This past year was my last year of college (hooray!). While this was an exciting time, I also knew that I have student loans to start planning for. One day I saw an article on Pinterest titled with the hard to believe claim of "How We Paid Off $26k of Debt in 9 Months!" At first I was discouraged reading the article, but then I realized two things... 1) More and more of these articles and blog posts started to appear, and 2) The authors all had one thing in common: they were disgusted by the amount of debt they were in.
I think it's important to make a clarification here. The authors did not regret acquiring such debt. They all were overwhelmingly glad for the experiences taking out loans provided them, whether it be education, travel, or other reasons. But, nevertheless, they were disgusted that it was attached to their name.
This disgust was the motivating factor that allowed them to pay off their debt quickly. This actually makes a ton of sense! This debt that was lingering on their shoulders and whispering in their ears was so irritating that they had to do everything they could to eliminate it as quickly as they could. Here are a few points I've been living by to pay off my student loans, as well as some suggestions I've been fortunate enough to be advised about by friends and family:
- Put your goal in front of your eyes: out of sight, out of mind, right? I put my goal in front of my eyes by literally setting it as my laptop background. A picture of where I bank and a picture of the university I graduated from with the statement across it in bold: I Will Pay off 'X amount' of Student Loans by Christmas of 2017. When you see your goal, you pursue it with more of your effort. It creates the healthy kind of disgust I mentioned earlier
- Pay off your interest before your grace period starts: I mention this to all of my friends and colleagues, and I am AMAZED at how few have heard this tip before. My sister passed the message along to me when she graduated 2 years before me. If you haven't heard or didn't understand this when you heard it before, I'll explain it as simply as possible: if you pay off the interest already accrued on your loans before you go into repayment, that interest isn't there to be capitalized on. I know it sounds confusing, but trust me, this one will save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
- Pay your bill (and any extra) ON payday!: This is one I came up with to keep myself disciplined and focused. Create a budget where you can put a little extra towards your payment each month if you are able. Then here's the most important part. Pay it on payday. Pay it first! If you don't, you'll be tempted to use that extra cash on coffee, eating out, and social events throughout the month. But at the end of the month, you'll realize that Venti Frappuccino with 2 shots of coconut and an extra shot of espresso was really really not worth it in comparison to staying in debt longer than you have to. Every little bit helps, and if you put the extra towards your payment before you're faced with other choices about where to spend your money, you don't have to deal with the temptation of foolish spending when you're in the moment.
- Know why you want this freedom:Why do you want financial freedom? Don't just have a general statement like "So I'm not in debt." Come up with a compelling and specific reason that will motivate you. Something along the lines of "I want to pay off this debt in under 3 years so I can travel to New Zealand and start my own business!" Doesn't that sound more desirable? This point goes hand in hand with my next tidbit of advice.
- ...Don't dream big, DREAM HUGE: Don't play it safe. Who's stopping you? You will get in life where you plan to go. Don't plan for a mediocre life. Plan for an incredible, adventurous, I-can't-belive-this-is-my-life kind of life. If you plan and assume for the mediocre, you'll get the mediocre. A lot of times, we dreamers like to dream adventures in our head, but we forget to dream big financially.
- Be virtually mentored by the successful: Stay motivated. Listen to the advice of people who've been in your shoes. Build good habits. The best thing you can do for yourself is embrace the idea that you have so much to learn still. Don't think of it as "I don't know anything" but more of "Others know more/different things than I do. I want to know what they know so I can get to where they are." I've made it a point to follow and listen to more motivators on social media than I do businesses or celebrities. One of my favorite entrepreneurs that I follow on social media is Dale Partridge. I love his story because he started out as an average guy from an average family, but the impact he's made on the world is extravagant to say the least. As a final word of "My Two Cents" I'll leave you with an extremely valuable quote I read on his blog:
"Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most."
The result that this advice has had on me? Constant motivation and joy in paying off my loans, which is something I never thought I would say! From this advice I've been able to embrace where I am at in life right now, stay focused to achieving paying off my student loan debt quickly, and be encouraged that I am on the right path to accomplishing my goals and making a positive influence in the world. Because of this advice I not only am more aware of my debt situation, but I've been able to enthusiastically plan for financial success as well as success in my personal life.