We’re finding all sorts of ways to save money so we can pay off our student loan debt faster. Stick around because you might find some new money saving ideas that you haven’t thought of before!
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In less than three years, we’ve been able to repay $34,000 of Josh’s $80,000 student loan debt. It hasn’t been easy, but cutting back our spending is what helped us make such quick progress.
(And if you want to know what inspired us to pursue a debt-free lifestyle in the first place, I highly recommend reading Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover. It will change your life!)
It isn’t always fun to have strict spending limits, especially in our consumer society. Everywhere we look people have the latest tech gadgets, new cars, fancy houses, and more.
Sure, we’d love to have those things too, but we have goals.
And those goals require discipline. At the end of the day, we have to remind ourselves what being debt-free would mean to us. We could travel, save fantastic retirement accounts, build our dream home, you name it!
So while a new car or a fancier house would be nice in the short-term, we have big goals for the long-term.
These goals are what sustain us when we feel like giving up or giving in. They also inspire us to think creatively about our budget and spending habits so we can achieve our goals in the shortest time-frame possible.
How We Save Money to Maximize Our Student Loan Payments
These are the things we do to save money so we can make the biggest possible payments on the student loan each month. This is how we’re hitting our debt with gazelle intensity, as Dave Ramsey would say!
We start with a budget
At the beginning of each month, I create our budget. We have stable jobs, so we usually know how much money we’ll make that month. I list all of our normal expenses such as our mortgage and utility bills, and our other spending categories such as groceries, pets, and restaurants.
My goal is to assign each dollar that we earn to a specific category. Dave Ramsey calls this zero-based budgeting, and it’s a game-changer.
And since we budget using cash envelopes, it forces us to think through every purchase we make. Once the cash is gone, we don’t get to spend any more from that category!
We keep a low phone bill
We’re iPhone people. We couldn’t live without our smartphones, but we make our desires match our long-term goals.
Back when Verizon still offered free/cheap upgrades, Josh got his iPhone for $.01. I got mine for free during a Father’s Day promotion shortly after. We try to use Wi-Fi as much as possible at home and limit our data usage when not at home so that we can survive on 2 GB of data.
On top of a low data plan, Josh’s work offers a Verizon discount to employees, which further reduces our bill.
As if those things weren’t enough, both of our contracts recently expired, so now we only pay $63 per month for two smartphones! I call that a win.
We don’t pay for cable
Cable. Psh. Who needs all of those commercials?
Seriously, when we watch cable on vacation, those commercials drive us nuts.
We are SO SPOILED to our Netflix account. And we don’t even care that we miss the latest episodes of our favorite shows because we know that as soon as they come out on Netflix, we can binge watch as many episodes as we want without any commercials. Double win!
I cook at home. A lot.
Most people would agree that restaurants kill budgets. It is way more expensive to pay for a meal out than to cook at home, so we try to eat at home as much as possible.
Now, some people are able to cut out restaurants completely when trying to get out of debt. That just isn’t realistic for us. We don’t want to feel too deprived on this debt-free journey, so we work a few restaurant meals into our monthly budget to keep our sanity.
For all other meals, I cook at home. Fortunately, cooking is one of my specialties!
I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi
Aldi is one of my favorite places to grocery shop. Not only is it easily navigable, but it is also far less expensive than most other grocery stores.
Also, we try to eat as much organic and non-GMO foods as possible, so Aldi makes our nutrition goals super affordable. Seriously, we would not be able to afford a mostly plant-based diet anywhere else. So Aldi helps our budget and our health at the same time!
Related: What to Expect From Lidl (my first trip to Aldi’s competitor!)
We buy most things second-hand
I’m not ashamed to shop at Goodwill. When you know what you’re doing, you can score some awesome deals there!
I find my best deals in high-income areas such as the surrounding areas of Charleston, SC. I’m a bit of a brand snob, so I’m able to find Talbots, Express, J.Crew, Banana Republic, and Ann Taylor clothing for nearly nothing. Sometimes I even find pieces that still have tags on them!
These brands last a really long time because they’re high-quality, so I’m getting an even bigger bang for my buck. And I’m quite stylish at the same time, if I do say so myself. 😉
Related: 6 Tips to Score Big at Thrift Stores
We also get lots of used DVDs from flea markets (that’s my dad’s specialty) and furniture for DIY projects at Goodwill or yard sales. Now, I’m not overly into yard sales, but I will stop the car for a free pile of stuff on the side of the road.
Is that weird? It may be kind of weird.
We cut our own hair
Obviously, this one isn’t for everyone. I’m a licensed cosmetologist, so I can cut my own hair and not look like I was attacked by a weed-eater.
I’ve cut Josh’s hair for years, and I estimate that we’ve saved over $700 on his hair alone and another $2500 on mine just in the last five years!
Even when I don’t feel like cutting my own hair (especially when it’s shorter and harder to do myself), I have my mom who helps me out. She’s also licensed, so our family is basically set up for life.
Wrapping it Up
So those are some of the biggest ways we save money in order to maximize our student loan payments! That student loan really stinks, but it motivates us to be wise with our spending. And we don’t feel deprived or anything.
Well, Josh would definitely eat out more if he had his way! 😉
But we’re perfectly happy living our frugal lifestyle. At this point, it’s almost like a game to see how much money I can save.
One day, hopefully sooner rather than later, this student loan will be gone. Even when that happens, I firmly believe we’ll keep up our frugal spending habits. We may travel more and buy newer vehicles, but we’ll still be savers at heart.
If you’re in the process of paying off student loan debt, or maybe some other kind of debt, give some of these money saving ideas a try. You might find that saving money becomes a game for you too!
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What about you? Do you have any money saving tricks to share? I’m always up for new ideas that help us pay off our student loan debt faster!
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