It’s so exciting to finally say it, we are debt-free!
The past 17 months have been transformative and filled with so many changes. We moved to a new state, husband graduated from college and got a new job, bought our first house together, adopted our third dog, and so much more!
We love life right now despite the hardships we’ve faced in our personal lives and we still have so much to be thankful for.
We’ve worked so hard to pay off the debt while still having the time of our lives – going on vacations, visiting the best restaurants, and having fun in our new home city.
Here’s what we did to pay off $62,000 of debt in 17 months.
How much debt did we did have?
What kind debt did we have?
Unsubsidized and subsidized student loans.
What was our debt payoff plan?
We wanted to pay off all debt in less than three years. Luckily my husband got a great job out of college as a software developer and we realized we could pay off the debt in under two years while still putting 15% to retirement toward retirement.
What else were we doing financially while paying off student loans?
During this process, we bought our first house together and had a lot of house and moving expenses.
How much did we pay off each month?
Between $3,000 and $4,000.
Below is a list of everything we did to pay off $62,000 in 17 months.
We religiously budgeted every single month and always had a financial plan in place. I checked our budget at least once a week, and at times three times a week just to make sure we were as close to the budget as possible. We weren’t always perfect and unexpected expenses often came up, but we did our best.
Without budgeting, we would’ve spent so much more money and it would’ve taken us a lot longer to pay off this debt. What I’m getting at is budgeting is a MUST, non-negotiable.
I use the free version of the EveryDollar app to budget and find it’s the best method for me.
I also recommend checking out these methods of budgeting.
Here’s a list of the most popular budgeting apps:
Using a budget planner is great for anyone who likes to stay organized and use pen and paper. If you’re already a fan of planners, budget planners will naturally work for you.
Using budget printables is similar to using a budget planner, only it may be more affordable. Many printable budget planners are free or incredibly affordable, making them a great option for budgeters. You can print out printables at home, the library, or at FedEx. FedEx gives you the option to print it on a higher-quality paper.
If you know how to use Excel, you may want to create your own budgeting spreadsheets. My boyfriend created his own Excel spreadsheet and that’s his method of budgeting and he loves it.
My friends at Pennies To Wealth created a budget spreadsheet that you can use again and again for under $10.
My friend Marissa from The Budgeting Wife also has a budget spreadsheet. I bought this (not to use, but support her business) and it looks great and super easy to use. Again, I’m more of an app drag and drop person, which is why I don’t use spreadsheets, but you may love them.
Using cash envelopes is great for anyone who wants to use actual cash instead of their credit or debit card. If you find that you overspend when you use plastic and prefer to physically hand over cash, cash envelopes are for you.
If you have trouble sticking to your budget, you should read 7 Clever Ways To Seriously Stick To Your Budget.
You can also read 8 Steps To Create A Realistic Budget which teaches you how to create a realistic budget.
We could’ve easily spent all of our money and just paid the bare minimum on our student loan debt. The minimum payment we owed was around $620. Instead we were paying between $3,000-$4,000.
These are the things we actively spent less money on:
- restaurant outings
- streaming subscriptions
- gaming subscriptions
- upgrading our cars
I used to go shopping for new clothes monthly, and now I go shopping for new clothes once or twice a year, and it’s only to replace workout clothing because that’s what I wear daily. I used to wear makeup on a daily basis and now I never wear makeup and I’ve minimized my skincare regime to just a BHA, retinol, moisturizer, and sunscreen.
Any extra money went to debt
Any time we got a bonus from work or a financial gift, we put the money toward debt. There were a few 5 paycheck months since my husband gets paid weekly and some months out of the year get 5 weeks. Any time we got a fifth paycheck, we put it toward student loan debt.
My husband also received a raised during this time which even furthered our progress for paying off debt.
We used our emergency fund
We did something controversial and unconventional and decided to use some of our emergency fund to pay off student loan debt. We were willing to take this risk, but I don’t recommend others do this because it’s a huge risk. We had quite a large emergency fund so we were willing to take on this risk.
