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I have been so tempted to not post anything like this or talk about it at all because it requires a large amount of transparency. For me, transparency can be difficult. However, I know that there are others out there that may read this story of how we paid off over $43,000 in student loan debt in less than 2 years and be encouraged to start their debt free journey or continue it.
It is not my intention to show off or brag, or anything of the like, I simply want to share with you that it is possible. Here is my thought – even if just one person is encouraged by our story, it will have been absolutely worth it.
I also did an entire episode on this on the Confident Money Podcast, so if you want to listen to it, feel free to do so!
How It All Started
It’s a long story. I will tell you as much as I can. My wife, Roxana and I, started dating towards the end of 2016. I’m not sure if she knew it at the time (she certainly knows now!), but I had been a big Dave Ramsey fan for a really long time.
For real. I remember as a 12-year-old, or even younger, sitting in my mom’s car, heading home from Karate practice listening to the radio and hearing Dave Ramsey take questions from callers.
We listened so frequently that even as a youngster I was saying to the radio callers, “sell the car!”.
This may have influenced my money style some as I am a big saver and enjoy numbers, spreadsheets and managing my money. However, I am not perfect and was not always as intentional with my money.
My Money Mistakes
There was a point when I had a good amount of money in savings. I drained it for no good reason, I was simply living beyond my means. On top of that, I kept using my credit card, while I was living beyond my means, AFTER I drained my savings!
You know what that means… debt.
I did “good” for a while, not paying any interest. It was like a game for me.
Then, I was surprised and got hit with interest.
That made me mad. I decided that was the last straw, my savings account was drained, and now I’m paying interest on my credit card?! This was when I remembered everything I had learned from the past, things like using a budget, being intentional with decisions, being conscious of income.
Making Money Moves
I knew at that point what I needed most was a budget. I started budgeting and I got obsessed with it. Then I saw success as I paid off my credit cards completely and started living within my means. The progress I was making was great.
My wife and I started dating well after I was budgeting and being as intentional as I could with money. At this point, everyone saw me as the guy that always brought my lunch to work. I was always the one who how much an evening out was going to be, and saved up money for everything. I was okay with that.
Our Money Conversation
When my wife and I started dating, we waited a while before having a conversation about money. Once we knew our commitment was there, we discussed it. We talked about our views on it, what our goals were for the future and how we could game plan to get there.
My Wife Was My First Coaching Client (lol)
The conversation we had about money ended up with Roxana asking me to help her set up a budget and get her finances in order.
She had just become my first financial coaching client.
We did her budget, we went through everything. Once we set all that up, Roxana saw how much she could live on, and how much could go towards her student loans. It was at this moment that she started attacking the student loan debt on her own, simply with me there to guide her. She was able to make some really good progress.
My wife (girlfriend at the time) was so aggressively paying off the student loans that she herself paid off a nice chunk of the student loans on her own! It was a great start to our debt payoff journey.
Combining Our Money & Our Efforts
Once we got married, we started focusing our efforts on paying off the student loans together.
With that, some months have been better than others. There have been months that we can make a nice large extra payment, other months we have to just make the minimum payment… every month is different since our income is irregular from month to month, but all together we have been really focused on getting rid of this student loan debt, and doing it together.
$43,000 Paid Off So Far!
At this point, including Roxana’s payments on her own and now our payments together gets us to over $43,000 of student loan debt paid off in less than 2 years! We still more to pay off, but we will continue to make progress the best we can.
I don’t say any of this to impress you, I posted this blog post to encourage you.
You too can pay off your debts!
No matter how you got there, you can get out.
I know you can.
There are many things that have attributed to our ability to pay off this amount of debt, some of them are, having a mutual goal, budgeting, communication, mindset and decision making.
The “Practicals” Of Paying Off the $43,000 Together
We made a decision together when we first got married that we were going to attack the student loans. That was our goal, to get rid of them as fast as we could. Being on the same page is so important to us, and has definitely been a huge reason that we have been able to achieve this as a couple.
The budget is a huge deal for us. It shows us where our priorities are each month, keeps us on track and helps reduce our money fights. If you’d like to set up your very own budget, read my blog post on 5 Simple Steps to Create a Budget.
Each month we do a new budget that helps us see what our priorities are. We plan out everything and decide what we are going to include in the budget. This also means being intentional about what we will not include!
The budget does three main things for us:
- Keeps us on track
- We always know how we are doing because of the budget. It tells us what we planned for, what we spent, and how much we have left. It is always clear to us if we are headed in the right direction, or if we need to adjust something.
- Reduces our money fights
- Using the budget helps us decide what we are going to spend before we ever spend it. This helps us discuss things before they happen. Our biggest money fights have happened after something was spent that wasn’t fully agreed to. Now, we fully agree, then we spend!
- Helps us with priorities
- Seeing everything laid out in front of us each month helps us visualize where our priorities are. If we are spending a lot on something, and see that our extra payment on the loans is low, we can choose to adjust that or not.
The budget is one of the key factors that helped us pay off all this debt so far.
We communicate all the time regarding our finances.
ALL THE TIME.
We talk about:
- The budget before the month begins and ensure that we both agree to it.
- Purchases throughout the month that could be flexible and if we want to purchase them or not.
- Categories in the budget that are getting spent quickly, or not quickly throughout the month.
- Cuts or reductions that may be necessary
- Opportunities to give
- The bank account balance so we always know where we are at financially
- Changes in income due to the irregularity of our income
We are always communicating when it comes to our money, which helps us stay on the same page. If we were not communicating, one of us may spend something that wasn’t planned for. Then, if money that wasn’t planned for is spent, it will decrease the amount we can put towards the student loans. This would work against our goal. However, since we make our best effort to communicate, this is significantly reduced.
When it comes to paying off the student loans, we had to choose a mindset that would complement our goal.
Our mindset is, “if we don’t spend on ‘x, y, or z’, we pay more on the student loans. If we send more money to the student loans, we will be out of debt faster and then later can do way more with our money when we don’t have a monthly student loan payment anymore!”
Additionally, we have to make decisions in advance. For instance, if a big amount of cash comes in, we know what we would do with it. We have decided in advance what our priority is.
The mindset we have helps to keep us on track, even with big influxes of cash. Sometimes we can get distracted by a large amount from a tax refund or unexpected gift, but instead, we choose to have the mindset that anything extra goes towards debt.
We have to always keep our mindset in that framework, that if we focus on this now, and work hard, it will be worth it and allow us to do more than we ever imagined.
We consistently consult each other with decisions that are needing to be made. Bouncing ideas off each other is a big part of it, as well as discussing things like “is this in the budget?” or, “this is a big expense, what should we do?”. When it comes to decision making, we are in this together. We continually strive to always be on the same page.
This really helps us stay on track and focused to pay off the rest of the student loans.
Not to Impress You, But to Encourage You
As I said above, no matter where you are in your journey, let our portion of the story be encouraging to you that you CAN pay off your debt. Get focused, get on the same page and let’s get debt free together!
Are you working on paying off debt? If you feel comfortable sharing, how much have you been able to pay off? What is your “why” for paying off your debt? Let me know in the comments!