Welcome!


This is the story of life's financial struggles & victories through the eyes of a young woman up to her eyes in debt. Enjoy :)

Find me on Twitter! @OhStudentLoans

Thursday, November 24, 2016

MY STUDENT LOANS ARE PAID OFF!

Can you believe it?! I did it!! It feels surreal. It feels great.

Total borrowed: $68,545.
Total paid back: $113,019.24

I started repayment December of 2009. I made my last payment November of 2016.

Thank you, sweet sweet baby Jesus that I am FINALLY DEBT FREE!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Almost Out of Debt: The Fear

Sounds backwards, right? But fear is oh so present. Here are 3 examples:

  • Fear that I am 1 week away from completing a journey I have been on for years and something could go wrong. Something catastrophic could happen and trip me up mere moments before crossing the heavily anticipated finish line adding possible years to the debt fight.

  • Fear that I will be debt free then end back up in it down the road. Although I have taken the necessary behavioral steps to ensure this doesn’t happen, you never know what could shift.

  • Fear that even if I do not end up back in debt, I will not win with money in the long run because I will misplace money along the way. Not choose the right options in stocks, a Roth IRA, investments, etc.

These may seem a little silly, and I haven’t put much thought into those 3 things over the years; however, now that I am about to step into the bright light at the end of my dark tunnel, these are my present fears. I’ll keep you posted as always, but for now, I’m simply keeping it real J

A bite of food to chew on:
“If you live in fear of the future because of what happened in your past, you’ll end up losing what you have in the present.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I Spoke at My Alma Mater!

One of my close friends has been such a great cheerleader for me during my debt pay-off process. She encourages me and lets me pick her brain a little bit on how her and her husband run some of their household budget. She works at Regions Bank and was appointed to take charge in their ‘Women in Wealth’ initiative. She felt a great starting place to get the message out would be at the college level. SO, since we were both in Phi Mu at Belmont University (she was our chapter’s president), she decided she wanted to start there by speaking to the current Phi Mu Theta chapter, and invited me to speak alongside of her.

It was great to be back on campus talking about all things finance and student loan related to those who are quite literally in the exact same place I was a cool 7 years ago. I hope my story resonated with them, and if anything, I can be a resource to one of them who might feel a bit like she is drowning here in a couple of months after graduating. I know from memory, and from reading back on this very blog, that I was completely lost and had no one to turn to for guidance. It might have taken me 7 years to get back to them, but at least I am here now and can be a lighthouse for this wave of Belmont graduates to find their way back to shore.

I snapped this photo of the renovated music business building entrance as I'd like to think that I AT LEAST paid for the gold that now lines the stair railings OR the glitter that now covers every inch of the floor :) 


Thursday, October 13, 2016

About.com/The Balance Hosted Me in NYC!

How'd she do it? Grab a cup of coffee and join us for a Facebook
Live chat with college debt success story, Jessica Elberfeld
 moderated by Jean Chatzky!
I just got back from having an amazing time in NYC! The folks at About.com reached out to me in hopes of having me participate in a Facebook Live Session at their NYC office. The interview was to aid in the launch of their new financial site, The Balance, where the financial editor of The TODAY Show, Jean Chatzky, would be moderating. How could I say no to that, right?!

My friend Scarlett went to the interview with me, and everyone there was so kind towards both of us. Security checked her in as my 'representation' so she got a real kick out of that :) I wasn't sure what to expect as the live conversation was set up to be pretty candid. But whenever you live this debt stuff day in and day out for many years, you can talk to it just fine; I didn't get too nervous about not knowing what questions were going to come my way.

Before we started the live interview, we were all standing around chatting and introducing ourselves. I have to say, being in a room with like-minded people who were there to applaud my debt pay-off accomplishments instead of question them, was very surreal. These people study money. They live and breathe it. Their studio (which was in the same Times Square building as Good Morning America!) felt like the ultimate safe-zone to completely nerd out in with zero judgement. I am telling you, it is rare to find a person, let alone a group of people, that can talk about finances for hours on end without falling asleep mid sentence.

