This is a goal I've been working on for six years. That's when I walked across the stage and accepted my diploma. I got serious about this goal last August.
A friend of mine asked me a question that set me thinking. What would it take? What would it take to pay off all of my student loans in one year? I looked at the numbers and decided that if I really, really disciplined myself, that just maybe I could do it.
By last August I had whittled the loan down to just over half of its original amount. In the last 12 months, I managed to knock out the second half of that loan. It wasn't an easy thing. It had already taken me five years to get it down to half.
It required some major commitments to myself. The biggest thing I had to cut down on was unnecessary travel. I love to travel. I make it a point to visit my friends on the East Coast at least once a year. People are important to me. Seeing and spending time with people I care about is sort of my love language. Also, I just like to hop on an airplane or in my car and go.
I drive a 14-year-old car. It's paid for. It also has over 222,000 miles on it. It didn't get that way sitting in the driveway. I had to think twice about weekend getaways. Not only because I wanted my wonderful, dream of a car to continue to be a wonderful dream of a car, but because I needed to save money on gas and maintenance wherever I could if I was truly going to reach this goal. It helped that I live a mere 10 minute walk from work. But in prior years, I had been a fair-weather walker. This year, I toughened up and walked through rain and snow and everything in between. I have probably filled my car up with gas an average of once a month in the last year. There were weeks that the only time I'd get in my car was to drive to church on Sunday morning.
With my short walk to work, I was able to walk home for lunch most days too. This town has a lot of great and unique restaurants downtown. If I go out to eat, it's usually for lunch. But I made an effort to scale back on my eating out over the last year. I've never been a big shopper, but even then, I started asking myself "is this a need or a want?" any time I was tempted to buy something for me.
I didn't succeed in all of these areas all of the time. I did buy two significant plane tickets over the course of the year, both times for travel with family. I also didn't deprive myself completely. The closer I got to my goal, I started to justify unnecessary spending more. Buying clothes that were more of a want than a need. Or eating out more often. I also came really close to setting myself back a few months and buying a trailer on Craigslist. But it sold before I got a chance to look at it.
Today, as I left the bank knowing I had enough money in my account to hit submit on that final payment, I thought about that trailer and how I was really glad it sold.
In the end, if I hadn't given up my lease and started living this gypsy life, there is no way that I would have been able to accomplish this goal in the 12 month time-frame I gave myself. It just couldn't have happened if I had been paying the level of rent and utilities that I had been locked into in my little mill studio.
I know when I tell you I paid off my student loans, that it's a little humdrum and boring. It is anticlimactic, even for me. Clicking "submit" on the single largest payment I have made in my life to-date doesn't necessarily scream "CELEBRATION!" Choirs don't start singing. Confetti doesn't fall from the sky.
But this is big news to me. My student loans have been my only debt. I am finally debt free. And inside I hear choirs rejoicing.
And if you want to see how nervous I was making that final payment, I recorded it for proof: