A few years ago, my husband and I were in A LOT of debt! Like, more than $40,000 worth of debt! It was overwhelming and at the time, we were happy to pay the minimum and tread water. And then one day, I was over it. We worked hard, but all of our money was going to pay off this mountain of debt. I was ready to change.
And here’s the thing, I know I’m not alone the fact that I owed a ton of money! But by making that decision- that today is the day I make a change, that’s how I got the ball rolling. You can make that choice too! And now we’re debt free (besides our mortgage)!!!
how did you pay off your student loans?
So if you have student loans- this post is for you! Our student loans were about 50% of our debt- over $20,000! So how did we pay it off? Well, basically, we cut all excess expenses. No internet, no cable, no eating out, no new clothes, no home decor, nothing! It wasn’t fun, but we used all of our extra pennies and threw them at our debt (you can see more ways I paid off my debt here)
For expenses we had to make (groceries, gas, bills), I tried to be smart. I’d use coupons, comparison shop, try to get better rates, and do my research to make sure my hard earned money was being spent as well as possible.
Every month I would pay the minimum- $200 to the student loans and then I made it a game to see how much more I could scrape together to pay extra towards the principal. Because the more I could pay, the sooner I would be free from my debt!
refinancing with common bond
Another option towards potentially paying off student loans faster, is refinancing loans. I wanted to share the company CommonBond with you guys as a resource. They are a financial services company who can help simplify student loans (especially if there are a bunch of different loans).
Common Bond can possibly save on interest too. They save their clients thousands of dollars! What this means is that their clients pay less towards interest and can get to the principal faster. The idea is that they help people to potentially pay off their student debt quicker!
Visit the CommonBond website to learn more about refinancing loans.
how did you stay motivated?
To keep myself motivated, I would make weekly payments just so the money wasn’t sitting in our bank account tempting me. I kept a thermometer on my fridge and colored in each payment so I could actually see the progress (you can get a free download of the thermometer here). I’d listen to motivating podcasts and read blogs of fellow people dedicated to getting out of debt.
Every month I’d journal about my debt free progress on my personal blog. Only my mom read it, but it helped me stay accountable. With each blog post, I’d find an inspiring quote that would help keep me working towards this marathon of a goal. One of my favorites is a Tanzanian proverb that says “little by little, a little becomes a lot.”
I LOVE the idea that the things we do each day can make a big impact towards our goals. Sure, not stopping by the vending machine and getting an $0.89 candy bar might not seem like much. But by saving up my pennies with each little decision, I was able to make a world of difference.
I’ve created a free printable with this saying in case you love it as much as I do! It can apply to all sorts of things, because truly, little things add up! I have a black and white version too, if you’re interested!
what happened when you had surprise expenses?
I know I’m making this sound easy, but it wasn’t. It was hard, but guys, it was so worth it! Before we paid a penny towards debt, we made sure to have a $1,000 emergency fund so that we didn’t need to put anything else on our credit cards. Having that money in our savings account was a great peace of mind!
When life threw us surprises like broken down cars or a new baby or job losses (those all happened!), we’d slow down the amount we were putting towards debt. We’d concentrate on dealing with the situation, and then resuming the extra payments when we were past the hurtle.
how long did it take?
For me, paying off the full $40,000 took 3 years. It was a hard few years, but I am so, so grateful that we set up a strong financial foundation! To celebrate, I threw a little party for our family and taped up all of the thermometers on the wall so we could see all of those years and all that debt that we slowly paid off.
Now, we can spend our hard earned money on our dreams- things like saving up for retirement, travel, and fixing up our house.
Every month for over 10 years, I paid $200 towards my student loans before we paid off our last payment. I thought I’d do a fun project in my home to show that money can be used towards something fun!
kitchen shelf diy
We had this cabinet in our kitchen that we weren’t using. Our kitchen is incredibly dark, so I wanted it down to allow more light in the room. I decided to do this project to show how I can use the monthly amount that I used to put towards my debt and I can now use it for fun projects!
The shelf came down and the result wasn’t pretty! There was a lot of cleanup needed to get it prepped for the shelves!
The shelves finally went up! I extended the back splash and painted to the top of the shelves too.
And then, my favorite part- styling! The top shelf has art and some budget friendly bottles. I bought them from the thrift store and painted the inside with chalk paint. I filled the floating shelves with pretty bowls and cups and other kitchen accessories.
I’m loving this new area of my kitchen! It is light and bright and feels so happy!
I hope that this post inspired you, even just a bit! The years I spent paying off my debt weren’t fun or glamorous, but it felt good to be working towards a goal that has changed my whole life. I am free from consumer debt and it feels amazing!
This post is sponsored by CommonBond Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that make At Home with Ashley possible. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
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