Paying off student debt is the first key to getting on the right path towards becoming debt free and financially independent. In a previous post I talked about my journey in destroying my huge student loan burden. Here are 6 things to learn from my student loan debt story.
Things to learn from my journey
All of our circumstances, jobs, goals, family situations, income, and debt are different. There are no two paths that will be the same. However, one goal we should all have is to one day be financially independent. Sooner rather than later is always best, but some day we should all be able to get there. In order to build enough wealth to be financially independent, we have to get out of debt. And the first debt we have to get rid of is student debt.
Honestly if you have credit card debt or any other high interest rate debt, that’s probably what you should tackle first. But hopefully you don’t. So what are some of the keys to getting rid of this student debt. Let’s look at some of the ways I did it so that hopefully it can provide a blue print, or at least guidance for you to do the same.
Moving may not always be required, but I think it is needed more than most would hope. Changing jobs but remaining in the same location is hard in and of itself, but actually moving towns, or states can even be harder. We have friends, we have family, we have spouses that have friends and family. Some may think they could never move away. But I can tell you that can be a mistake for many people. Finding a job somewhere in the country (or world) that pays a lot more than your current job can be a huge way to be able to pay down your debt and build wealth faster.
In this day and age with computers, cell phones, airplanes etc., seeing family from far away is not that difficult. It could also be good for your family to be away from family; to find new friends. I believe we grow most when we are out of our comfort zone.
Refinancing Studen Loans
I refinanced my student loans with Laurel Road. There are several good companies that do this. See some good options here. Refinancing is a no brainer and will decrease your interest rate dramatically. If you are not going for student loan forgiveness, I advise you to refinance sooner rather than later.
We spent less
Even if you don’t make more money, you can have more money to pay down debt if you spend less of your money. Likewise if you make more money by moving but also spend much more, then you won’t be able to pay down debt quicker. When we moved we sold our house and we got a rental house in our new location. It was a fine house, and we rented for two and a half years.
Even though my paycheck went up, we didn’t go buy a fancy house. Spending less on things like eating out, luxury cars, huge houses, a lot of fancy clothes etc is not a recipe for financial success. I drove a 16 year old Ford and my wife drove a mini van. Those cars don’t scream doctor or wealth but we aren’t interested in how wealthy we look, we are interested in how wealthy we are.
My wife and I tried to have a weekly date night where we would go out to eat. It was never to an expensive place. Other than that, we had a strict grocery budget and we would eat at home. This is more work, but it is also much less expensive. We still watch our eating out habits and I also take my lunch to work every day.
I am lucky to have a wife that doesn’t care about spending a bunch of money on clothes. In fact, I’m the one in the relationship with a buying clothes problem. But we also have 4 kids. Besides buying them some clothes, there are several other things we do. We make them wear hand me downs from older siblings. We treat their clothes well and most are in good shape. Several instances we’ve had friends getting rid of clothes and we asked if we could have them. We aren’t too good for that and so we take them. Grandparents that get them clothes for birthdays and Christmas is also a plus.
I know some think we have earned it and that stuff will make us happy, but it’s not true. Getting rid of debt and building wealth will bring us a lot more happiness than that even if we live in a reasonable house, drive a used Camry, and eat at home more often. Even when our income increases, several “gurus” recommend we only increase our spending by 10% and use the other 90% of the increase towards paying down debt and building wealth.
I got a second job
It is very noble of a person that wants to be at home as much as possible to help out your spouse and be with the kids. That is my goal for sure. But I had an opportunity to work in another office on top of the hours I was already working. I did this for a year and a half. I worked about 50 hours per week total between the two jobs. That is a lot for a dentist. I wasn’t home as much as my dentist buddies. But compared to a lot of jobs, I was home as much or more than some people. I still had time with my wife and kids. The second paycheck went straight to my student loans. This started knocking them down very quickly.
We vacationed frugally
We had the income to take really nice vacations, but we didn’t. (Well we were lucky enough to be taken on a nice vacation by my grandfather). Most of our vacations were just driving out of state to see family. The kids had a great time, it wasn’t too expensive, and we built lasting relationships and memories. Now that my debt is paid off, I can loosen the purse strings a little and wife and I can go to some nice places. We still don’t want to go to crazy though because we want to become financially independent before we are too old to enjoy it.
Public schools for the kids
I know some of you may not have the best public schools in the world. But honestly they are usually good enough. Education is more influenced by what is going on in the home. We try to help our kids with their homework, and teach them as much as we can. Pushing them to do better and staying involved in their school work is key to their educational success. We also make them read A LOT. They hardly every get any time on video games or screens. Reading and work books in the summer and not non-stop video games helps. I went to public schools growing up and did very well in college and dental school. I didn’t need a fancy private (expensive) school and neither do my kids.
These 6 things could help anyone pay off their loans fast. I am now working only one job and have a lot of time at home. Without the burden of student debt, I feel free. My job is still full time and will need to be for a while to become totally debt free and financially independent, but one day when I’m not too old I hope to be able to cut back to 3/4 or 1/2 time. Too many dentists and doctors that are in their mid to late 60’s and they can’t retire because they haven’t saved enough. I don’t want money to control me, rather I want to have the money I need to control my own life. It can and will happen if I stick to my plan. I’m just glad I already checked off the first part of the plan by paying off my crazy high student loan debt. You can too.
-Debt Free DDS
Please comment below on what you think. How are you doing at paying off your debt? Sign up to receive each new post and much more. Please share on social media and subscribe to the blog.
*Nothing on my website is professional or legal advice. I am only sharing information that I have learned and it may or may not be accurate. I am not liable for any problems you may have by following this advice. Please do further research and get professional and/or legal advice about any of these topics. This post likely contains affiliate links. This site could be paid for clicks or purchases made through these links.