Get really good at cooking at home
I love baking and cooking, so experimenting with different recipes and ingredients has been so much fun. I’m always trying out new recipes and cooking with ingredients that are cheap.
My main staples in meals include:
- fruits like apples, oranges, bananas, blueberries
- vegetables like broccoli, spinach, peppers, cucumbers, and so many others
- almond and soy milks
- cashews and sunflower seeds
- and so much more!
I find so much cooking inspiration on Pinterest just by searching vegan cheap recipes.
Some of my favorite recipe books include:
I’m not a huge couponer, but anytime I buy something online I make sure I’m using both Rakuten and Honey. I’ve been using for Rakuten for about seven years and Honey for about five years.
Rakuten is having an amazing promotion right now where if you spend $30 shopping, you receive a $30 sign up bonus.
Here’s how Rakuten works.
1. Choose your favorite store.
Start shopping with Rakuten. Over 3,500 stores pay Rakuten for sending them shoppers.
2. Rakuten takes you to their site. You shop.
Cash Back is automatically activated. Make a purchase and Rakuten emails you when it’s added to your account.
3. Earn Cash Back.
Your first Cash Back payment will be sent via PayPal or check within 15 days of purchase. Then you get paid quarterly.
Honey is also a must and you’ve probably heard of it by now because it’s saved people so much money.
Honey works by searching for the best coupons for you, saving you time and money. They automatically apply coupons for you, and can even tell you when prices drop. You can add items to your pricelist and if the price drops, Honey will notify you via email. You can even refer people and get a gift card for every referral.
Shopping at the cheapest grocery store
I live in a small town which means we don’t have many options for grocery stores. We only have one actually. This means I typically drive out to the city to get the bulk of my food because food is so much cheaper there.
I’ve also found that shopping at Winco or Walmart saves me the most money on groceries. I even do Walmart Grocery Pickup because it’s so convenient.
Whenever I go grocery shopping, I check the clearance bins for discount food and always use the grocery store apps. These apps often have a “coupon” area that helps me save even more money on groceries.
Eliminate frivolous spending
We could have easily spent money on a new car, nicer house, new toys, etc. Instead we’ve become very intentional with our money because our time is valuable to us. We both want to retire early and have our focuses on enjoying life but also paying off debt ASAP so we can start putting all of our money to retirement and paying off our house.
Bonus: Side hustle
One of the best things you can do to pay off debt faster is earn more money.
Here are great ways to earn more money:
- Sell Etsy Printables. Julie from the blog Millennial Boss is killin’ it in the side hustle world by selling Etsy printables. This side hustle is almost entirely passive, meaning you do the work in one sitting, and then get paid for it for months and years to come. With just a few hours of work, Julie’s made over $5,000 selling printables on Etsy. Julie recently created Etsy Printables where she shows you exactly how to make money selling Etsy Printables. This free guide here has a secret list of best-selling products by month and how to capitalize on seasonal trends to make sales. It’s a free download and SO good!
- Freelance writing. There are hundreds of freelance writing jobs out there, but getting those freelance jobs isn’t easy, which is why Holly created Earn More Writing. Earn More Writing helped me get started in the freelance writing field. I went from charging $50 to $250 per article and now, I know I can charge much more than that with my writing experience. This work from home opportunity is legit, lucrative, and lets you work anywhere in the world. Holly travels (a ton!) and works all around the world. You can check out her course and free workshop here.
- Surveys. Filling out surveys to make money is an easy way to make money by simply providing your opinion to questions. Here are some survey companies: Swagbucks, MySoapBox, MyPoints ($5 bonus after 5 surveys).
- Facebook Ad Manager. Did you know you can become a Facebook Ad Manager for businesses and make an extra $1,000+ a month with just 1 client? Facebook Ad Managers are in charge of running ads for businesses to increase their customer base and income. In short terms, Facebook Ads can really help businesses grow. You can learn how to become a Facebook Ads Manager in less than 28 days with the Facebook Side Hustle Course.
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