Today’s debt free story comes from Michelle Schroeder-Gardner. She’s the founder of Making Sense of Cents, a blog about personal finance and traveling. She recently left her day job to focus full-time on her online business, and she hasn’t looked back once. (Go Michelle!)
How much debt did you pay off, and how long did it take?
I paid off $40,000 of student loans at the age of 24. I accrued them throughout undergraduate school and graduate school, but I didn’t start working on them until after I received my MBA. I had some money saved up, but overall it took me around 11 months to pay it off.
While I was in school, I did have full-time jobs (management at a retail store during my bachelor degrees, and then a financial analyst job during my MBA). I didn’t work on paying my student loans off while I was in school at all, instead I frivolously spent all of that money. You can read more about how I went about paying off my student loan debt here.
Why did you decide to pay off your student loans?
I was thinking about leaving my day job to pursue full-time freelancing, but I knew that I didn’t want to do that unless my student loans were gone. So, I made it my goal to eliminate them before I made the switch.
I paid off my student loans in July of 2013 and I made the switch to full-time freelancing in October of 2013.
I’d also heard about many other bloggers who had no student loan debt or were working on paying them off quickly, and that really got me motivated!
What do you have to say to people who might counter that student loans are “good debt”?
I don’t consider student loans “bad debt” but I also don’t consider them “good.” Even if it is good debt, you should still work on paying them off, because they most likely are not at the greatest interest rate. Also, being free of that monthly payment feels wonderful.
How did you go about paying them off?
I did multiple things in order to pay off my student loans as fast as I could. I worked on lowering the expenses that I knew I could lower. For example, I would call companies (such as my cable company), and I asked them for an even larger discount. Yes, I could have cut the cable cord all the way, but I received a good enough discount where I was happy to keep it.
The main thing that helped me with paying off my student loan debt was that I worked on my side income. I worked on growing it as much as I could and working as much as I could. I started freelancing so much that I was probably working more hours on my side jobs than at my actual day job. I managed my websites, wrote on websites for others, managed social media for others and more.
How did you feel while you were paying them off? And now?
I actually felt extremely motivated when I was paying them off. It was like a competition with myself to see if I could pay off more student loan debt than the previous month. It felt great while I was paying them to see the number get smaller and smaller. It almost didn’t feel real!
It still feels great now as well. I still cannot believe that they are gone, and I am extremely happy that I worked so hard to get rid of them.
What tips do you have for someone else who is working to do the same?
My main tip would be to find a way to make money on the side. You could find a part-time job, or you could freelance on your own so that your hours are a little more flexible. A flexible side job really helped because I never felt annoyed to be working. I was able to create my own schedule and do what worked for me.
Jackie’s note: I second the suggestion to find a way to bring in additional money. That’s one thing that made an immense difference for me and my husband. If you’re stumped for ideas, check out my book.