November 10, 2016, was one of the most important days of my life. That was the day that I decided to pay off my student loans and make my last payment. It was also the day that I got rid of the personal and financial burdens that came along with having $63,000 of student loan debt.
Although my student loan repayment journey was far from easy, in the end, I would do it all again. I would make the same sacrifices to pay off my student loans ahead of schedule rather than refinance student loans. Enduring those sometimes painful moments meant that I could afford to finish paying off my debt almost six years ahead of schedule.
A recent study revealed that US families gave up eating out and buying new clothes to afford their children’s college education – I can totally relate. Cutting out unnecessary spending is one of the first things to do when trying to save or pay off debt.
In your repayment journey, you’ll have ups and downs but remember that all of your sacrifices, like good karma, will come back to you. The sum of your sacrifices will lead you to financial freedom, independence, and prosperity.
The Ultimate Sacrifice
Being debt free was something that I intentionally worked hard on for years. However, it might surprise you to hear that when the opportunity to pay off the remaining balance presented itself, I hesitated to make the last payment.
Although I wanted to live debt free, making my last payment in November meant that I would wipe out my entire savings. I would have very little left to my name. In the past, I used my savings to pay off large chunks of my debt, but I never used it all. I always had a small cushion to fall back on.
My original plan was to pay off my student loans in April 2017 but the last few months leading up to the date was very difficult. Mentally, I felt defeated. Exhausted and frustrated, my student loan payments left me with very little money to enjoy the life that I worked so hard for.
Although April was only six months away, it couldn’t come fast enough. I felt like I would never finish paying off my student loans.
That’s A Wrap!
It was one of my friends that convinced me to send my last lump sum payment to my lender.
“Start building your wealth”, he said. “You deserve it.”
He was right! Although my net worth would be very close to zero, this was only temporary.
One thing that my student loan repayment journey taught me is that you have to embrace the struggles and sacrifices for the greater good. The day-to-day sacrifices that I made for four years expedited my ability to start building my wealth. My sacrifices were not in vain. They never went to waste.
On the contrary, my sacrifices slowly built return and paid off in a big way.
So what did I sacrifice to make this all happen?
6 Things I Sacrificed To Pay Off My Student Loans
My Own Place
I’m a big advocate for living at home in your twenties, but it’s not without its challenges.
When you live at home, you have less privacy. And to some extent, your independence may take a small hit. Yes, my mom does my laundry but guess who cleans the bathroom!
Nevertheless, privacy and independence were never big issues for me because my mom always respected my personal space and vice versa.
Another challenge about living at home is that I live very far from my job. I spend over 1.5 hours commuting to/from work one way.
What social life?!
Living at home directly affected my social life but not for the reasons you might think of.
Since I spent so much time commuting every day, it discouraged me from making friends and hanging out with co-workers after work. Also, since I got home late most nights, I never had time to make new friends in my hometown.
I also didn’t have the funds to go out to dinner or get drinks regularly either. I had a social life once a month when my co-workers invited me out for happy hour – never missed those!
Living at home affected my social life and eventually my love life.
The guy that I was dating throughout my repayment journey never fully supported my decision to stay at home to pay off my student loans. He said he supported me, but deep down we both knew how he really felt.
He believed that it was an immature move to live at home. I was wasting the best years of my life on a long commute. This tension put a lot of strain on our relationship.
He never got over this issue, but I didn’t care. I was doing what was best for me and I have no regrets. By the way… that relationship did not last.
I’m so happy that I stood my ground. Never compromise on your core values.
I couldn’t afford to pay off my student loans and save for retirement. Although I didn’t stop contributing to my retirement accounts, I reduced my contribution.
I want to work on saving for retirement now that I’m debt free.
Focusing on paying off my student loans meant that shopping was a luxury. I shopped for special occasions like an anniversary and I only shopped at the sales rack.
If an item wasn’t on sale (I’m talking about rock bottom prices), I wasn’t interested.
I got my hair and nails done a few times over the past four years. Besides special occasions, I didn’t see the need to spend money on things that gave me very little satisfaction.
The only thing that I did regularly was my eyebrows – and when I say regularly, I mean spending $12 once every few months.
It’s now been three months since I made my last student loan payment. I’m beginning to see the fruits of my labor and my financial future looks bright.
I can attribute my repayment success to having unwavering discipline, even when things seemed impossible.
Having discipline means learning to say no to yourself because sometimes you have to say no to be productive. And sometimes you have to say no to reach your goals.
If you can, make the necessary sacrifices to speed up your progress.
What have YOU sacrificed to pay off your student loans?
Danielle is a travel finance strategist, author, speaker and podcaster. She paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27 and has traveled to 26 countries. She refuses to let her financial responsibilities hold her back from living life on her own terms.