This is NDB's first guest post and it is by La Tejana. Enjoy!
Debt has become so prevalent in America today that it is not unusual for a friend or acquaintance to admit to having some sort of debt in casual conversation. We have been conditioned to the idea that some debt is good and that ultimately, it is okay if you have some.
However, at some point some of us get hit with the “this can’t be right” bug and realize that our debt is weighing us down tremendously. Graduating with my master’s degree at the age of 23, I logged on to the National Student Loan Database only to see my final billing amount (pre interest) was $80,000.
I nearly fell over.
Not that I didn’t already know, but seeing that amount on at the age of 23 was halting and I knew I had to do something. At that moment I decided to embark on a journey to repay my loans as quickly as possible. Since January of 2013, I’ve paid over $12,000 on my loans. It’s taken hard work and loads of effort, but here are 8 things I do to KILL my debt quickly!
1. Stop eating out. At first, this was SO hard for me. Although I set my “eating out” budget to $50, I was constantly going over (double or triple) each month. Changing behavior is hard, but I’ve adopted the new philosophy that eating out is a privilege and not a right. I am not the Princess of Texas and I do not need to eat out 4 times a week. If you are struggling with curbing the “eating out” budget, the best thing to do is to remember you can’t afford to have IDIS and that you need to be prepared. Have a grocery list and make ALL of your Monday-Friday meals and snacks on Sunday night so that you are ready once the work week starts and don’t have an excuse to eat out (regardless of how tired you are or how much you don’t like what you already prepared).
2. GET ON A BUDGET! As Dave Ramsey frequently states- you have to tell your money where to go, otherwise it just disappears (truly, it’s a magical thing). You can run your budget per calendar month or per pay cycle (my school district pays on the 20th of the month). Prepare, prepare, prepare and have your budget ready ahead of time. If you have a second job, make sure that you budget that money separately as “Extra Loan Payments”. That money is not yours, it is your lenders. NEVER touch it. Having the “Extra Loan Payments” budget is when you will begin to see progress, which will only ignite your debt-repayment flame!
3. Get a second job. Before I started teaching, I waited tables at a local restaurant full time, making a fairly decent rate. Once I began teaching, I kept my waitressing job only because I couldn’t find it in me to quit. When I went to talk to the manager to give him my two weeks, I left saying that I would commit to working every Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Whoops! However, this proved to be one of the best mistakes I could have made. From waiting tables only two days a week, I am able to bring in $400-800 extra a month. At times it can be hard not having much time off, but I just keep reminding myself about the end goal--- financial freedom.
4. Get a third job. If between your first and second job you are already pushed to your limits, this might be too much, but consider something very low maintenance, such as babysitting, picking up random weekend jobs on Craig’s List (some catering companies need wait staff for the “banquet season”) or even selling something where your investment is extremely low in price (after all, you don’t want to spend money you are trying to save). My third job has been as a consultant with a company called Arbonne International. Arbonne is much like Mary Kay, except instead of makeup, we focus on clean and healthy skincare products. My investment to become an Arbonne Consultant was only $79. During the months I decide to throw Arbonne parties, I earn upwards of $150. The months I don’t throw a party, I still receive checks for $40-60 from my client’s online purchases. My time investment to Arbonne is minimal and in my opinion, extremely worth the paycheck I receive each month.
5. Learn to entertain yourself at home. You can easily reduce your “Fun budget” by learning to entertain yourself for free. Instead of going to the movies- try hulu. Instead of walking the mall (and accidentally spending $50), take a stroll around your neighborhood. Get outside and play Frisbee with your kids or friends, take the dog on a jog, or heck, even take your bike out for a spin. Learn to entertain yourself without losing your money.
6. Library Lovin’. Instead of spending $15 on a book or spending 3 hours a day watching TV or stupid YouTube videos, go the library and bust out that library card! Not only does reading keep your brain sharp, but it also increases your personal capital, making you a more educated and cultured citizen. Anna at And Then We Saved also agrees and gives some nice perks to a library membership here.
7. Move back in with Mom and Dad. This one might hurt your pride, but will your loans will thank you. I know the only reason I’ve been able to pay over $12k on my loans has been because of the money I’ve saved living with my parents (approx. $700 a month!). Moving back in with Mom and Dad isn’t so bad after all. It has surprisingly improved our relationship and I’ve been able to be around while my Dad has had to undergo surgery- win/win in my books. If you don’t live in the same area as your parents, look for the CHEAPEST rent possible. Who cares if you live in a tiny one bedroom? Please note—I don’t mean to throw caution to the wind when selecting a place to live. Be smart, but if you are trying to get out of debt, you do not need to live a life of luxury. The apartment without the pool that is $100 cheaper will suit you just as much. Not to mention- give you an extra $1,200 a year to spend straight on loan repayment.
8. Make “you” time. Whether this is twenty minutes of reading, praying, meditating in the morning, “decompression” time after work, a Sunday afternoon bike ride, or a Saturday morning trip to the park to read; make and fight to keep this time. When you work two or three jobs and live under the stress of a significant amount of debt, you need time to relax and recharge so that you can run at 100%. For me, I’ve learned to keep my reading time before bed each night and my Friday nights free so that I can journal, read, ride my bike and catch up on hulu. Last Spring I worked every day for almost two months straight and was so exhausted that I could tell I was not giving my students (my first job) my all. It actually came to a head when my best friend had a “come to Jesus” with me about taking a step back and making sure I had personal time to recharge. Don’t let that happen to you!
Find what works with you and stick with it! Remember- you are not alone in your struggles, there are thousands of us out there in the same boat. Best of luck and hasta pronto!
La Tejana is a 25 year old Spanish teacher from Texas who runs the new blog “Las Aventuras de la Tejana”, chronicling her ass-kicking, ninja chopping journey of getting out of student loan debt as quickly as possible.