Financial Freedom - My Debt Free Journey
My journey to financial freedom started about a year and a half after I graduated. After paying on my student loans for a year (they very kindly give you six months grace period), I decided to see how much I still owed. When I pulled up the website and saw that it was only a few hundred dollars less then when I started paying on them, my heart dropped. Because of all the interest on the $30,000 in student loans I had barely made a dent in the principal amount owed.
Now many people would get mad about the debt they’ve accrued but they won’t actually end up doing anything significant about it. Me on the other hand, I was pissed. I decided in that moment that I was not going to be stuck paying on these stupid student loans for the next 10 years. The 27 months that followed that day were some of the most difficult and rewarding months of my life.
I decided that I was going to follow Dave Ramsey’s financial plan. I took Dave’s 9-week class Financial Peace University. It was a great way to get on track and create a real plan to pay all my debt off. I knew myself enough to know that I had to have a real plan to follow and a constant reminder of what I was doing and why I was doing it. Listing to the Dave Ramsey Show on podcast a few times a week gave me the fuel to keep going.
The 27 months that I was focusing on paying off my student loans were not fun. While my friends were going on vacations, buying houses, new cars, and going out to eat all the time, I was packing my lunch and driving an old car with lots of “character.” And when I say “character” I mean things like the air conditioning didn’t always work on hot days and the coolant was leaking. At the time, dealing with these things were a pain and it would have been easier to spend the money to buy a new car or just buy my lunches everyday. In retrospect, the sacrifices I made were worth the feeling I have now. There are no words to describe how it feels to have no debt and a healthy emergency fund.
Paying off $30,000 of debt in 27 months was no easy task. I didn’t make more then $35,000 before taxes during that whole time. Which made keeping a budget the most important thing I did. I had to create a budget every month were I decided ahead of time where my money was going…and I had to stick to it. I needed to squeeze at least $1,000 out of my budget every month in order to stay on track. Some months I killed it and was able to pay almost $1,500 towards my student loans. Other months due to car repairs or working a few less hours, I was only able to put about $600-$800 towards it.
The best place I found to do your monthly budget is EveryDollar. EveryDollar is an online budgeting tool that has an app you can put on your phone. This is really helpful for me and my husband now because we can both look at our monthly budget on our phones.
Now that I’m on the other side of my debt free journey, what I had to do to get it done seems totally worth it. At the time, it would have been easier to throw in the towel and just spend the 10 years paying off my student loans. Not putting all that extra money on my student loan would have allowed me to spend money on more things I wanted and all the trips I wanted to take. But, what I now have is worth more than money. I now not only have financial freedom, I have the opportunities to really take some risks and follow my dreams.
I hope you can find the strength and the courage to do the same.