In summary, the trip was awesome and the interview went well! Here is the live video if you want to give it a watch:



Here are some pictures from the trip!

Me & Jean!

Hanging out on Wall Street

The BULL!

Night out in Times Square!

Plane fun - I heart NY!


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I was in The Wall Street Journal!

Does It Pay to Start at Community College? Maybe
A reporter reached out to me back in June about interviewing for a piece she was writing on transfer students for the Wall Street Journal. Of course I agreed, and I am glad I did! Although the interview process was quite lengthy, the portion of my story in the whole piece is quite small. I am in no way complaining about that though; it's just an FYI!

Late last night my mom wondered if my article made it to print in the actual printed Wall Street Journal. I hadn't even thought about that and wondered myself, so I emailed the reporter, and sure enough! The article I was in as well as my picture was printed in the wealth management section of every Wall Street Journal that day. Since my mom couldn't find any where she was, she googled where I could find them here in Nashville; I drove and picked up the remaining few papers that were left at Vanderbilt's Barnes and Nobel :)

That was a very cool feeling and a very humbling day. Big thank you to Jillian Berman for reaching out to me!

Click here to view the article!


Friday, September 9, 2016

Spotlighted on IonTuition!

Thank you to the sweet people over at IonTuition for featuring me on their Q&A Spotlight Series!

It is amazing to see a site/blog dedicated to all things finance and helping people win with money by using other people's journeys as an example!

You can click here to read my interview with them :)


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I was Featured on Business Insider!


The interview I had with Business Insider ended up being a story that was posted in three separate articles on three different days as opposed to what I thought would have just been one. The reporter, Libby Kane, was awesome to work with, and I loved her tone of writing. 

My parents, family, friends, and co-workers have expressed how proud they are about all of this, and that means the world to me; their opinions matter most.

What I didn't see coming were the mean comments on the article as well as on all of the social media sites (other than my own, of course). It was truly entertaining for a minute, then I quit reading them. People were some kind of tore up over my budget. They had an opinion on just about every category, and didn't hold back in the slightest on expressing said opinions. I never responded to a single person on the article or on the social media posts because you simply can't argue with someone on a faceless platform; it is a true waste of time and energy.

What I would ask that you keep in mind is this - the budget you see in these articles is just one month out of my year. My budget changes a little from month to month; not only in expenses, but in income, too. I am a sales rep as well as a server so the money coming in is different every single month due to fluctuating commissions and tips. As far as expenses go, there are indeed times when I will budget to go see a big ticket act in concert, and there are times where I will budget for an item I've had my eye on at a store. Not every category will stay the same month to month. To quote some Dave Ramsey here:

"A good money plan is dynamic and changes as your life does. Do a review of your budget each month and make adjustments."

My intention for this post is not to spotlight the negativity, but I do want to address some topics that were in question for those that really are trying to build a budget and get their finances in order. That being said, this blog is my house where I say what I want; allow me to sit atop my roof for a moment and clear some things up:

Rent:
Wow. People really lost their cool over this one; there had to have been several hundred comments on this topic alone. I have 2 roommates. I live approximately 10-15 minutes from downtown Nashville. I live in a townhouse owned by one of my roommates. She has owned it for almost 1 year. I, as well as our other roommate, pay her a flat $450 for rent and utilities combined. It is not, and I quote, "a cardboard box," "a storage unit," "a closet," "a dog house" or "a shed." And we do not "live like hermits." The townhouse was built a mere 5 years ago so it's very modern, and we have more than enough space. Rent like mine is indeed attainable in Nashville. We lived in Brentwood (known for being an expensive part of town) for the last 5 years before moving to this townhouse, and we were paying just about the same then as we are now. The only difference is, now my roommate owns our current house and our rent goes towards her mortgage. Those who don't believe this is possible are the ones trying to find apartments and condos; you have to get in the outskirts a little and look for houses... WITH roommates. Other cities, I have no idea about; I have been in Nashville for 9 years and believe me, have done my fair share of house/roommate searching, and my situation is very possible. I lucked out 6 years ago by finding a roommate that I enjoy living with; she has great taste (hint our nice new townhouse), is a built in friend, and is trustworthy. 

