I’m a goal setter for sure. I love setting goals, both long and short term. It motivates me, inspires me and challenges me. I like knowing what I have to do and thinking about the best way to accomplish that. Having deadlines is a great way for me to work. While I’m not always the best when it comes to time management and avoiding procrastination (I’m procrastinating by writing this, whoops), I do know that setting goals is vital for me to actually achieve anything.
So with that in mind and as I take stock of how much student loan debt I have left I am adjusting my goal: I want to be debt free by August 2015.
When I started this year, I thought I would be making $23,000 (after taxes) and paying off $13,000 in loans was looking like a heroic effort. I’ve been keeping my head down and working my butt off all year in a variety of ways: spending as little as possible, picking up extra shifts, working up to five jobs. I have taken every money making opportunity that has come my way.
And some unexpected opportunities have indeed come my way. I was offered twice my coaching salary this year if I agreed to coach both the high school varsity and junior varsity teams AND the middle school team. My nonprofit job offered me $200 more a month than I was expecting in January. My catering company gave me a $.50 per hour raise at the end of January. My social media hourly pay increased by $3 for the first three months of the year. (I’m no longer working there.) Long story short: I was making more money that I expected to pretty much across the board.
This all added up to big monthly payoffs consistently so far this year. In January I paid off $1,525 (a big part of that was my Christmas money, to be fair). In February, $1,224. In March $2,986. I’m on track to have April be another month somewhere in the $2,000 range as well.
In fact, I just made a $500 payment on my MyCampus loan today! That brings that loan down to $1,110. Overall, my student loan debt total is now at $5,160.
Back in January I thought I would be able to do about $800 extra per month on my loans, paying about $1000 total each month. I was planning on spending all my birthday and Christmas money (Christmas ’14 and ’15) on my loans and scrimping wherever I had to in order to be debt free by December 2015. I honestly didn’t know exactly how I was going to pay off $13,000 on a $23,000 salary.
The extra income I’ve been able to earn has boosted my overall salary to somewhere in the $27,000 range and putting any and all gifts, tax refunds and extra work earnings (like SXSW) towards my loans has allowed me to make huge dents in that total only four months into the year.
By focusing so singularly on getting out of debt I am getting out of debt. It will not take me until December to be debt free. If I continue hustling and sacrificing for just a few more months, I hope to be debt free by early August.
Of course, this is still a little tenuous. I have to watch my spending even more carefully than before, and I still have to cater as much as possible. I have a few large bills coming up that I have to plan for. Honestly, this last five thousand dollars is probably going to be the hardest to pay off.
I am so grateful to my past self for doing everything that I did earlier this year. Making my loans a priority consistently and early in the year has given me this opportunity of ending it all early. Everything I have done and do now just makes things easier for my future self. If I can be debt free by August this year, I can get a head start on my goal for next year: save $10,000 in a retirement fund. I’m incredibly excited by the thought of being able to start doing that 5 months ahead of schedule.
Finally, I know this posting is helping you with my perspective, but this blog can’t cover everything. If you want a comprehensive approach to paying off debt, consider researching Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball strategy. There are tons of resources online, or you can pick up a copy of his book, The Total Money Makeover. Get it Amazon or pick up a copy at your local library.
Kara Perez is the original founder of From Frugal To Free. She is a money expert, speaker and founder of Bravely Go, a feminist financial education company. Her work has been featured on NPR, Business Insider, Forbes, and Elite Daily.