It has been almost a decade since I rid myself of debt, and I do not regret the sacrifices I made in order to eliminate $30,000 in debt in two years.
Fresh out of college, I went straight into grad school, happily accepting every loan they could offer. Fast forward six months, and I realized the school was not right for me. I ended up back in my hometown stuck with student loan debt and a rapidly aging car. Here's how I paid off the student loan debt and bought a brand new car in two years.
First, I took a temp job that involved an hour commute each way. After six months, I found a job closer to home and accepted it. I earned around $2,000 a month. I knew I would need to grow professionally and academically before finding my career, but this was a good start. Each month, I repaid $1500 in debt, leaving $500 of "fun" money.
1) Live at Home (Or Otherwise On the Cheap) - The first precious gasps of adulthood are addicting. I craved more freedom and a life in a more exciting place, but I also knew that I someday wanted a house of my own and a family. I wanted to be free of debt when that happened. I lived at home for two and a half years after college. When I did move out, my rent was $1150; so living with my parents saved $34,500 in rent alone.
2) Say No to the Tempting Travel - At the time, my friends were really into skiing and snowboarding. Each trip involved a lift ticket, transportation, meals, etc. Had I said "yes" each time they asked, I would have spent over $2500 during that time period.
3) Choose Events Wisely - When I did say "yes" to evenings out, it was for truly special events: the first birthday dinner since my best friend returned from the East Coast, a wedding gift for a sorority sister. I skipped the random Fridays out on the town and saved the $100 or more my friends spent on these outings. I never felt like I was missing out on key events, and yet I still managed to overcome debt.
4) Buying a Car? Look at Total Cost - Everyone I bargained with tried to make me see only the monthly payment. Since I knew I wanted to pay off the car in a year, those monthly payments didn't matter, only the total did. I knew what I could afford, and I bought the car that fit my budget, not anyone else's. I paid off the car and have enjoyed seven years without a car payment.
5) Celebrate When It's Paid - When all the debt, student loan and car loan, were free and clear, I celebrated. I went on a big vacation to Europe. I bought a high-end photo printer to support my photography habit. And, most importantly, I got my own apartment.
When I finally found the right grad school, I was much smarter about it and saved up enough money to pay for it first - no more student debt for me!
Years later, I am married and own my own home. I still drive the car I paid off after only a year of owning it, and when my husband and I bought our home, we were completely debt free.
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- Personal Finance - Career & Education