My advice? Find people like that and then go find a house in the outskirts :)

Best stranger danger comment goes to: 
"$450 rent? Is she camping?" (I actually did hit the like button on that one)

Medical:
I have health insurance. It comes out of my check and is not factored into my budget. The $100 in medical is there for instances like physical therapy and co-pays. 

Best stranger danger comment goes to:
"$0 spent on medical. She is supposed to buy Obamacare. We have ourselves a liar and another phony story"

Groceries:
$150 is doable. It helps that I am a pretty basic, kindergarten eater; however, you can very much so purchase vegetables and healthy food on this budget. I buy store brand a lot of times. I purchase things on sale. I am by no means an extreme couponer, but I do indeed use them if I have one for an item I purchase on the regular. I also work part time at a, wait for it, RESTAURANT! I get a free meal with every shift. Oh, and as for the low coffee budget: fear not, I am human; I drink the stuff every morning, but it is indeed the free coffee that my office provides. 

My advice? Get out of the expensive grocery stores. Places like Publix and Whole Foods provide a great experience and all, but there is nothing wrong with a good Kroger or Trader Joe's. 

Best stranger danger comment goes to:
"For $150/month, I assume she eats paper?"

401k
Not contributing up to the 6% match right now was hard for a lot of people to agree with; and I absolutely understand their reasoning. Rest assured, this will go up to 6% in order to get my current match percentage, but not until November when I am debt free. I already have an IRA from my previous company's 401k match that I rolled over. I was not following the Dave Ramsey theory for some of my 4 year employment there so I contributed a lot to that account. I also still have stocks from that same company which I have not touched. 

Retirement contributions when in debt is a topic where Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman have a big difference of opinion. Although I took advise to from both, as it stated in the article, I chose Dave Ramsey's approach. 

Best stranger danger comment goes to:
"If she actually paid attention to Suze Orman she'd know this. That's like her #1 tip to everybody."

Here is a spot on, positive reply to the above...

"She's probably more focused on the Dave Ramsey plan, which has you stop 401k contributions temporarily until you pay off all debt and save up 6 months of emergency fund. It can make sense that you focus on one thing before going to the next. That way she frees up all that debt money, when that's all freed up he urges to put 15% of your money (not including matches) into retirement each month. Yeah she is missing out on some company match right now, but she'll be putting 15% (if following his plan) away each month, which is MORE than most Americans stash away."

Overall winner of the stranger danger comments (It's a tie):
"Alcohol for home: $10 budgeted $21.93 spent. Priorities (3 of the crying laughing emojis)"
Agreed, and cheers to you, sir! 

"Holy cow...we found a responsible millennial. Clone her quick before she gets a tattoo and starts taking pictures of her food."

I read the book Start by Jon Acuff earlier this year, and I wrote down this one quote in my notes even though it didn't pertain to me at the time. I thought that some of my friends might need to hear this one day as there have been times when someone will say a hateful thing about their music when they put it online for the masses. It helped me before it ever got a chance to help them:

"When someone leaves a hateful comment on your blog or tweets about you, that is the equivalent of someone driving by your house and yelling, “I hate your yard! Your heart must be horrible too!” You’d never listen to that person in real life. Don’t listen online."

For every negative comment (I spared you all of the vulgar ones), there was a positive one right behind it, so believe me, those are the ones I will take to heart. Bottom line, what I am doing is working; that is what matters. Thanks to everyone for all of the kind words and for reaching out with your own stories. I wish you all the best of luck in your personal finance journeys!



