how student loans didn't get the best of me

If you’re my age (25), or somewhere around there, you were probably pushed to go to college like I was. You were told in school, by family and peers that all of the best jobs required a higher education and if you really wanted to be what you’ve always wanted to be “when you grew up,” a degree was a necessity to achieve that. My parents didn’t experience college, thus didn’t see my future without that $100,000 piece of paper after working jobs that secured them the common middle-class financial struggles and the notion that they would proceed to work throughout their retirement years to stay afloat. Typical of caring parents, they wanted much more than that for me, helping to give me everything they never had: a degree.

I graduated in 2012 with a bachelors of science in graphic design, a go-get-em attitude, and $100,000 in debt from student loans. After landing my first job just 5 week after graduation, already ahead of my peers, I truly believed I had nothing to worry about, despite the warnings from my parents in regards to the upcoming payments I’d soon have to make to pay off my debt. This was life, wasn’t it? I thought this was what people did. Everyone that I knew had taken out student loans to get their degrees, yet were still getting married, purchasing homes, and achieving other major life goals that implied they weren’t burdened by the weight of their loans and getting along just fine. If these friends, who weren’t working in their fields of study, but instead part-time jobs in retail a few times a week, could survive their loans while owning homes and raising kids, I could too.

Then I moved out. I moved into an adorable little house with a roommate (who is ironically now my boyfriend) that we rented from his grandparents. Then we adopted a kitten. Then we adopted another. I had recently purchased my first used car, which I took a loan out for. Now I had bills to pay, on top of the student loan payments that I finally had to start paying.

Then I lost my job, started a small business on the side while I frantically searched for another. I lost sleep at night at the thought of possibility having to uproot the life I had just started and forefeet my freedom to move back in with my parents so I had less bills, since student loans came first. Luckily, I landed a new job, paying a significant amount more than my last, and none of those things had to happen. But I was still scared.

I had no kids and no mortgage. How did all of my other friends get by? My life-long dream of owning my own home was moving further from reach at lightning speed and that realization was a tragedy. It cost me more money in student loans every month than it cost me to live. So then I got mad.

The debt was now an enemy, a burden, and not something I was comfortable living with as it loomed over my shoulder every time I thought about the future. I started attacking it full force, formulating “money challenges” and getting myself on a strict budget so I could track every bit of my spending to see where my money went. I found Dave Ramsey’s books, took his advice in strides, and buckled down on my lifestyle.

I refuse to be just another American living with debt, especially because of something so necessary like an education. This installment to my blog, while personal, will be here as a motivator to myself and for anyone else who may stumble upon it later. I will track my spending, post tips, share my money challenges, and document payoffs and progress. Debt sucks, but it’s not forever if you stop ignoring it. I hope this portion of my blog can encourage other young adults to do the same; to find that financial peace and start your life.

“Live like no one else so later, you can live like no one else.” - Dave Ramsey