Today’s guest post comes to us from Jacob over at DollarDiligence.com. Jacob is a high school math teacher by day and personal finance blogger by night. Follow his journey on Twitter @DollarDiligence.
If you were sitting on a large pile of debt like I was, then you most certainly want to pay it off, but you need a little kick in the pants. When I first accumulated that debt (thank you, student loans), I did not think much of it, and I had a “when I get around to it” type of mindset.
While it would have been nice to avoid student loan debt altogether, I simply could not afford college without it. Once I realized I had the debt and it belonged to me, I decided I needed to get motivated to pay it down.
I thought about my future and where I wanted to be. This debt was going to hold me back, and that was just not okay with me.
I want to share some of my motivations to pay down student loan debt and tricks I learned along the way. Of course, your motivations may be different than mine. But it is important for you to focus on a goal and work towards it. You will reap rewards along the way.
Let’s take a look at why I chose to pay down my debt.
Pay Down High Interest Private Student Debt
When I first started to pay off my debt, I wanted instant gratification. I learned that it’s not always possible, but I did find a way to keep myself motivated.
I looked at all of my student loan debt and determined which student loans had the highest interest rates. It was my private student loans (which is probably the case for you too, if you have both federal and private student loans.) I made it my goal to pay these debts off FIRST.
Why? Because I would SAVE money this way.
If I could eliminate that $1,500 loan balance with an 8.5 percent interest rate, I’d be able to save that extra money that would otherwise be going towards interest. I made sure to hit my monthly minimum payments and then made larger payments towards the $1,500 balance, until it was gone.
I received immediate gratification the moment the loan was paid off. A hefty burden had been lifted, to say the least. I really enjoyed crushing these loans in this manner because it revealed real progress and savings. Every time I reached my goal and paid off a loan, I was motivated to keep pushing forward.
Secure a Mortgage on a Home
If I held onto my student loan debt, who knows if I would have qualified to purchase a home? A long-standing goal was to have my own home, and I wanted to make that a reality without having to wait until I hit my 40s. I mean, what if the future Mrs. Diligence is a die-hard HGTV fanatic? Can’t go around painting apartment walls now, can we?
Since securing a mortgage was vital to meeting this goal, I began to focus even harder on paying off as much debt as I possibly could, while keeping an eye on that fitful credit score along the way.
Save for Retirement
Retirement… Something only for someone over 65 years of age, right?
While that’s traditionally been the case, we’re in the land of FIRE now. Those who don’t start saving until 40 will need to put away half their pay for 65 to be reasonable.
Around here, Cubert and other financial bloggers preach saving half or more, right out of the gates… as soon as you’re out of diapers my friend. I don’t know about you, but this would NOT be possible for me, especially when I reach the point in life where I want to have kids.
I wanted to start saving for retirement as early on as I could, if for nothing else than to have peace of mind. With student loan debt looming, my options appeared limited. Most of the money I’d have put away for retirement would be used to pay my student loan bills. UGH!
But I knew that at the end of my debt pay-down marathon, I would finally be able to start saving for my retirement. Motivation is absolutely KEY.
You Can Do It Too
No matter what your goals are for the future, let them be your motivation to pay down your student loan debt, or whatever kind of debt dragon you need to slay. I found that paying off the highest interest loans first worked best for me. I was able to climb my way out of $25,000 in debt in just 15 months.
Before you try to tackle your debt, sit down with a spreadsheet and tally up your income and expenses, line by line. Be absolutely ruthless with where you want your money to go. Once you start to see your debt melting away, those little sacrifices (luxuries like cable TV and new car smells), you get all the motivation you need to keep going.
Editor’s note: So, good readers, do you have any student loan pay down stories you’d like to share? I think Jacob hits it right on the mark. I like his use of the word “Diligence” with his personal brand. A certain “stick-to-it-iveness” is vital once you get out of school. You’ve got to avoid the temptations to splurge on what your peers assume is a right of passage for grown ups. Avoid the brand new fancy furniture, wardrobes, cars, daily happy hours, and this silly new brunch phenomenon. What the hell is that all about, anyway??? Happy Monday from Cubert!