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

From Triple to Single Digit Debt: I Am So Grateful

Even though I never saw my debt have a balance in the triple digits, I have indeed paid triple digits. I am only $9k away from being finished. It feels so good to not have any number in front of or behind that 9. It feels surreal. I am so thankful for my journey. I am grateful God has blessed me with the ability to work and be in good health. There is no doubt, even in this less than ideal situation of mine, I have been blessed.

There are a lot of things a person can do to stay on track; there is an accountability that is hard to explain. However, a person could be on track and taking all of the appropriate steps, but for some reason keep getting knocked down: medical bills, car wreck, death in the family, etc. So many things are out of our control, and although we can plan for these things, we can’t see them coming. If these unfortunate events happen while we are in the beginning stages of planning and getting our feet wet with debt pay-off, it can really knock and keep a person down.

Looking back, it is very difficult to not see God’s protecting hand over my life. I have been paying off my student loans aggressively for the last 3 to 4 years; thankfully, nothing catastrophic happened to me in that time which allowed me to finally start winning with my debt snowball. Back when I was first starting, it would have only taken a gust of afternoon wind to knock me back into my same spending habits; now that I have some successful years under my belt, I am intentionally building up my financial life so that hopefully not even a hurricane can destroy it. I have not done this alone, God has been beside me every step of the way. I am beyond grateful for what I have been given and for the opportunity to learn from my twenties and build in my thirties. 

Thank you Jesus for the single number I am seeing on my balance today!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

I Was Featured on CNN Money!


"4 Steps to Paying off Your Student Loans,
from Someone Who Crushed $100,000"

After connecting on Twitter, a CNN Money reporter reached out to me via email and asked for an interview. At first I thought the email must have been spam. It wasn't. So of course I said yes.

The phone conversations and emails that transpired woke me up to just how much I have paid off. Not that it didn't sink in before, but saying my financial story aloud from the very beginning to present day was quite the humbling experience.

I started this blog in 2010 and was so... ashamed isn't the correct word... sad. Sad about the amount of debt I had and therefor did not want anyone to know my feelings about it. After all, many of my friends had the same situation going on, but for whatever reason, no one spoke up about it other than the occasional griping over hefty monthly payments. I needed an outlet. So I created this blog. I had no idea that 6 years later it would land me on the front page of the personal finance section of CNN Money. But I am glad it did. Now that I am out of the woods, I am okay with everyone knowing this blog, and all of these words, are mine. The encouragement I received after the article published was simply unexpected and overwhelming.

I do not have a business set up where I charge people for financial advice. The article does not lead you to a website where a company I created can help you. It leads you here, to this blog; it is simply my story. And Katie Lobosco, the reporter, broke all of my ramblings into 4 simple steps. Those simple steps are what got me to where I am, and I hope that others can follow suit from that. I have spent several hours with several different friends in the last 2-3 years quietly helping them create their debt pay-off plans and budgets. I have no idea what the future holds for me, career wise. It could be staying in corporate sales, singing/songwriting, music business, or it could be becoming a CFP and starting my own company; I just don't know yet. All of that to say, right now I am simply focused on the next 5 months of getting these loans out of my present day life.

If you would like to give it a read, you can find the article here.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I Went Bananas!

My student loans weighed most heavily on me when I started this blog in 2010. I found the snowball approach in March of 2013. In 3 short years, I am 6 months away from being completely debt free.

In those 3 short years, I have paid a little over $77K.
In 6 months that will climb to a total of $91k.

That makes a total of $113k in payments since graduation in 2009.
Almost exactly 7 years to the day of payments.

