How we paid off $21,000 in 15 Months and How You Can Too!

You guys! I cannot tell you how excited I am to FINALLY be able to write this post. It’s felt like the longest 15 months and we’ve had SO many financial setbacks, it was kinda incredible that we could still pay off ALL MY STUDENT LOAN DEBT in a little over a year after graduating college. That’s $21,000 in 15 months!

I know that might seem like a stretch for you, and that might be far fetched, but trust me when I say that 15 months ago, I would’ve thought the exact same thing! So, if I can do it. I know that you can too! There’s nothing that’s super special about me or my hubby. We’re average people who simply set our mind to paying off all my student loan debt in the fastest time that we could.

It just took a little bit of determination, dedication, and motivation. We’re also not swimming in the dough. We really aren’t. We decided to cut back our expenses, get our bills down as much as possible, and put all the extra money that we had towards paying off debt. It took a lot of sacrifice, but we finally reached our goal.

We also had many many financial setbacks that we experienced – like needing to buy a new transmission ($2800), paying the IRS owed taxes ($4800), renovating our home ($6000), and unexpected medical expenses (about $1600). That’s over $15,000 in unexpected financial expenses. It was a brutal year. Given these setbacks, we knew that our original goal of paying off our debts in 12 months wasn’t going to happen. So, we extended our deadline to 15 months to help offset that cost.

As you can see, life happens and we did our best to anticipate those costs. But, sometimes you can't! You also don’t need to live a poor quality of life when you’re trying to pay off debt. In this last year we went to an aquarium for my birthday, I bought a new wardrobe, saw several movies, went on a ton of fun hikes, and so much more. So, by budgeting and paying off debt – it’s not like we’re living a poor quality of life.

I really just want to emphasize that budgeting doesn’t hinder you life one bit! It does the complete opposite because it helps you learn how to afford those big dreams of yours.

Here’s some tips that we used to help pay back that money in such a short amount of time.

Live on less

When you’re on a tight budget, you realize that you really don’t need a lot of the things that you usually buy. I catch myself perusing the clothes section often looking for something cute to buy, when in all actuality – I don’t need anything. If I get a hole in a t-shirt, then I’ll replace it. But otherwise, I’m perfectly happy living on less.

Capsule Wardrobe

One way to live on less is to adapt the capsule wardrobe lifestyle. I’ve written a post about it before, here. But I absolutely adore this method of minimalism because I’m able to get up in the morning and sort through a couple items of clothing that I absolutely adore and choose from that instead of going through an entire closet full of clothing, more than half that I don’t even like or even love because I bought it on sale and it was a good deal. This kind of thinking has to go out the window when you’re on a tight budget. Once you’re out of that habit, I think you’ll realize it’s actually really easy to say no to yourself or be honest that that shirt is something you don’t even like.

Minimalism

Another method that I’ve adapted, is minimalism. This is huge for saving loads of time and money. Capsule wardrobes are an aspect of this, but definitely not the full extent. I went through my whole house and got rid of things that I don’t absolutely love. Most being decorations. I realized that I was dusting these decorations on a weekly basis (things that I didn’t even like) which means that I was using my time, resources, and energy dusting things that I don’t really like! No thank you. I went through the house and happily got rid of two car loads of stuff.

Stick to your budget

It’s so easy to think to yourself, “Oh, I have money in the account. It doesn’t matter if use my debit card this one time.” But it does matter! Oh, it matters alot. Because you can say that once a day for 30 days and at the end of the month you’ve spent hundreds of dollars! Stick to the budget that you’ve created. I use the cash envelope system and that works really well for us to keep us on track with our finances. Whenever we break away from that system, our finances and our debt payoff takes a huge hit.

If you need help with sticking to your budget, I recommend that you purchase Budgeting 101: ebook launching at the end of this month!

Set a goal and then a reward

My hubby and I spent 15 months of keeping track of our finances and sacrificing a lot of fun things that we want to do but decided that debt payoff was more important. We threw everything we had, $21,000 of extra money at our debt and we worked really hard to do that. So, you better believe that we’re taking a nice long vacation to celebrate that fact! We’re going to Colorado at the end of this month to get away and really relax. Make sure that you set realistic goals and please give yourself a nice reward at the end of them! It’s so important to stay motivated and encouraged through this process. You’re not just throwing your money away, you’re putting it towards becoming financially free and this cool thing at the end of it!

Buy things that last

The last thing that I would recommend that you do during this debt payoff period is probably going to raise a few eyebrows. But, that’s right, I’m advising you to spend that couple extra dollars on an item that will last you far longer and then it would be to purchase that cheap item again. I know that’s controversial, especially when I say to save every penny you have. But, this fact will save your hundreds if not thousands of dollars on a yearly basis. Just think, are you going to buy the older car with more miles on it for $2500 or the nicer car with fewer miles on it for $2800 when the price difference is only $300. Chances are the nicer car with fewer miles on it will be cheaper in the long run because it was better maintained. Think wisely about each of your purchases. Especially if it’s a big purchase.

That’s it folks! We are $21,000 out of the hole. But, for those of you who know a bit about my backstory, you know that there a lot more debt that we need to tackle. $150,000 worth of debt actually. This is just one piece of our debt journey. Next, we’re tackling $150,000 in less than three years. That’s our cut off. But, here’s to having my student loans paid off and being one step closer to being financially free!

Where are you at in your debt payoff journey? What’s your latest victory? Comment below!