Members of my Generation X are said to be the first generation that had to deal with the heavy burden of student loan debt. In my case, I had no problem making my student loan payments at first. However, I found I was only treading water by paying the minimum payments. After moving across the country in the late-1990s to find a different career, it became more of a financial burden to make even my minimum payments on my student loan.
It wasn't until I was 28 that I decided to get rid of my student loans once and for all. I made a goal to pay off my student loans completely by age 30. After years of accumulating interest, I owed $20,000 on my student loans. I gave myself two years to get rid of my dysfunctional relationship with Sallie Mae.
Earning more money
My plan was to earn more money so I could send the loan service center huge payments every month. I found a more manageable way to make more money by breaking down my work activities on a day-by-day basis. Since I was paid by a daily newspaper per article, I simply had to pick up more assignments. I ended up working every weekend as well as every week day. I also offered to take night assignments, which no one else wanted.
Lowering my expenses
I also had to lower my expenses by moving to a less expensive neighborhood. My rent payment was only $500 a month, which compared to most of my friends and colleagues who were paying two or three times that amount for their housing. Although it's hard to imagine now, I lived without cable. When people talked about "Sex and the City," I had no idea what they were referring to since I didn't have HBO. I also didn't go to the movies.
After paying off my student loan, I did loosen up a little bit on my spending. However, I got so used to living a frugal life that I kept some of the same habits for years. Now I have two sons who are in college. So far, we have been fortunate to be able to pay cash for college and rely on scholarships as well as my son's part-time job. I'm optimistic that my sons will not have to be saddled with massive student loan debt. So many people can't get on with their lives because the cost of tuition has gotten completely ridiculous. Even though I made the sacrifice for two years, it's not anything I'd wish on them. It wasn't "character building." It was just exhausting.
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