Boy am I glad that my student loan journey will be done in 7 years versus 25 to 30! What a burden that would be to carry around for more than triple the amount of time that I did. I understand, not everyone went as bananas as I did. Not everyone threw every penny they had at their loans.
I will be 100% honest, while I was busy concentrating on paying off my loans, I was indeed worried about what my peers were getting to do with their extra money since they were just paying their monthly minimum. Here are a list of things I thought my peers would get to have that I do not because of my decision to pay off my debt:

-       Roth IRA
-       Fully stocked emergency fund
-       Up-to-date wardrobe
-       New car with all the modern features
-       A house that they own

That’s a pretty adult looking list seeing as I, as well as my friends, are all 25-30 years old. But you know what reality is for them? It is not quite the set life I thought they were getting to live while I was slaving away. The majority of them do not have a Roth IRA, a fully stocked emergency fund, or house that they own. They do however have a semi up-to-date wardrobe, and for the most part, the majority of them have new cars. But you know what is a reality about that statement? They already want new clothes as well as a new car! They simply got to have little pleasures here and there that I didn’t, and I am 100% okay with that because it paid off for me in a massive way.

I say this not to knock my friends AT ALL. I say this because I was so concerned with what I thought I was missing out on that I let the envy drive me a little crazy at times, and I don’t want that same thinking to happen to you! Do I wish I would have started a Roth IRA at 16 years old? Hell yes. But I will be so grateful looking back when I am 50 that I started my Roth at 29 years old. Better a little late than never.

Yes, there are sacrifices in this debt-payoff game, but I cannot tell you how proud I am of myself for sticking to it and getting it all paid-off. It is a route no one around me was taking. Now I am 6 months out and am truly happy with the decision I made back in 2013. I am so glad I did this. Those 4 years of concentrated payments will change the next 20 to 25 years of my life.


If you’re reading this, and you too are on a debt-free journey, I hope you will learn from me not to be too hard on yourself; because before you know it, your journey will come to a close, and it will all have been worth it. Keep your head up, your thoughts fixed on your own finances, and the big picture in mind. Go bananas. Get it gone!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Be Vocal About Your Debt-Freedom Journey!

My debt pay-off plans come out of my mouth before I even realize it does in many conversations with my peers. Sometimes I get blank stares because people either don’t realize the gravity of $113K in student loans or they simply don’t care. But it occurred to me that I seldom tell those who are older than me what I am doing. I don’t know if that is because they are somewhat out of the equation when it comes to people I speak with on a daily basis, or if I am concerned about how they will judge me for living my youth. After all, the norm these days is ‘YOLO,’ ‘Can’t take it with you,’ and ‘Live it up while you’re young!’

Whatever the reason, last night at my night job, I told two older managers of mine (that I have known for many years) that I hoped to be able to quit serving tables at that job in a couple of months. They asked where I was going and I told them nowhere, it is just that I will be debt-free at that point. I told them I have kept this night job while working a day job for so many years because I made it a goal to have all of my student loans paid off as fast as I possibly could. They were floored when I told them I have paid off over a hundred thousand dollars thus far. They genuinely celebrated with me and said so many kind words. That typically doesn’t happen. Typically I will get, “Wow cool, pay off mine next.” with a chuckle and a fast exit. I was floored they didn’t know that about me, but they indeed had no clue; they had no idea I had a reason for being a server other than to make some fun, side money.

So what did I learn from this? Tell everyone what you are going through, not just your peers! People you least expect could encourage you and celebrate your accomplishments. I didn’t feel that I needed any praise, but let me tell you, now that morning has come, I feel a smidge prouder of myself than I did yesterday. Praise helps. Praise should be welcomed. I am doing something many do not. I do stand out. It felt good to be noticed for that even if I was standing there covered in barbecue sauce while wearing a worn out apron. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The First Real Mistake I Ever Made

The sky was the limit and the world was my oyster. I was going to be a star. A country star. And country stars belong in Nashville, Tennessee.

However, I was not going to be one that signed a horrible record contract that I would spend my adult years trying to get out of. I was going to be smart by getting my education at Belmont University. No one will be able to take advantage of me because I will 100% know better. Music business here I come.

I didn’t let things like a 8-9% interest rate on a loan stop me because “you can always refinance when you graduate.” I learned the hard way that was indeed not true. I had made my first mistake before ever even stepping foot into the alluring spotlight of the music business. I made my first faulty steps by entering into a life altering contract with Sallie Mae. The worst part about it was that I didn’t realize I had made this grave mistake until about a year or two after I graduated.  Who knew my ‘be an educated artist’ plan would get derailed from a school loan long before a record contact was even visible? They did. Sallie Mae sees people like me coming every day. They capitalize on those people. And I don’t blame them. It was a bad decision on my part. Period.

