How We Paid Off $50,000 in Student Loans in 2 Years

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Let’s go back to early 2018. I (Dawn) was over $50,000 in student loan debt due to my return to nursing school and subsequent master’s program in my mid to late 20’s. At the time, I was living on a CNA salary, which was about $17,000 a year. I took out the max available to me in student loans, assuming I could sign up for loan forgiveness when I was through with school. Honestly, I wasn’t even concerned about the loans. I was set to pay my 10% each month for *hopefully* only the next 10 years, then have my debt wiped away by the government.

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Student Loans

Fast forward to August of that same year, when I met Jason, my future husband. Jason has always been very financially saavy. He is constantly reading financial self-help books and listening to podcasts, Dave Ramsey in particular.

Though I wasn’t thrilled to be listening to Dave Ramsey during all of our car rides, I went along with it to appease him. Subliminal messaging must be a real thing, because my student loan debt started to feel less…comfortable. Did you know that only 96 out of 30,000 people who have applied for loan forgiveness have actually received it?! This means that while you sit and pay the minimum each month, crossing your fingers that your loan will be forgiven in 10 years, your loan is racking up interest, making it much larger than if you had worked to pay it off sooner.

I began creating a budget using Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar app. It’s free and allows you to track your income and spending. My housing costs including mortgage, property taxes, and homeowner’s insurance totaled $1,068 a month, leaving the remainder for the necessities such as food, gas, medical expenses, home supplies, and any fun money. These are the areas that needed to be trimmed in order to meet my goal.

So how did I cover all of the necessities, manage to keep my sanity, and have a little fun on $832 a month? First, I downloaded the Krazy Coupon Lady (KCL) app. This app has seriously saved me so much money over the last couple of years. The authors find all of the deals for you and break down the steps to stack coupons and rebates in order to get household supplies for next to nothing. Name brand products for less than Dollar Tree prices–yes, please! I used this app to find deals on all of my household and personal products and stocked up. I did use my reliable Dollar Tree if I needed something that wasn’t in my stockpile or couldn’t be found at a deep discount.

One of the apps recommended by KCL is iBotta. The iBotta app allows you to select items you plan on buying, then scan your receipt after purchase to earn a rebate on the item. The rebate earned can be transferred to your bank account once you reach $20, which happens surprisingly fast! Since it is a rebate, it can be stacked on top of manufacturer and store coupons. Checkout51 and SavingsStar are two similar apps that can be used to save as well.

With personal and household products covered, I took a look at my food budget. At the time, I was not making a shopping list and was doing a lot of impulse shopping. I had no plan in mind and bought a lot of convenience foods and whatever sounded good. By creating meal plans, taking count of things I already had, and making a list of the items I would need to complete the meals, I was able to buy less items.

I shopped at Aldi for the majority of my items in order to receive the best price on products. By scanning the deli of Wal-Mart and Woodman’s, I was able to find great deals on marked down meat. Ask your deli worker what day the store does their markdowns in order to find the freshest deals. I have found it to be Mondays at my local Wal-Mart and Thursdays at my local Woodman’s. By making these changes, I was able to feed myself healthy, quality food for around $250 a month.

As I mentioned, I have always been a little on the cheap side, so don’t have a passion for designer clothing or handbags or anything. Still, I have to clothe myself and like to look presentable. Since starting on my journey to pay off my debt, I have only purchased clothes second-hand. I use the websites Thredup.com and Swap.com. Most of these items are lightly used, and available at a significant discount. Thredup.com offers it’s new customers an additional 50% off, which makes many of the items only a few bucks! What a steal!

One thing I was not willing to give up in exchange for repaying my debt sooner was fun activities and travel. In order to continue doing these, I made a few alterations. Jason and I began having more dates at home, consisting of a homemade meal, a Netflix movie, or a competitive game of Exploding Kittens. We started taking walks and hikes at the park near our house. For the occasional night out, we would use a Groupon for a local activity or Restaurant.com. We also took advantage of gift card bonuses around the holiday, such as buy $50 in gift cards, receive another $10.

In order to save on travel, I began following 10xtravel.com. This website shows you how to churn credit cards in order to receive travel and cash back rewards. I have done this several times and made up to $750 to use on travel! That’s a free vacation right there! To read about how Jason and I went on a 6-day/7-night vacation for less than $300, click here.

By utilizing all of these tips I was able to make my last student loan payment a few months ago, and boy, was that a good feeling!

What are some of your tips and hints for saving money and tackling your debt?

One thought on “How We Paid Off $50,000 in Student Loans in 2 Years

  1. Congratulations. I’m so proud of you. Following Mom and Dads great example and adding ones of your own. Great job you guys.

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