Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Progress on Our Student Loans & How We'll be Debt-Free in 2014

It's no surprise to my close friends and family that we've been aggressively attacking our student loan debt in full-force. If you're wondering how aggressive, it's now to the tune of $1,200 a month. We've now got a pulse on our budget that we keep a close eye on. By no means are we super insanely strict with our spending (we do LOVE to go out and eat some awesome vegan food here in Austin), but we know that we have a few payments to make each month to ensure we're on track.

Last November, when we first watched I'm Fine, Thanks, I really didn't know what to expect. I knew I didn't want our debt to be dragging us down for 15 years, and I wanted to start seeing a profit from our degrees sooner rather than later. As far as I'm concerned, we won't be in the green completely until my husband's student loans are wiped out. We worked hard to get out of school with as little debt as possible, and my husband started with $17,000, which we've now whittled down to less than $9,000 in less than a year and a half. Most of that was paid off in the bulk within the last 9 months.

We started off at $300 a month and worked our way up towards $1,000 a month, and now we're proud to be at $1,200 a month. So how are we doing this? With lots of patience, understanding, and budgeting. We're also focusing more on a minimalist lifestyle, so that means no more shopping trips to buy useless nesting crap. A few years ago, I LOVED to go out and buy stuff. I don't even know what that stuff is anymore or if I still even own it. And that's the thing. I don't have much to show for that. I've stripped our possessions down to the essentials and we love it.

So are we living frugally? Does it suck? Do we still have fun or are we sitting at home staring at each other on the weekends? Well, we do keep an eye on our budget, and we strive to stay within our limits. We signed a lease on a great apartment only two miles from our jobs (did I mention my husband and I work in the same building, just two doors away from each other?!). Our rent is fairly low and we are now saving about $200 than we paid earlier this year. Our gas budget isn't large since we live in a great area that has anything I could need within a 5-mile radius.

Is there a secret to paying off debt? Not that I could find! I searched for hours on how to pay down debt, and there isn't a secret. Balance your budget, cut back where you can, and bump up your payments until you reach your limit within your budget. If you can spare an extra $100 on your credit card payment or student loan, by all means, PAY IT! You'll shave off years of payments and save big on interest. Several months ago, I called the loan company, and they said, "Ma'am, you are years ahead on your payment schedule." I said, "We're paying that off ASAP." The woman was shocked and surprised that we were making such great progress. I am too, but I can't wait for the big day when we can celebrate being debt-free!

Kelsey is a passionate vegan living in Houston, Texas, spreading the word about the benefits of eating a healthy, plant-based diet. She's also a minimalist enthusiast, a self-proclaimed financial guru of her household, and founder of The Little Red Journal.

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