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This week’s guest post is by my friend Jacob. He paid off $25k in student loans in just 15 months — on a teacher’s salary!
Even though many of you may not have student loans, there’s still a lesson here on how to pay off any large debt. (Note: If you’d like more information about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you can check out the Ultimate FASFA Guide for 2018.)
Take it away, Jacob!
I want to take this time to talk to you about how I paid off my student loan debt and how I feel now that it is all said and done.
When I had a lot of student loan debt, I was in a bind. I knew I needed to pay it and I knew that it was going to be difficult to do, but I didn’t have the motivation to do so at first. Once I neglected my loans, though, I realized how much accrued interest could paralyze my future. I knew I had to fully commit to my debt, and that’s exactly what I did.
In fact, I made a lot of changes in my day-to-day actions, my living situation, and even my thoughts. I took the extreme road for paying down my debt and I (eventually) did it.
Best of all, I only had to give up about 15 months of my time to do it. Specifically, I paid off $25,000 in student loan debt in just 15 months. Most minimum wage jobs make less than $25,000 in a year.
Think about that for a moment.
Yes, I am proud of my accomplishment and I want to make sure to explain how I did it and the benefits of it, so that you too can experience the benefits I did.
I Used Side Hustles to Supplement My Income
I cannot tell you enough how much I love side hustles. Without them, I would not be able to be in the position I am in now. In fact, I would be much worse off. My side hustles have been good to me and I still use them to this day to provide myself with the money for any of the additional items I need or want in my life.
I am a high school math teacher, so I do not make a lot of money by any means. Yes, it is unfortunate, but I love what I do. I have a passion for it and it makes me happy. Unfortunately, the biggest downside to my job is that I am basically out of work when it is the summer time. (Editor note: If you’re a teacher, here’s a free assessment tool to help manage loan repayments.)
Yes, I am still technically employed and, yes, I will still be the same math teacher when the school year comes around, but we get the summer off. It may sound like a dream to have the summer off, but it is not as great as it sounds when considering the pay.
I turned to side hustles because I had a need and the time to work at meeting that need. I chose two types of side hustles: freelance writing and photography. I enjoyed freelancing because I was able to work when I wanted to and I was able to take on however many clients I wanted and when I wanted.
As a freelance writer, I would write pages of copy for clients who needed sales letters and blog articles completed. I made quite a nice chunk of change from this and since I enjoyed the writing side of it, it came naturally.
If you are considering freelance writing, I recommend checking out Upwork to find jobs. This is what I used and it is very easy to find work and get paid.
May second side hustle was photography. I took pictures of weddings, corporate parties, birthday parties, engagements, and other similar events. I made some decent money doing this, but it was more seasonal, so I did it mainly throughout the summer when I was off, and sometimes on the weekends or nights during the week, if I could swing it.
If you aren’t the most skilled photographer but are interested in doing it as a side hustle, I recommend checking out this site to get started.
All in all, I made some great income from the two side hustles and it allowed me to make additional payments towards my student loans.
Benefits of Paying Off My Student Loans
While you may think there are no true benefits of paying off your student loans other than you don’t have to make the payment anymore, I found quite a few.
First and foremost, yes, I did not have to make those dreaded payments anymore and I was able to take the monthly amount I would have sent to my student loans and place it into a savings account for myself. This is one of the most obvious benefits of paying off your student loans, but not the only one.
The second benefit is a psychological one. Yes, being in debt can wear you down and it can cause you to become depressed, if you let it.
I did not lot this happen because I decided I would tackle it head on. I did, however, suffer some psychological issues from it which included the anxiety of not knowing when the debt would be paid off in full down to the stress of trying to figure out where the money would come from to make my payments.
It is taxing, especially when you struggle financially, but the moment that burden is lifted from your shoulders, you will feel an amazing sense of relief, trust me.
Another benefit is that I can now focus on buying myself a home, renting my own apartment, or even financing a new car. With my hefty student loan debt hanging over my head, it was nearly impossible to do any of this and I couldn’t afford it anyways.
The moment that debt was eliminated, that was the moment my debt to income ratio improved and I now do not have to worry about my credit score being affected by my student loans.
Lastly, I benefited from paying off my student loans because I had new found free time. What I mean by this is that I no longer had to take on a bunch of side hustles like I did before to pay off the debt. I was able to take time to myself and do the things I wanted or needed to.
I felt a huge relief because, while I did enjoy my side hustles, it was a lot to do after already working a full-time job throughout the week.
The Best Decision I Ever Made
Paying off my student loans as fast as possible was the best decision that I ever made in my life and there is nothing I would change at this point.
I take that back. The only thing I would change is making sure I had paid off my student loans even earlier than I did. Not only did I find myself the ability to put money away now, I was no longer stressed out and I no longer had to worry about those payments.
Student loans are tricky because most students need them to go to school and they rely heavily on them. The problem is, like me, most of these students do not understand the full implications of the student loans. They think that they can take out the money and use it to fund their needs while in college and then pay them back once they are set financially.
Borrowers are required to repay the student loans six months after they drop below part time or when they graduate – whether or not they have a job or can make the payments. This is the tricky part that many students do not understand.
If you do have student loan debt, it is not the end of the world, but it is time for you to sit down and think about what your future plans are to ensure that you do not fall into the trap of debt. I know how much of a relief it was when I paid my student loan debt and I know it will be a relief for you too.