Crushing $242K in Student Loans

By Luna
Crushing $242K in Student Loans

This article was originally published December 26, 2023 by Jaime Stoffer.

This December marks a significant milestone for me – six years since I bid farewell to my student loan debt. The journey taught me invaluable lessons that transformed my life, and I wanted to share some key takeaways. 

1. Stop and think: As a young and inexperienced student, I made the mistake of taking out loans that far exceeded what my salary could sustain. At that time, I needed a clearer understanding of the monthly payment obligations (fortunately, improvements have been made since then). Being an individual borrower, I found myself grappling with exorbitant interest rates. Naively, I assumed I could easily repay the loans after graduation, oblivious to the financial demands of taxes, mortgages, and bills that would significantly impact my paychecks. This lack of foresight added an extra layer of challenge to my financial journey. Before embarking on major decisions, take a moment to pause and reflect. My student loan experience stemmed from impulsive choices without considering the financial ramifications. Now, I vow to thoroughly evaluate all aspects before making significant decisions.
2. Seek help when you need it. Seeking assistance became a pivotal aspect of my journey toward financial freedom. Acknowledging the anxiety induced by my student loans, I proactively met with a counselor to address the emotional toll. Exploring various financial advisors and programs became crucial, and after careful consideration, I identified a solution that aligned with my circumstances. Seeking guidance extended to consultations with professors, colleagues, and friends, allowing me to gather valuable advice and discover resources for self-education. Overcoming financial stress requires seeking help when needed. There's a wealth of free information out there for those willing to explore.
3. Rewards come when you commit. Stumbling upon Dave Ramsey's principles was a game-changer that fueled my commitment like never before. Engaging in classes, devouring books, and immersing myself in podcasts became more than just a learning experience; it was a wellspring of knowledge and motivation. This commitment served as the catalyst for reaping the rewards, as I set small goals and relished in crushing them. I discovered that the stepping stones, the small victories, were incredibly significant. Celebrating each milestone, no matter how minor, reinforced my determination and underscored the importance of appreciating the progress made on my path. 
4. Make a plan. The power of having a plan became evident as I rapidly achieved my short-term goals. Every dollar was meticulously tracked, and creativity became my ally in finding efficient ways to reach my goals. I took on additional PRN shifts after my full-time job, sold belongings, honed my bargain-shopping skills, and reevaluated needs versus wants during holidays with family. This process shed light on how much I didn't truly need the latest and greatest. However, the most crucial aspect of having a plan was the ability to strategize with my husband. He was a significant part of this journey, and when I refer to 'I,' it frequently encompasses 'We.' Nevertheless, this article is penned from my own perspective. Aligning our goals and collaborating on the plan proved to be a dynamic force. The synergy of shared goals and a well-thought-out plan laid the foundation for our success. 
5. Enjoy being weird. I encountered a myriad of opinions during my student loan payoff journey. From suggestions to rely on government assistance for payoff to enticing get-rich-quick schemes, I heard it all. However, nothing can replace that feeling of accomplishment and burden that was lifted. This experience taught me the importance of finding comfort in my decisions and being at ease with the unconventional choices I made. "Debt is normal. Be Weird." - Dave Ramsey. We all have distinct paths, and what works for others may not necessarily be the right fit for us. It's not only okay but empowering to be different. The ability to think outside the box is a remarkable gift that opens doors.
6. Celebrate the wins. Celebrating the journey was an integral part of paying off my student loans over the course of five years. Setting short-term goals became a habit, and I littered our home with colored-in charts, dry-erase boards, motivational quotes on mirrors, and signs displaying our progress for everyone to see. When friends and family inquired about our debt payoff journey, I could respond with a confident smile. In December 2017, with sandy feet on a Mexican beach and holding my phone up high to catch some Wi-Fi, my husband and I hit the send button to make our final payment to Sallie Mae. Talk about an amazing moment! It felt like we just broke free from financial chains. Honestly, it goes down as one of the coolest days of my life. Waves, sun, and the sweet taste of victory (and champagne of course) – we couldn't ask for a better combo. 
As we head into the new year, I encourage everyone to reflect on their journeys, celebrate victories, and embrace the lessons that shape us. What lessons have you learned in crushing your goals?

Looking for a More Fulfilling PT Career?
Learn more