I’ve been avoiding writing this blog post. Mostly because I didn’t know how. We’ve been struggling with school loan debt for years and despite living very simply and forgoing most luxuries (a few small exceptions) we were making hardly any progress. So finally we sat down with our mentor couple who did our premarital counseling and talked about options. Things could not stay as they were. Income Based Repayment on our loans was allowing us to afford the payments, but not actually pay off the loans. Only a few dollars of principle was being paid each month, everything else was just interest. We were driving two old cars and we really didn’t want a car payment, but eventually something was going to have to change. We reviewed all our options including me going back to work, my husband getting a second job and looking for other ways to increase our income.
Without going into personal details I’ll just say that we were able to increase our income in some unexpected ways and we will now be making full loan repayments. At this rate it will still take us 10 years to get rid of the loans. But we are also committed to continue to live simply and resist lifestyle inflation wherever possible. However, we also know that we have future expenses coming that will need to be addressed, such as a new vehicle, so we can’t just put everything on our student loans, but we still think that if we continue to live simply and look for extra opportunities to put additional money towards our debt repayment, we can shorten that time frame.
Our current goal: repay the student loans in the next 5 years. That still feels huge and very difficult. But it has enough attainability to give us a challenge that we can work towards. I also feel that it is important to note that this came after years of prayer on this topic. There were so many times that I felt discouraged, as if nothing was ever going to change. But God has blessed us, and I can take no credit for it whatsoever. It wasn’t because we were the most faithful, there were times I doubted. It wasn’t because we followed a magic formula, we just honestly expressed our needs, desires and frustrations to God.
So I would encourage you to stay strong toward you goals of living debt free. Even if you are in a time where it seems like you aren’t making any progress, look for ways to increase your income, not just lower your expenses. Sometimes you’re already as low as you can realistically go. Pray continually about your situation and ask God to open your eyes to options you may not have previously seen. If nothing else, try to actively avoid taking on any additional debt. When you already have a lot of debt, sometimes it seems like the easiest way to survive is to keep taking on debt. Try not to. Try to discipline yourself to live within your means, preferably below them if that allow you to pay off you debts sooner. Make a plan. Some kind of plan. Even if the goals you set are tiny, because at least it is some kind of progress.