Student Loans- What’s the Big Deal? Our Story and Personal Journey Paying off over $70,000 in 7 years

We are not trying to be political here at Cents of Time. We just like to cover anything that involves personal finance. Student loans fall under that category and we think there is a big misunderstanding regarding student loans in these times. We came across this tweet and read some of the responses and could not believe what some people were saying about their student loans.

https://twitter.com/eightfeetabove/status/1204995289389522944

Again we are not trying to judge or bring down these people, but we were shocked that this mindset is out there and wanted to point out a different way of thinking about this situation. In the follow up article we will make our case as to why we believe student loan debt is so high and how we can change it. First we thought it was more fitting to tell our story since it is very common of college students to start, but with an uncommon finish. Let’s begin the story at choosing a school.

Looking at Only One School- This was probably my biggest regret looking at colleges. I mean college. The only school I looked at and applied to was smaller which I liked, close but not too close to home, offered me a pretty nice scholarship (that really was not a lot considering how much it still cost, but I bought it and did not look at any other help), and they offered me a free laptop to use!!! Mind you this was back in 2007. All of this made the school very appealing. I applied, was accepted, and that was all I needed. My college search was done. 

What is Debt and How Much Really is $70,000?- My family vaguely talked to me that this was a lot of money and a lot of debt that I would be incurring. That they may be able to help me some, but that I should not count on it. None of this stopped me. Looking back then at my spending habits and very low (almost nonexistent) savings, it is easy for me to see that I had no concept of just how much money I would be going into debt for. I remember joking with my Dad when he was telling me how much it was that if I meant my wife there it would be all worth it. I did end up meeting my wife so I cant say too much negative, but that probably was not the right mindset to go in with.

Taking Ownership- I didn’t meet my wife until our junior years and I said to her “We should have been together Freshman and Sophomore year! I actually had money then!” I did make some smart decisions regarding my student loans. My dad and I agreed that paying the interest while in school was a good idea because at least the debt would not get larger. This was a smart move even if it was tough to come up with the money. I did have a work study job on campus that paid me a little and I did have a very small eBay side business, but the smartest decision I made was to become a Resident Assistant or RA for short at school. I applied for it at the end of my freshman year and was an RA for the rest of college. Not only did that take care of my room and board cost which was expensive ($5,000 a semester), but it helped me grow as a person. Another thing I did was I took two advanced placement classes back in high school and passed the accompanying test. My college gave me 12 credits for them (a lot I know!) which meant I only needed to do a summer class and a 1 credit class to graduate early. I took the summer class and Tai-Chi (while recovering from a torn ACL and Meniscus) and graduated a semester early. This saved me at least $10,000.

I needed to take ownership for my decision to take out that much debt. This may sound cliche, but the ball was in my court. I chose to pick it up and run with it.
Photo by TJ Dragotta on Unsplash

Paying Off the Loans- I graduated in 2010 and starting paying my loans in 2011. In the beginning my loan payments were almost $1000 a month!!!! I did not have a full time job at that point yet and luckily the 6 month deferment helped me land where I could finally pay. When I was more stable I always paid the full amount and never missed a payment. When I had a little extra I would pay a little bit more off. We chose the debt snowball method because our income was tight that paying off some of those smaller loans gave us some extra cash flow in case we needed it for something else. Staying the course, in November of 2017 we finally paid off my loans. My wife came into our marriage debt free so all the debt was on me. Starting in 2011 I had almost $70,000 in student loan debt and again that is with paying interest all throughout school! If I did not make those sacrifices it would have been easily $20,000 more we would have had to pay off which means probably another 2-4 years in debt. We did have a little help from both of our families paying it off, but we were both so intense on paying it off that any extra money we had we put towards the student loans. 

This was my reaction to how much my monthly payments just for student loans were in the beginning. It was over 1/3 of my total expenses!
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Every Situation is Different- While this statement is true, if you want to reach your goals and not be average, you will need to make some tough sacrifices. For me it was giving up the 2nd half of my senior year. I did not want to leave my friends, but to spend another $10,000-$15,000 on extra schooling did not make sense to me. I was not sure if I would go for my masters at that point yet and I am glad I did leave because I never went back to school and have no regrets about making that choice. I sacrificed partying and living “the college life” to instead grow and learn skills that are still helping me today when I became an RA. The last and probably hardest sacrifice was paying the interest while I was in school. Being an RA cut my expenses down, but it did not make me money which means the little money I did have went towards paying the interest on the loans. During paying off the student loans we cash flowed our 1st son and have paid off all of our debt and are still debt free.

Now that you have some insight into how I got into student loan debt and how I paid it off, the next post will focus on why we think the student loan crisis/debt/issue, whatever you want to call it is where it is at today and hope to show you a different mindset to have regarding it.

2 Comments

  1. Your example of sacrifice during school is a good lesson.

    “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”- John F. Kennedy

    “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

  2. […] told our personal story with students loan before which you can read here. We wanted to take a second look at some of the reasons we think that this issue has gotten even […]

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