First off, let me just say: WE DID IT!!!! WE COMPLETELY PAID OFF ALL STUDENT LOANS!!
Okay, now that I got that off of my chest, let me tell you how we did this!
When Matt and I first began courting, he was finishing his last semester of college. He told me at that time that he had borrowed student loans for college. At first this scared the heck out of me because I was completely debt free. I was blessed to get TOPS scholarship for undergraduate which paid for 90% of school and my parents helped me with the rest. I worked to support myself too. In graduate school, I got an assistantship which paid for tuition and again, my mom helped me get through the rest of it.
I'll be honest here (and Matt knows this), I had really hoped that the person I ended up marrying wouldn't have any debt either. However, after I got over the initial shock, I realized that we were in really good shape to pay the loans off as quickly as possible and pursue the rest of our dreams.
When Matt graduated, he had somewhere in the ballpark of $35,000 in student loans. Yep, quite a large amount but from the little research I've done this is quite common.
Here's the first thing we did. Matt's loans were not due for payment until November of 2010. In October of 2010, right before we were married, we paid the full amount of accrued interest on the loans. This was one of the best things we could have done because if we had not paid the interest then on November 15th when the loans were due that accrued interest would have been lumped on the previous loan amount and all of that would have begun to accrue interest.
Second thing that we did was sit down together and decide the time frame we wanted to pay off the loans in. This was hard because we knew it meant sacrifice on our parts. Matt had several "public" loans that we were able to consolidate which provided us with one payment and also one private loan which we had to pay separate. We wanted to pay as little interest as possible so we set a deadline of 2-3 years. That meant that 2-3 years after we got married and began paying on the loans, we wanted to be DONE!
We decided to pay off the private loan first because it had the most interest. Keep in mind, we still had to pay a monthly payment for the consolidated loans as well. In 2011, that monthly payment was $179 (which by the way, if we had paid just that for the full time, we would have ended up paying double what he borrowed). Each month, we paid that amount, as well as, put as much toward the private loan as possible. During 2011, I quit my job (to move) and we moved so we didn't get as much done as possible but we were able to pay about $2500 to the consolidated loans and we completely paid off the private loan which was about $6,000!!
In 2012, once we were settled in SC and felt like we had our ground again, we decided that we would use ALL of Matt's checks to put toward the loans. This is where the real sacrifice came in. For the previous year, we had been using majority of it but we still played around with some of that money too. However, at the end of 2011 when we realized how far we still were from our goal with only 2 years left to go, we knew we had to do something drastic.
So for all of 2012 and 2013 until this point, Matt basically worked to pay off the loans. He has joked often saying "I haven't gotten paid since we got married!" :)
Y'all, this was so hard. We had so many fun things in our minds that we wanted to do and, don't get me wrong, we had fun during this time too we just had to constantly remind ourselves that finishing paying the loans meant financial freedom for us!
From start to finish, we paid off nearly $35,000 in student loan debt in 2 years and 8 months!!!!
Let me just say this: This is NOT to blow our own horn. This post is for the following reasons:
1. I want to look back on our lives and remember how much we were able to accomplish with God's guidance.
2. I want to help/encourage others who may be in a similar situation as we were.
3. I want to remember the sacrifice we made as well as how much we learned during this process.
Thank you, Lord for helping us with this journey. Thank you for teaching us about sacrifice and working hard. Thank you for using this time to help us learn to budget well. Thank you that this season is done and that we are now preparing for the next season of life and bringing a baby into our family. We are truly grateful.