When my husband and I first got married, we found ourselves with more than $45k in debt - $25k of which came from student loans.
As the first in my family to graduate college, I didn't resent the cost of my top 5 liberal arts school because I know it opened up career opportunities that I probably wouldn't have otherwise had. However, it's not easy to graduate college as an entry-level part-time journalist making $11 an hour and having a $30k student loan bill attached to your name.
I ended up paying off my student loans less than 7.5 years after graduating college - a much shorter timeframe than the standard 20-30 years and saving me thousands in interest.
Here are my three tips for paying off your student loans early:
Make Debt Repayment a Priority
When most of us graduate college with debt, we resign ourselves to the idea that we will have this debt for years to come, so what's the point in paying it off early?
For the first four years, I had this same mentality and simply made the standard payment every month. When I finally did the math, I realized that if I kept making the standard payment, I would pay more than $60k over the lifetime of the loans because of interest - essentially more than double what I had borrowed!
Having this debt around was like an anchor on my finances; it made it difficult to comfortably afford anything else.
I decided to make debt repayment a priority. When I started making more money, rather than upgrading my lifestyle, I put as much money as possible toward debt to get rid of it as fast as possible. This meant making large payments to our debt - way larger than the minimum. At one point, I took our savings account and funneled a $12k payment to my student loans. It wasn't easy, but we did it.
Sacrifice Now for an Investment in Your Future
Paying off debt meant plenty of sacrifices, like living in a studio, no extravagant expenses, and limiting our fun money. It wasn't easy. I would watch with envy as our friends took trips to Europe or bought new cars every few years. But I was committed to getting rid of our debt.
Within 45 months of getting serious of paying off our debt, we became debt free. And now? We're able to save more than half our income, are able to take vacations, and are planning on buying a car in cash later this year.
The best part is we're still young and we're completely debt free - which means we no longer have debt payments hanging over our head and any money we make officially belongs to us and not the bank.
Take One Step at a Time
The great thing about debt repayment is that it doesn't last forever - and when you're finished, you are debt-free!
When I was paying off debt, I often wondered how 20somethings managed to pay off debt, buy a car, buy a house, afford vacations, pay for a wedding, etc., all before they turned 30! I thought that my husband and I made respectable incomes, so it seemed mind boggling that people my age could afford to do so much when we were struggling between our debt and household expenses.
Now that we paid off our debt, we've managed to save more than $20k in less than six months. We're upgrading our home. We bought a $2,500 fridge.
Financially, life became so much better when we didn't have debt dragging us down.
Make a plan: pay off your student loans, save for a house, upgrade your lifestyle. We live in a now-now-now culture, and we really had to retrain ourselves to think that we just have to take it one step at a time, and that means making sacrifices to make our future dreams a reality.
Erika Torres blogs at Newlyweds on a Budget, covering marriage and money. She and her husband paid off more than $45k of debt in 45 months. They are now saving for a house and budgeting for happily ever after.