Halloween is next month, and I’m already seeing the bright costumes and big boxes of candy lining the shelves at the stores. But what is even scarier than the scariest Halloween horror movie? Ah yes, good ol’ debt. Student loans to be specific.
I remember the dread I felt my whole last year of university knowing that I would soon have to start paying it off. I had OVER 60,000 dollars of student loan debt that I had to pay starting the end of the November following graduation. Talk about overwhelming.
After graduation I moved cities, got married, and had no job. YAY!… After a bachelorette, a wedding, and a honeymoon I had no money left in my accounts. I had no job to start paying things off. And I had just shared my debt with my new husband, Wayde (lucky him!).
Fortunately for me, my parents had heavily encouraged me to save my money starting when I was 10 years old. They told me one day that I would want it for education, or some other future endeavor. I kept that money in savings and RESPs until I was done university. I put that chunk of money straight towards my loans, and it was quickly reduced to just under 25,000.
Now the real work began. Between what I was making at the part-time job I had finally landed and Wayde’s first-year apprentice salary, things were looking tight. We were looking at a seeming mountain of debt, and didn’t know how to start digging our way out.
After doing some research, consulting friends and family, and with Wayde’s already sharp budgeting skills, we were ready to get to work! Nine short, but also long, months later and we had paid it off even quicker than we had planned to. Below are some tips and tricks that we used to pay it off, and that are useful for wherever you’re at in life!
How we paid off 25,000 dollars of debt in 9 months:
- Budget how much you need for rent/mortgage, car insurance, gas, groceries, student loans, and budget how much “for-fun” spending money you will get each pay cheque. Budget it all in.
- Start using cash. I absolutely hated doing this at first, but it had been something Wayde had been doing for a long time. I quickly realized how much better it was. It ensures that you are aware of how much money you have, when you are getting low, and not to overspend. You really look at where you are spending your precious coins when you only have so much of a real physical amount.
- Put all your money for the important things straight to wherever they need to go. Whether that be paying bills immediately, or into another account so you don’t see it or touch it. After that take out the specific amount of cash you will need for groceries, spending money, etc. What we did was take this cash and separated it into designated envelopes for specific purposes. We had one envelope for groceries, one for date night, one for car maintenance, a 1000 dollar emergency fund, and an envelope for everything in between. Keep track of when you put money in and take it out.
Say no to things
- Yes, even small things. You do not need to be going out to eat or “play” all the time. It’s not smart financially, but it’s also not physically or mentally smart. You and your wallet need to take breaks sometimes. That doesn’t mean all the time, but it does mean be careful and conscious where you are spending your money (and energy), and how many activities you are saying yes to.
- I found that Wayde and I could do a lot of fun things that were cheap, or even free, compared to what we normally would do. However, we would still splurge on date nights or hanging out with friends sometimes, we were just more aware when we did and knew that we didn’t always need to splurge.
- Rather than going out all the time, invite others over. There is something beautiful when you get to host and welcome others into your home. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just work with what you got and what you can afford. It will save you money!
Buy second hand
- This one is a double-win! Buying second hand is not only financially smart, but it’s also environmentally smart (did you know the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world?). I honestly found that I could find a lot of cute clothes second hand. You can also buy a lot of second hand furniture and repurpose old pieces to give them a fun new twist.
Put your tax returns towards them, or at least a good chunk of it
- We were fortunate that Wayde got a big tax return, and that he was happy to put it towards the debt.
- In addition, and I think this one is obvious, but put random extra cash towards your loan whenever you have it. An extra 100 or 200 dollars here and there adds up quickly!
Look for deals
- One thing we did was try to do a lot of grocery shopping on the first Tuesday of the month, hello 15% off at Safeway! We also bought a coupon book for deals at places around Calgary, which were awesome for date nights.
- We also shopped at Costco for essentials and bulk items, which helped in the long run. Costco can get expensive fast, so you MUST stick to a list! And while the samples are the best part, don’t be tempted to buy the product. If you stray things can add up quick.
(also samples can be a meal replacement, so win)
Last, but probably the most tangibly helpful: Dave Ramsey!
Picture is from his website that I have linked below.
- Wayde and I originally learned about this guy from my parents, but the more we talked to our friends we found out that they were using his advice as well, and seeing results!
- Follow this guy, listen to his podcast, and if you really want to take his courses! All we did was follow his social media, did some reading on his website, and listened to his podcast.
- While we didn’t stick to all of his advice to a tee, it was still helpful to have a guideline. His debt snowball, 7 baby steps, his budgeting app, and his guide to budgeting were so helpful, and best of all free! Check him out here.
Remember: the bigger the payments you make the quicker your interest will be reduced!
Now, go and conquer that debt!