Paying off student loans, or any kind of loans, is a big responsibility and burden. Here’s part 2 of 2 of tips and things I learned in my journey to becoming debt-free:
6. Set up Auto-pay
Towards the final few months any extra cash went straight into paying the loans. However, in the beginning I was still figuring my way out. Especially with multiple bills, it was hard to dig up spare change. What I did though was to make sure to always make the minimum payments. I set up automatic deductions from my account. I didn’t have to worry about late fees which made me more conscious on how to spend. I didn’t buy more than I could afford and if I still had money to spare, it went to the student loan.
7. Found a side job
It’s a bit obvious that to pay money you have to make money. I was working a part time job after college and to pay back my loans ASAP, I had to find another avenue. I asked my current employer for more pay and got it after agreeing to more responsibility. Since even that wasn’t enough, I got another part time job. I was overqualified and did not like my new boss or the toxic workplace politics she created, but I had to suck it up. The reward of the frustration and exhaustion came every time I got that paycheck. And needless to say, I quit that job the moment I reached my goal.
8. Deleted random subscriptions
There are so many things you get sucked into without realizing. Those free magazines they promised for 1 month will immediately start deducting from your accounts after 30 days, whether you remember (you won’t) or not. And how many of those educational websites you signed up for last year do you still actually use? I saw my bill, circled all the monthly charges and deleted, unsubscribed and canceled. Life was hard without Netflix and BayyinahTV but I survived. So can you. Avoid signing up for free trials of monthly subscription items and the risk of automatic withdrawals.
(…)the more I said no, the more I saved
9. Stopped going shopping
The excitement of buying something new goes away moments after the actual purchase. I remember being excited to buy 6 storage items from IKEA. I reasoned with myself that it was a smart purchase; they were on sale and I could do with some organization. However, I was underwhelmed the moment I unpacked the little boxes in my room. I put them in my drawers and cupboards and didn’t think of them twice. When you go out to a store you will see something mildly interesting that you will convince yourself to buy. “It’s a good deal, it smells amazing, and I’m never going to find this again”. But think about it: you lived without it last week, I’m pretty sure you’ll survive without it tomorrow.
10. Learned to say “No!”
This overlaps with points 2 and 5. To stop spending I needed to say no my friends, myself and my mother. My mother likes to shop. And more specifically she likes to shop for me. And sometimes she likes to shop for me with my money. Usually I don’t mind it. She has better taste than I do. I’ll get significantly more compliments on outfits and accessories that she’s picked out. But when my wallet was on lock-down mode, she would still bring up dresses and scarves in hopes of convincing me to buying them. This is where I had to learn to say no. My mom’s a pushy lady and there were times where I caved. “It’s a staple item! You will always need a black maxi dress!” (She was right. I still wear it today) But a lot of the times I had to refuse. Be it a cute bracelet at half price, or an invite to a luncheon, the more I said no, the more I saved.
It has been my greatest achievement by far
And also: Didn’t let it overwhelm me
Of all the above points this is the hardest to follow. It’s never easy having a debt hanging above your head. I continuously felt guilty about taking that loan in the first place and waiting so long to tackle it. But I had to come to terms with the fact that there were mistakes made in the past and now I had to overcome them at a manageable pace. I would pray, set miniature goals and meet them. My friends and family became my support system. Cheering me on for every milestone. With my weekly updates I felt assured I was doing something even if I made a few unnecessary purchases.
It was around a week before Ramadan, when I realized I could actually pay the final installment and start the blessed month debt-free. I was excited and nervous and rushed to the bank with my paycheck a day before the possible sighting of the moon. Were this a movie, the check would have gone through and be ready for a withdrawal instantly and I would have paid the last $234.29 and received a congratulatory email just as the moon was sighted a few hours before midnight. But, as per reality the bank did not allow withdrawals until the next business day which was two days away. After I submitted the payment, there was still a 4.25 balance which I didn’t catch and pay until after Ramadan. But the fact that I was able to pay it off was a great deal and overwhelmed me with gratitude. It has been my greatest achievement by far. And I hope that the lessons I learned on the way can benefit me and perhaps others in the future.
Missed the first part? Check it out here! And let me know your student loan journey or what tools you’ve used to help in money management!