The Feeling of Being Over $170K in Debt


Let me tell you a story – this is a story that is near and dear to my heart as a young millennial who just graduated from college. You’re told in high school that you need to do the best that you can so you can get accepted into college. Once you’re in college you’re told to pull out as many loans as possible to get that degree and you should look at loans like an "investment in yourself". But, folks – let me tell you the honest truth. Sure, you’re "investing in yourself". But after a certain point you need to realize that you’re drowning in "self investment" to the point where it’s not investing in yourself anymore. It’s giving your money to that corporation/government/private loan lender for the next 10 years of your life and that’s if you don’t have your loans differed because you didn’t get that promised job right out of college.

I think I speak for all millennials that are in the same boat as myself when I say – you don’t need a college education that’s work $171K. What you need is to find who you are and what you truly love doing before you decide to "invest in yourself". (Another pro tip: Investing in yourself doesn’t necessarily come from money either. Maybe you wanted to travel the world, maybe you want to volunteer at an animal shelter, maybe you can invest in yourself by investing in others.)

I did everything by the books – and so did my husband – we went to high school graduated with honors (well, at least I did) and went straight to college. One thing that my husband didn’t know after high school graduation, was that loans add up. And quickly. That’s one thing I wish he understood better before accepting every last penny the government/private lenders were throwing at him.

I managed to make it out of college with only (and that’s a sarcastic "only") $21K in pure debt. Not to mention paying down $8K in private loans while I was in college. (Which folks – I don’t recommend. I put an insane amount of stress on my body and actually made myself sick by doing so.) Anyways, I worked my tail off in trying to get my loans down to the bare minimum – I ate dollar store frozen dinners (I also don’t recommend that), worked multiple jobs at one time while taking a full credit load (again, I don’t recommend), and cut costs in every way I could. It was rough.

Let me tell you a quick story – while in college I befriended someone who knew that I was in a tough spot – her parents also knew it. Her mom happened to be going through her closet and gave me bags upon bags of really nice and expensive clothing and I straight up broke down in tears. That was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. So, needless to say – things were tight. Much like I’m sure a lot of you who are currently in college are experiencing.

Now you know a bit of my backstory, let me tell you about my husbands. He didn’t understand that once you take money you are taking that money and then some (hello interest. I loathe you.) . He didn’t receive as much financial aid as I did because his parents were in a different tax bracket than mine were – which sucks. Now, before you go and yell at my husband, I must say that I knew what I was getting myself into because my husband was 100% honest with the debt he was in. But – I decided to look past it and love him regardless. Which now that I’m married to him – and his debt is mine (the whole, what's mine is yours thing. Crap.) – it’s all the more real to me. All too real. I still love my husband – but I also feel the burden that debt has put on our marriage.

Folks – my wonderful, loving, and kind – oh so sweet, dear, husband – decided to take out about $150K in loans. Which brings our grand debt total to $171K after graduation. Yep – you read that right. That’s $171,000 in pure student loan debt. But, don’t let me forget the interest (at an average rate of 6.8% that’s accruing rather quickly).

You know when you can’t stop thinking about something – it’s just always nagging at you – right there in the back of your brain. Every now and then it rears it’s ugly head just to remind you that you’re stuck. That’s the way the debt feels to me. It’s a backpack full of bricks that’s on my shoulders every moment of every day. (I really should go and get more massages...)

When I say that I’m passionate about paying off debt – that’s an understatement. I started this blog to help pay down debt. I save on just about everything that I can including laundry detergent, softener, and dryer sheets (check out those awesome DIY’s). We’ve cut back costs on just about everything that we can to help pay down our debt as quickly as possible. Including car insurance, internet, phone bill, and more. We've actually been able to save $648 in one year by calling and asking for a lower payment plan!

So far, we’ve paid off close to $13K of my debt in about 8 months by saving every penny we can and putting every dollar earned from this blog (wanna start your own blog and earn an income from it? Click here!) and our Etsy shops (selling vintage clothing and digital downloads). Which – I’m so thankful for making a small dent into our loans but it doesn’t seem to be moving as quickly as I would like it to. (Ha! I wish I could have all our debt paid off by tomorrow – but realistically – that’s not how it’s going to work).

So – you young millennials. If you heed any advice at all in your life right now – heed this: Please think wisely about the amount of student loans that you pull out. Do the best that you can to not pull out any loans at all. You’ll thank yourself in 4 years – trust.

Be sure that you know what you love doing and don't be surprised if your passion changes as the years pass. I know mine did. So did my husbands. Be aware of what you’re doing to yourself financially and emotionally while you’re making this huge lifestyle change.

So, my friends.  This is a story about paying off debt as a recent graduate and learning how to live on a tight budget now, so in the future we can do the things that we desperately want to do like buy a tiny home and travel the US. But – in time, my friends.

So, grab a beer – and drink with me. Cheers to this debt journey.

To hell with it.