We started out with a pretty hefty student loan debt. Keep reading to see just how much debt we had when we got married and how much we have now!
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In my last post, I told you all about Josh’s student loan debt. Since he started out with around $75,000-$80,000 in student loans, we have made it our goal to become debt-free as quickly as possible.
As I’ve mentioned before, my parents taught me how to manage money early on. Josh was okay at managing his finances when we met, but he didn’t have a solid foundation like I did. It took us working together and taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course twice for us to believe that we could actually pay off the student loans quickly.
(Financial Peace University is an awesome, in-depth course that I totally recommend. However, Dave’s book The Total Money Makeover teaches his basic financial principles for a debt-free lifestyle for a fraction of the cost)
Here’s a breakdown of what Josh owed when we got married:
- $64,000 in federal student loans
- $11,000 private student loan from his university
How we handled our debt early on (2014 and 2015)
Josh and I got married in September 2014. That month, we took $11,000 from my savings account to finish off the private loan. We chose to attack it first because it had an outrageous interest rate. I don’t remember the exact number, but I believe the rate was nearly double that of the federal loans.
Now, I’ve been a saver my whole life. It didn’t feel great tossing $11,000 into something that wasn’t even tangible for me, but it was worth it.
I hated that debt more than I loved my money. In my opinion, hating debt is the best way to get out from under it. It caused me to hit Josh’s debt with gazelle intensity, as Dave Ramsey would say!
Once the private loan was gone, we shifted our focus to the federal ones.
It doesn’t seem like much, but we took his federal loan debt down to $62,000 by the end of the year. Early on, the interest accrued so quickly that it nearly offset our payments.
Talk about a letdown!
Every month I would make a payment, and the next month the balance would creep back up almost to what it was before I made the payment. It felt like we just couldn’t get ahead.
Then, in 2015, we nearly doubled our monthly payments. It was tough since we were a single income household that whole year. Even so, using these strategies, we paid a total of $10,600 toward the federal loans in 2015. The loan balance was down to $55,000 by the end of December!
If you check the numbers, $62,000 (the balance at the end of 2014) minus $10,600 is $51,400. The difference between $51,400 and the actual balance of $55,000 shows you how quickly that interest accrued!
What set us back (2016)
In December 2015, we purchased our first house. It was a blessing because I was about to go crazy in our spider-infested duplex.
Seriously, I killed about 8 spiders per day when we lived there. Josh would even get spider webs in his hair walking to the kitchen every morning!
We had small ones and huge ones. The huge ones preferred our closets, but it wasn’t unusual to look over and see one sitting on the couch with us while we were watching TV. It was my worst nightmare.
So although the house was a welcome change, it also came with big costs.
When I look over our payments for 2016, I’m a bit disappointed. We paid a total of $8,100 and brought the loan down to $50,000 at the end of December 2016. Rather than making extra payments on the student loans, most of Josh’s surplus income went into the house.
I was able to spruce things up inexpensively by painting, but some big-ticket updates came in the fall of 2016:
The guest bath
This is a story for another time, but our guest bathroom had a hidden leak that rotted the subfloor and caused a good bit of mold to grow under the vanity.
Fortunately, my dad is an awesome handyman. He was able to brace the rotted floor joists, replace the subfloor, and basically overhaul 75% of the room. I guess finding a leak is one way to get that dream makeover!
I also developed terrible allergies living in this house. The mold probably didn’t help, but the biggest culprit was the carpet in all three bedrooms.
The two smaller rooms had carpet that was probably 30 years old. The dust was unbearable, so we replaced the flooring with hardwoods in all three rooms. It didn’t come cheap, but it was a necessary cost for my health.
I’m happy with these two house updates, but they came at the expense of the loan. If we hadn’t had these expenses, I know we could have paid more than $8,100 in 2016.
What set us back again (2017)
Earlier this summer, we took a closer look at our budget and committed to cutting out as many unnecessary things as we could. We estimated that we could pay an extra $2,000-$3,000 per month if we really tried. We set our goals high with the best intentions.
Then our air conditioner completely died.
Isn’t that how life goes?
So that was a $6,500 unexpected expense that temporarily cut into our repayment plans.
(Want to know why we had so many unexpected expenses? Read this post: The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made Trying to Save Money)
Plans for the future
As of today (August 2017), the loan is down to $46,000. We’ve paid off almost half of Josh’s student loans in less than 3 years!
I realize that we can’t predict the future. However, we like to think that we won’t have any more big home expenses for a while. With that mindset, we plan to put as much money toward Josh’s loans as we possibly can.
I also plan to document our debt-free journey on this blog to hold me accountable and hopefully inspire others. I want other people to realize that there is more to life than living with student loan debt.
If you want to pursue the debt-free life too, this post lists some of the strategies we use to keep our expenses low so we can pay as much as possible toward the student loan debt. I hope you find them helpful!
Other Posts You May Enjoy
- 4 Reasons You Need an Emergency Fund
- 6 Tips to Score Big at Thrift Stores
- How to Know Which Financial Advice to Follow
- Want to Take Charge of Your Finances? Dave Ramsey Can Help
- How to Budget Using the Cash Envelope System (and why you should!)
What about you? Do you have student loans? I’d love to hear your repayment goals. 🙂
Also, if you found this post helpful, feel free to share it or pin it for later!