Fast forward approximately 10 years and I am almost done paying that demon off. But you know what I lost in the meantime? That hypothetical record contract I so longed for as a young adult. I am still young, technically; I am 29. I was so screwed over by my first mistake with college loans that I could not concentrate on how not to make another mistake in the music industry. All I could think about after graduation and the years to follow was how in the world I was going to right this financial wrong of mine. So in essence, that first business mistake robbed me of my chance at not making the mistake I was trying to avoid by learning the business side of the industry. Pretty ironic if you ask me. Maybe saying Belmont is the reason I didn’t get a record contract is an excuse. There are so many country artists and songwriters who have ‘made it’ by doing whatever it takes. And whatever it takes most times means getting your car repossessed, defaulting on loans, and borrowing money from your family. I just couldn’t do that. I could not make that sacrifice. When advised that I should choose between my dream and my credit score, I picked the latter. I picked not defaulting on my loans, keeping my car, and leaving my parents and relatives out of my financial mess. I chose the safe road.

So here I am, 6 months away from closing my student loan chapter and about 7 years late on opening my music business chapter. There are outliers, but for the most part, music professionals will tell you that your window of record contract opportunity becomes exponentially smaller once you surpass the age of 25. And about 10 times harder if you are a female.

So that’s great news given I am a 29 year old female.

I am very aware these loans were my decision. A decision that haunts and taunts me daily. I got a brief taste of the industry I so love right after college and then before I knew it, I was ripped out to work in boring corporate America with my business degree so that I could afford my new ‘welcome to adulthood’ loan payments. I have hustled by working 2 jobs and budgeted unlike anyone I know. Did I have to pay off my loans 15 years early? No. But I was so incredibly infuriated by them that I needed them gone.

I have many friends who are still in the music industry, and for the most part, they love what they do every day. I don’t know many success stories of singers who have ‘made it’ quite just yet, but the majority of my college friends stuck with music. However, they are also all still stuck with their loans and very much so living paycheck to paycheck. Perhaps there was a better path for us to have taken back then that didn’t include college. Perhaps there is a better path now that we could be taking. Who knows, but what I have learned from all of this is that there is indeed such a thing as not being able to afford it. And although college is something that has been programmed into us as a necessity, there are other routes to explore that may not have college in it.

I do not regret my decision. I learned and experienced things at Belmont that will stick with me forever. However, to all who are reading this, I urge you to look for any and all possible paths before signing your freedom away to attend the college you think you “just have to go to.” I promise, there will be people around you who are successful that don’t have a minute of their time or a dime invested in a university; and there will be successful people around you who seem to be in a perpetual state of higher education. If you think you have the drive, determination, and the entrepreneurship to at least attempt your dream without the textbooks and professors, by all means, you owe it to yourself to try and blaze that trail. If the security of a degree is something you know you will need in order to stay sane, do it. But take it from me, (Ivy leagues aside) there is no real difference in having your degree come from an expensive private Christian university versus an affordable public university.

If you are just finishing high school and determining where you want to continue your education, please consider your choices very carefully, and don’t listen to the lenders and school advisers who will tell you and your parents how easy the repayment will be upon graduation; they cannot guarantee a thing. I made a mistake, and it took me a while to come to terms with that. How did I get to a place of acceptance and forgiveness? I learned from it. I learned to do the best I could in my situation, and try my very hardest to not have regret. The past could not be changed so I figured out how to make lemonade from my lemons. My hope is that if you are in a similar situation, you will try to find the positive, too. Fix the mistake with intention and grow from it.

Friday, April 29, 2016

So What if I Am STILL a Server!?

