! How did I take out that much in loans?! Wasn’t it just a couple thousand here and a couple more for the next semester? But that wasn’t the worst part. They gave me another blank paper for me to fill out all my private loan information. I filled that out and it almost gave me a heart attack!
5 different companies, multiple loans, all totaling more than $80,000 in student loans! With interest, it came out to more than $100,000! In theory, I knew college was going to cost a lot. But I did things to decrease that cost like living on campus for only the first year and commuting the rest. School only took me 4 years instead of doing the easier 5 year route because I didn’t want to pay the extra money. However, with extra nursing school fees and barely any financial aid, I had gotten myself into a ton of debt!
A couple of months later in October, my loans were due. Luckily for me, I had started a great job in a hospital as a NICU nurse! My dream job. I made enough money to pay all my minimum payments, which is more than some of my colleagues could say. However, the amount of loans I had to pay (while paying for my wedding) seemed like too much. There was a black hole called student loans, and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It seemed like I would never pay them off.
Luckily, my parents taught me how to be wise with money. I knew I at least had to pay the minimums, but I paid extra as much as I could. Within the first year, of graduating and before getting married, I had already paid off 2 small loans and 1 medium loan from Sallie Mae (never again!). I was still living with my parents, had no car payments, no credit card debt and was basically throwing every penny I could at my loans.
Then I got married.
With marriage came another $65,000 in loans from my sweet hubby, B. He went to the same university and nursing school. Thank goodness, he got a little more assistance with tuition. Praise Jesus! He also got a job at the same hospital as a registered nurse! So we got married, got our own
little apartment (740 sq ft!), and had minimum payments due on our student loans that equal almost $1400 a month! Insanity.
Wanting to be wise with our money, and figure out how in the world to pay all of this off, we asked our parents for advice. My parents suggested Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University – FPU. Click here to order the book! He has proven steps that have helped people make a budget, get out of debt, save for retirement and build wealth.
Let’s Pay It Off!
We decided there was no hurt in trying, so we read Total Money Makeover and started a budget right away. We started to do the debt snowball and figured out how we could “live like no one else, so tomorrow you can live like no one else!” – Dave Ramsey. Basically, we tried to live on as little of our income as possible (40%) and put the rest towards paying off loans (60%). We put off buying a house, new cars, a new laptop, spending money on whatever we wanted. In order to save money, we drive 17-year-old cars that are paid for and run well. We even moved back in with my parents for a while to cut out 6 months of payments! The thought is, if you sacrifice now, then you can live well later.
See my blog posts about Dave’s 7 baby steps, making a budget and the debt snowball. But let’s fast forward to today. 4 years after making that first student loan payment, we only have 2 paychecks left until we are done with debt forever! It hasn’t been easy. There are days when I just wanted to live like everyone else! I want to buy a house, buy a new car, stop having to budget and just buy what I want. It is a long and sometimes lonely road when you are paying off debt. You have to say no to instant gratification and doing whatever you want. You have to be responsible with your income and how you spend it. We want to be good stewards of our money and spend it wisely. Many people tell me that it’s worth it. So I am bound and determined to find out!
Follow my blog for more details on exactly how we paid off $165,000 in debt in 4 years and still enjoyed life!