I am excited to welcome a fellow blogger, Jacob of Dollar Diligence, to the blog today. Jacob has an inspiring personal finance story to tell about how he managed to quickly get out of debt thanks to hard work, sacrifice…and a little help from relatives.
His story should inspire all of us that we can take control of our own financial situations if we develop a goal and stick to a plan in order to reach it.
Without further introduction, here is Jacob!
Today I want to share with you my extreme debt-payoff story and how it has changed my life. After paying down $25,000 in debt in 15 months, my goal is to now inspire and inform others so that they can take control of their finances and lead their very best financial lives like I did. As a part of that, I feel that it’s beneficial for readers to know more about how I personally took control of my debt and finances, even though it means divulging some personal details.
I’ll readily admit that taking charge of my finances is a daily journey and something I am always striving towards. By no means has my journey ended, but by sharing my story so far with you, I hope to inspire some of my readers to take charge of their own debt. If you have a similar debt payoff story, I encourage you to email it to me or share it in the comments below!
My name is Jacob, and I’m in my 20s. I live on the West Coast and my ultimate financial independence goal is to retire by the time I’m 35. Now, most high school math teachers don’t get to retire by the age of 35. Yes, my secret identity is a math teacher – are you surprised?
You see, you don’t need to be a full-time investment banker or finance guru to take control of your financial life. You only need to be motivated and willing to learn. If math teachers can do it, anyone can.
How I Acquired My Debt
When I graduated from college several years ago, I was in debt up to my eyeballs. I had taken out several federal and private student loans in order to pay for my college education.
Looking back, I wish that I had spent more time working during my undergrad days. Not a full-time job, mind you, but certainly part-time work during the school year and full-time work during the summer months. My fear, as many college-aged students have, was that work would interfere with my studying and consequently drop my grade point average.
In truth, the time that I would have spent working a part-time job in college was instead spent partying and goofing off. If I had spent it working, it’s unlikely that my grades would have been affected at all and there are tons of great ideas out there for jobs.
I now know, from talking to many people who worked during college, that a part-time job helps to bring some perspective as well as a source of income. Those people that worked during college graduated with job skills and less student loan debt – a win-win.
In any case, I chose not to work during the school year and to work only some of the summer months. That is part of the reason why, even with scholarships, I graduated with over $30,000 in debt, almost double the national average on a per graduate basis.
Along with my debt came tons of anxiety and the constant feeling that I had something weighing down on me. It was really hard to enjoy almost anything because the debt numbers were constantly popping up in my head.
How I Took Charge
I knew once I got my first student loan statement in the mail after graduation that I couldn’t live with this much debt hanging over my head. I decided to take charge and pay off my debt!
Move in with Family
My first move was to eliminate rent, since rent was itself my biggest monthly expense. Luckily, I was able to move in with my aunt and uncle to live rent-free. I know not everyone has the luxury of relatives with open arms, but if you do, I encourage you to take advantage of it because it can save some serious cash.
Remember that it isn’t a permanent situation. It’s only temporary, while you aggressively pay down debt. Moving in with family members enabled me to sock away about $1,000 a month more toward my debt than if I had to pay rent. I ended up living with my aunt and uncle for about 15 months.
Other Spending Cuts
I also cut my spending in other areas, such as food and entertainment. I learned how to cook, which kept me somewhat entertained on my nights in and also cut down on food expenses.
Found Ways to Earn Extra Money
Working a lot kept me busy as well, since I started to freelance in the areas of writing and photography in addition to my full-time career teaching math. I took all of the extra income from my side work and put it toward my monthly loan payments.
Being Diligent with My Dollars
Most of my nights were spent learning to cook and preparing meals for the following day, working on freelance writing projects, and balancing my meager budget. When I did go out, I was very frugal with what I spent on food and entertainment. I reminded myself that every dollar I didn’t spend was a dollar closer to my goal of financial freedom from student loans. I also refinanced my loans as soon as I could qualify for a better rate – which was just a few months after starting my teaching job!
You Can Do It Too!
All in all, I ended up paying down an amazing $25,000 in student loan debt in just 15 months by doing all of this. I’ll be the first to admit to you that this was not the most exciting 15 months of my life. It was a lot of work, including evenings and weekends. But if you ask me whether it was worth it, I’ll immediately tell you yes.
Not only did it eliminate my debt so much faster than otherwise possible, it taught me a lot about what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it. I challenge you to take a few minutes today to think about your own financial goals. What will you accomplish if you put your mind to it?
As a math teacher by day and personal blogger by night, Jacob is constantly looking at and analyzing numbers. He shares some of his best tips and tricks @DollarDiligence.