I moved to Nashville to go to Belmont University in order to be in the music industry. I took a job right before enrolling at a downtown bar/restaurant/music venue to help support myself through school. Fast forward almost 9 years, and I am still working at this same place part-time on nights and weekends in order to help support my Belmont student loan pay-off. I am no longer in the music industry as I took a job in corporate America working 8-5 for a bigger salary in order to pay off the loans I accumulated while at Belmont.

This bar/restaurant/music venue is a tourist place for sure; we do not have ‘regulars,' and for the most part, I seldom see any friends there that reside in Nashville. However, being the music venue that we are, we sometimes have up-and-coming country bands play for a spot to be a regular house band of ours. That being said, I was working last night and there were 4 different up-and-coming bands playing. It seemed like it was going to be a normal night in tourist town except that I kept seeing people I knew. They were all there to see their friends play in the various bands. A couple of them came up to me to say hello and to tell me they were there with so and so who is currently on stage. My conversations with them were quick given it was a busy night for me, but out of the 5 people I saw and conversed with, 2 of them made it a point to insinuate the word still in conversation with my employment there. They said it in the oh so southernly sweet, ‘bless your heart’ kind of way, but the insult was heard loud and clear.


I felt embarrassed and ashamed. There they were in their cute, bright colored spring clothes with their high heeled shoes hanging out with the band; there I was in my dark barbecue covered t-shirt looking like a sweaty mess sporting an old baggy apron still working as a server. Then my pride kicked in and I thought of how great it is to be 6 months away from a debt-freedom that a few of them may never experience. I know at least one of those ladies still have college loans and there is no telling what else the rest have financed along the way.

So yes, I am still a server.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Drinking From the Same Lemonade Stand

I keep my expenses low and pay off debt.

Some don’t.

Does that make me better than them? No. Lately I have been trying to not judge others too harshly on their personal decisions because they are just that, their personal decisions. I can try and explain to my friends and peers the benefits of my financial lifestyle, but at the end of the day, I need to be okay with them choosing their own way. And I also need to be okay with them judging me for my ways as well.

I get aggravated when I watch friends who I know are in student loan and credit card debt go on shopping sprees, finance cars that are way beyond what they can afford, drink all that Starbucks has to offer, eat out every night, and vacation like it’s their job. All of these friends are in their 20s. The decisions they are making now will follow them into the remainder of their adult lives. It is not my place to say my method is better than theirs, but I get aggravated when they casually ask for financial advice, I provide them with such, and they eventually veer off until they are in the complete opposite direction of what we discussed. 

Many think a hyper-focused method of paying off debt is nothing more than an unhealthy Dave Ramsey obsession; brainwashing if you will. However, I disagree. There are many other financial gurus besides Dave Ramsey that practice the same techniques: Warren Buffett, Suze Orman, and Mr. Money Mustache to name a few. They might have differences in their approaches, and I personally relate to Dave Ramsey’s the best, but all 3 teach on the same goal: being debt free. Is it different? Weird? Extreme? You bet. Does that make it brainwashing? No. And unfortunately being debt-free seems all three of those aforementioned things because so many Americans have turned their back on their own finances. I haven’t heard mention of anyone abandoning any beliefs or going through torture of any kind on my debt-freedom journey thus far. Paying off debt is merely a personal discipline in order to better your future. Hard work? You bet. Maybe that might feel like torture for some :) 

In all seriousness, debt pay-off takes WORK, FOCUS, DEDICATION and SACRIFICE, and since those are not normal actions for most people, they wrap the idea of it up as a package labeled CrAzY in their minds. But ask any millionaire how they got where they are, and I bet the answer will have nothing to do with them staying in debt.

