The date was January 24, 2011. I remember it like it was yesterday. I woke up and started getting ready. I trimmed my beard, ate a bowl of oatmeal, and picked out my clothes so I looked sharp for the first day of my new job.
Fresh out of college with a teaching degree, I drove to work that morning with my lunch packed and binder. I felt just like the students on their first day of school. I was ready to make a difference in this world.
It wasn’t a teaching job, but it was the next best thing. I was a Paraprofessional hoping that a teaching job would open up in a few years. Just the week before I worked my last day as a bartender. Now that I had a real job in my professional field, I didn’t need to work side jobs. I was all set.
How wrong I was.
The reality of being a Paraprofessional hit later that fall, exactly nine months after I graduated. My student loans came calling for me, and as Beyonce would say, I wasn’t ready for that jelly. I owed $45,000 in student loans and my $23,000 pre-tax salary didn’t do much to cover the cost of all of my student loan payments.
I tried to get by making my payments, but month after month I saw my bank account slowly dwindle. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I did everything I was supposed to do. I went to college and got a job in my field. This was my time to sit back and live my dreams.
Within the first few months, I extended the timeframe for repayment from 10 years to 25 years just so I could make the minimum payments. I didn’t see another option, but now I was stuck with the fact that I’d still be paying off these stupid loans until I was 50!
I kept thinking, “student loans were the price of my education and getting my dream teaching job”. There was no other way, and so many of my friends were in the same boat.
I hung onto that thought, but it only made me feel more defeated and ashamed of the hole I dug for myself.
My life changed when I fell in love. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s the truth. I didn’t want to start my married life with secrets or shame. I knew I wanted to marry Jenna, but I couldn’t hardly afford to pay all of my bills, let alone buy an engagement ring or pay for a wedding. Plus our dream of starting a family wasn’t possible with student loans.
I knew I needed to get my ducks in a row, and it started with a learning how to budget. My first budget was basic and terrible. BUT IT WORKED!!! I saw my finances in plain sight for the first time, and I was relieved to find out it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I started reading about money every chance I got. I learned how to cut expenses, save money, and get myself out of debt!
My budget inspired Jenna to fix her finances too, and pay off her own $45,000 of debt. Once we tied the knot, we had $90,000 total student loan debt on two teacher salaries. It felt like an totally impossible to pay off. Our dreams of starting a family seemed so far away. How could we afford dacycare and student loan payments?
The truth is we couldn’t. At a minimum we paid $922 for our student loans, which is about as much as daycare. Our student loans had to go, and they had to go as fast as possible!
Our New Life
We made a crazy goal to pay our student loans off in 5 years. $90,000 of debt gone in 5 years. When we first said that out loud, it sounded outrageous and impossible. But dammit, we were going to do it.
We constantly tinkered with our budget to find extra money. The most radical thing we did was stopped going out to eat. We didn’t even allow ourselves to get crappy gas station coffee. If it didn’t come from the grocery store, we said no.
We starting working extra jobs, joined committees at work, and worked our butts off to make and save money. In the end, we paid off $73,000 of student loans in less than 4 years. The other $17,000 qualifies for loan forgiveness, which was a nice bonus.
Our last payment was on May 27, 2017 and we freaking jumped for joy! We did it and now we’re finally living our dreams of starting our family. We welcomed our daughter Adalynn in 2018 and are learning how to be above average parents.
The biggest thing I learned in our 4 years of crazy debt repayment is that you don’t have to be trapped by your circumstances. If you’re in debt now, it doesn’t mean you will be forever. It’s time to change your future by getting rid of those stupid student loans and any other debt you have.
I’m committed to helping your family get out of debt and start living your debt free life. Come join the hustlers who are in the trenches, doing whatever it takes to be debt free. You’re not the only one. Let’s get it done together.
Join the 3,211 other debt slayers who are hustling hard to make their dreams come true. What are you waiting for? Are you ready to get out of debt?