“Ma'am… What you are paying will barely cover your interest."
Those were the words that the customer service rep at Sallie Mae told me over the phone. I could hear it in her voice that I was setting myself up for failure.
However, I just needed to make sure I was not one of the many post-college adults on their weekly hit list due to my mounting student loan debt with them. You know, the list where they call you weekly for their money, and if you're really behind, DAILY.
I'll be honest.
When I was in college, I did not think about paying back my student loans. I did know that I had borrowed money, but at the time, I did not understand interest rates, or what it meant to have subsidized and unsubsidized loans. I just knew that I was going to college and because my scholarships didn't cover all of my needs, I needed to take out an additional loan.
After graduation, I knew I had six months of freedom before Sallie Mae would hit me up. Oh, and when she did, SHE was ready.
She had all her dollars and cents together and wanted to know how I was going to give it to her. After researching more about paying loans, I learned that it takes the average person 10 years to pay off their student loans.
This is of course if they have a stable, well-paying job, no other debts, and I guess…no kids.
Fast forward to a few years later, I meet the love of my life, got married, and Sallie Mae becomes Navient (new name, same devil).
My husband and I both decided to take Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace course before we got married, because we both had debt and wanted to get serious about paying it off. After we tied the knot, my husband and I started tackling small debts. By this time, we both were in good, middle class jobs and seeing as we both wanted to be free from our lenders, we jumped in head first tackling them.
I'll never forget December 31, 2014. I was writing out my goals for 2015, when I felt in my Spirit that I was leaving one goal off.
Everything that I had written down previously were goals that I KNEW I could take care of by myself. I did not have one goal that stretched my faith. At that moment, and for the rest of that night, the Lord really spoke to me about having a goal of paying off my student loans.
To me, this seemed utterly impossible to do in one or two years. Again, it takes the average person 10 years to pay off a loan. “God, are you sure about this?" I wondered.
That is when I remembered the message my pastor, Joel Sims, preached. 10 Years into 1. God can make what would need to happen in 10 years, take place in just one.
I decided to trust God, be obedient, and change my thinking.
So I wrote it down and got TO IT!
Every penny outside of utilities and essentials was used to pay down my student loans. I left a little play money for myself that could be used on food, clothes, or beauty. Since it was not much, I had to become resourceful. I stopped going to the beautician and found a family member to flat iron my hair at a lower rate. I stopped my monthly shopping habits (I LOVED shoes) and I learned how to do more beauty regimens myself. I packed my own lunch to avoid spending excessive money out. I rented movies at Redbox, instead of always going to the movie theater. Any way we could save money, we did it.
The only thing we didn't give up, was giving our tithes (something I definitely feel helped boost us in the right direction). A lot of DIY's and balancing checkbooks later, we were really seeing a dent in my student loans. I was soooo excited when I paid off the first of six loans I had. I felt like I was floating on air and could conquer the world. My husband was happy too!
We started to get excited because every time one was paid off, we started to see how much money we had left over. We were on a roll!
Finally, we paid off the last one, and I literally wanted to cry. I asked Navient to send me a letter in the mail showing I was PAID IN FULL. And when it came in the mail, y'all, I looked like Chester the Cat.
The biggest lesson I learned from paying off my student loan debt?
My God is a Mighty God.
What would have happened if I had thought that it was impossible? What would have happened if I would have talked myself out of my blessing? What would have happened if I had given up, because it made me uncomfortable?
Coupled with the grace of God and a handful of tips and tricks, my husband and I paid off close to $25,000 in student loan in less than two years! If you're interested in doing the same, here is how to begin:
- Understand what is a true necessity, and what is just a want. You need water, heat, electricity, and food in your fridge. You don't need a fill-in for your nails, to eat out with your friends at that expensive steak house, and you don't need to take a big trip this year. Find other economically friendly ways to serve as your fun outlet. You'll be surprised what you can do for under $50 or $25.
- Don't be concerned with what everyone else is doing. During this whole time of paying off debt, my husband and I did not go on a vacation. Sure, we wanted to go on one. We even had friends and family that were doing great things. But, we knew what our end goal was, and when you set a goal, stand by it. Honor and remember the promise you made to yourself. There is a rainbow at the end of the tunnel.
- Create an emergency fund. If you're single, Dave Ramsey says you should have $1000 saved up in an account. If you're married, $2000. That way, if anything comes up while you are paying off debt, it won't hurt or stop your progress. Don't worry, you can always build more, once you're debt free.
- BUDGET, BUDGET, BUDGET. You should know every penny coming in and out of your bank account. That way, you can know how much you can allocate to paying off debt, while still keeping the house running.
- TRUST IN GOD. Though I put it last, it is certainly not least. This endeavor requires BIG faith, but know that if He will lead you to it, he will lead you through it. My husband and I continued to give to the church in tithes, and found any way possible to be a blessing to others. We did not have all the answers, but we knew who did. Trust that and trust Him.
I'll be really real with you for a moment. I was around people who were going on amazing trips, buying luxury items, living it up, and enjoying their life. It was incredibly tempting to stray from my path from time to time because of what I saw. But, at the end of the day, I knew that to get to where I wanted, I would have to do some things I had never done. There is ALWAYS a temporary level of discomfort when going to the next level. There were a few unexpected expenses on the way. Our washer and dryer needed to be replaced, an unexpected bill, etc., but we stuck to our goal, refreshed ourselves on the FPU course we took, and kept moving.
If you want to get serious, you want to tackle your Goliath…get started right now! Hear my podcast episode dedicated to conquering your debts and Sallie Mae - “Throwing Them Deuces at Sallie Mae"
What are some steps you're taking to pay down your debts more efficiently and effectively? Let me know in the comments below!
Shaina is a singer-songwriter that creates songs and podcasts for young women, that are uplifting, inspiring, fun, or just the plain truth. Hear more from her at www.shainasonline.com and follow her podcast, Sisterly Love. Follow Shaina on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @ShainasOnline