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Debt Free, Frugal Living, Student Loans

Paying Off Student Loans Fast – Part Two

This is Part Two of my series on how to pay off student loans fast. Check out Part One here!

In part one of the Paying Off Student Loans Fast series, we talked about the importance of a creating a budget and coming to terms with all of your debts. I suggested selling what you can to get your momentum going on this journey.

However, some of you may be like I was and not really have debt on things you can sell, or that your debt is on things it doesn’t make sense to sell. Don’t worry–you can still get the ball rolling!

Make Some Cuts

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Paying off student loans fast takes hard work and sacrifice.

After you have sold off what you could, the next thing you want to do is see if you can make some cuts in your budget.

  • Insurance: Are you positive you are getting the best rates for your home, auto, and life insurance? When was the last time you shopped around? It is worth it to check every year or two. Find an independent insurance broker not tied to any specific company and get some quotes. I thought we were getting the best deal, but just a couple months ago I saved us a few hundred bucks per year by getting some quotes and switching insurance providers.
  • Shopping: Shopping of some kind is necessary, but most shopping is not necessary. I know this isn’t fun to hear. However, if you want to pay off your student loans fast, you need to be willing to commit to that goal and do what it takes.
    • What sorts of things do you spend money on? Can you cut back on or stop buying for a period of time of any of the following?
  • Groceries: Groceries is honestly the hardest category for me to cut back on. This isn’t an expense you can just delete from the budget. It’s easy for me to cut restaurants–that’s pretty black & white. However, we have to buy groceries of some kind and eat. Food is an area in which we need to spend some money, but it is also an area that is super easy to overspend on, which means we have more room to try money-saving tactics, like shopping sales, using coupons, trying once-a-month shopping, etc.
  • Other bills: See if you can score some sort of discount on other bills, like your cell phone, electric company, natural gas, and water. Sometimes you can get discounts if you use water after a certain time in the day, turn down AC during peak hours, or you may be eligible for rebates for various things. It’s worth a call to your utility companies to check.

Get Creative – Earn Extra Income

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We have never lived in a better time to earn extra income. The phrase “side hustles” is growing more and more common, and there are more opportunities than ever before, so many of them being incredibly flexible and lucrative if you want to put the time in. These side hustles are a great option for paying off student loans fast.

This isn’t a side hustle post, so I’m not going to go too in-depth in all the opportunities out there, but I will suggest a few. If you aren’t sure what any of these are, be sure to Google.

  • Uber & Uber Eats
  • Instacart and/or Shipt – shop for other people and deliver it (great for those of you that love to shop and want to get your “fix”)
  • VIPKid or another similar program (there are more!) for teaching English to children in other countries
  • Blogging and Affiliate Marketing (note: this is a side hustle that you have to invest months, if not years of time before you start seeing some money coming in. It can absolutely be worth it, but if you need money now, I don’t suggest this).
  • MLMs (I am not a fan of MLMs, but some people do have success with them. Only you can decide if this is right for you, and if it is and you make money, great! But I do not have any particular one to endorse)

Commit To Taking Out NO MORE STUDENT LOANS!

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When I graduated from my undergrad, I had 36k in student loans. As an elementary teacher, and I knew the logical next step was to get my master’s degree so I could get paid more. I enrolled for a program when my oldest was still less than a year old, fearing that if I didn’t do it ASAP, I would never do it.

We then took out an almost $14,000 loan to pay for the $20,000 program. About six months or so after taking out that loan, we started our debt-free journey. Some of the money had already been spent, but thankfully not all of it. I knew that we needed to pay back what we could and cashflow the rest.

What good would that few thousand dollar a year raise do me if I still had over 30k in undergrad loans and was going to finance another 14k? It would take several years to really pay off for me, and who knows if I was even going to stay in education for that long (50% of teachers leave education within the first five years of their career).

But this extends beyond people in education, too. If you want to become debt-free, you can’t get out of a hole that you’re digging out from the bottom. You need to commit to never borrowing another penny outside of your home mortgage.

If you decide to go on and receive graduate degrees, really consider how this will grow your career and your income. If you deem that it will be a good financial move, then find a way to cashflow it.

How Else Can You Move The Needle?

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How else do you think you could get your momentum going? I have one more suggestion that may not work for everyone, but I do think everyone should consider it.

If you are really struggling to pay your bills and dig up extra cash, even with the other suggestions I’ve given, is it because you’re working a job that doesn’t pay enough?

What if you were able to increase your salary by 5k a year? 10k? or even more?

One of the most successful ways people end up getting a higher salary is by switching jobs. It used to be that one of the best ways to develop your career was to stay at one company and work your way up the ladder. That is changing in recent years. “Job hopping” is also no longer a career killer like it used to be.

Most employers understand that getting paid more or finding a position that provides flexibility is a good reason to do a job change.

People who stay at one company for longer than 2 years end up making 50% less. The truth is that it is just becoming more and more common that switching jobs is the easiest way to make more money.

Change Is Hard

This is painful for many people to think about because we just don’t like change. The stress that comes with switching jobs and learning a new role can definitely take its toll.

None of this is to say that every two years like clockwork you should go out and get a different job just for the heck of it. It IS to say that you should be keeping an eye on your income and what the industry average is for your area and your position.

You may have success in asking for a raise, but the average raise is about 3% whereas most people can make about 5% more when they accept a position at a new company.

There are many reasons to stay at a job beyond the pay. I understand that. I also want to remind you that just because you love something about your current position (flexibility, great co-workers, etc.) doesn’t mean you can’t also have those things in another position. You aren’t necessarily trading a positive work environment for a toxic one in the name of money. I would never suggest anyone do that!

I just want to end this article by suggesting you keep your resume polished and your mind open. You don’t have to go out and apply to 100 jobs right this second, but it is a good idea to do an evaluation of your worth and your career goals. Then be on the lookout for opportunities that will take you in that direction.

Saying, “I have 50k in student loan debt and only make 30k a year, so I’ll never be debt free” isn’t helpful. I also know that many of the people that say things like this believe they are stuck, and that they aren’t able to get a different job.

I want you to evaluate if that is really the case, or if you’re imposing limitations on yourself that don’t need to be there.

What did you do/are you going to do to get rid of your student loans? Let me know in the comments!

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