For those of us in debt: we were all handed the same frickin’ lemons. As life tells us to do, we make lemonade out of them. Some of us are paying 25 cents to drink it from paper cups and some of us are paying $1 to drink it out of crystal glasses. The ones momentarily sacrificing the finer things in life by drinking from the 25 cent paper cups will be able to afford their pitcher faster and move on to a non-lemon beverage. Those drinking from the $1 crystal will be stuck in their lemon situation for longer than they need to be before they can move on to something better. Either way, it is the same lemonade that we are all drinking, but ultimately, it’s the decision of how we handle it while it is in our hands that counts. Ditch the crystal, drink from paper for a while. You’ll thank yourself later. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

9 Months Away From Debt Freedom!

I borrowed 68k in August of 2007, started repayment in December of 2009, and will make my final payment in December of 2016. How much will I have paid in those approximate 7 years you ask? $113k. Yep. That’s 45k more than I borrowed. The scary part is, so many graduates are in the same boat I am, but they do not do the math to figure out the numbers of how upside down they are. They simply pay their minimums each month for years on end without actually seeing just how much they are paying the lender. I know 45k is bad, but trust me, there are friends in my circle alone who are already at that total with 15+ years to go. 

I am at peace with my numbers. I will never do something like that EVER again, but I am finally at peace with it. If you have followed me from the start of this blog in 2010, you know that peace was not something I had; I had hate, envy, bitterness, and deep regret.

I am okay with the fact that I attended Belmont University. I do not have any hate towards them or myself any longer for the debt that I got into. I have forgiven myself for the mistake I made. I am done overthinking the past because there is nothing I can do about it. There is no time machine, just the breath that God has chosen to give you each morning, and for that you must be thankful and move forward with your life.  

I am truly grateful that I found out about Dave Ramsey when I did in 2013. I honestly can’t remember how I stumbled upon his teachings, but I for sure know I will be forever thankful that I did. 

This is not me signing off, but merely keeping you all updated. I hope you are all doing well on your paths, and as always, feel free to email me if you need any advice or want to know more about my debt payoff process. I am 100% happy to help.

ohthesestudentloans@gmail.com

Friday, March 4, 2016

Target (The Store)

I usually refrain from shopping at this store due to the overwhelming temptation to buy everything. From the enticing smell and trendiness of Starbucks greeting you upon arrival, to every single (this is so me!) item screaming your name, it is, at the end of the day, a place I cannot afford to love. I am often price comparing groceries, and Target has never really won any store comparisons, but lately I have heard they are a little lower on a couple of items. There is a store on the way home from my normal shopping places, so I stopped in to get 4 grocery items they offered a low price on.

When checking out, my total on the screen was $8.22. The cashier said aloud, $82.20 then quickly corrected himself and apologized by saying, “Sorry, I am used to seeing large totals all day.” I chuckled and told him I completely understood. Then as I was walking out, I felt sad for a moment, and the Starbucks that so enticingly greeted me upon arrival was now mocking me upon my departure. I felt poor. Poor for only buying $8.22 worth of items in this super-store; then poor again because who wouldn’t love a delicious $5 latte, but I simply didn’t have room for that impulse buy in my budget.

Then, as it always does, pride came around and got in my passenger seat as I was pulling out of the store. I could have purchased hundreds of dollars’ worth of merchandise. I could have purchased that $5 latte. I chose not to. I chose not to because what I truly want is to be debt-free, and to keep the momentum of throwing a couple grand a month at my student loans; not to have that perfect tote bag, or to have that wonderful smelling candle on my dresser. I can have those things later down the road, but for right now, I have a way bigger goal in mind, and I would be foolish to place a bag and a candle as a roadblock in my own path. By the time I got home, I felt overjoyed about my $8.22 purchase, and more motivated than ever to keep going.

I am not saying I always walk away from tote bags and Starbucks, but for the majority I do, and in this instance, I did. And I can tell you, it feels better in the long run to walk away. For those of my peers still in debt and prowling the isles of Target, may the odds be ever in your favor. My hope for you is that you find an accountability friend. A friend you should alert when entering Target so that he/she can give you a fake emergency call about 30 minutes into your trip that ultimately saves you from the super-store’s predatory ways; just as you would want on a horrible first date. That right there sounds like my kind of friendship. Stay the path, friends!