23 In Life

How We Paid Off Our Student Loans In Less Than 5 Years

Hello hello! It’s been a little quiet around here – I’ve been sick the past couple days with some random fever virus. Welcome to the world of toddlers! I swear sending a toddler to daycare is the equivalent of bathing in a petri dish, but I suppose it’s immunity building, right? I think I’m on the upswing though, and I’m looking forward to really enjoying some good rest this weekend. We’re done traveling for a while, so I’m thinking lots of cuddles and Netflix are a must!

Ok sooooo, something really exciting happened about two weeks ago!

WE PAID OFF OUR STUDENT LOANS!!!!!! Like, gone. Completely gone!

I thought I would share our tips for how we paid them off in less than 5 years! A little over 4 years, to be exact. (Jan 2013 – Feb 2017) But before I do, I’ll preface it by saying we were very blessed in that only one of us came into our marriage with student loans. So the amount of debt we started with was a pretty average amount (about $36K). We know many couples who started off with loans in the six digits, so we feel very fortunate that that was not our case. But had it been, these tips would still apply.

Everyone’s financial situation is different. We both have had very average salaries, nothing too crazy. Neither of us are professionals like doctors, lawyers, PT’s, etc. And aside from student loans, a mortgage, and one pretty small car payment, we haven’t had any other debt. We’ve made paying off our student loans a priority, and always said we wanted them to be gone before we either A. had kids or B. turned 30. Clearly our A goal didn’t work out, but our B goal did! Lastly, we’ve treated them as “our” loans, and not just one or the other’s. When we got married, we knew we were becoming a team, and joining bank accounts. His money became my money, and vice versa. (Of course, I won’t say whose loans they were, but we never put the other person’s name legally on them. Duh!)

tips for paying off student loans

Here is how we paid off our student loans in less than 5 years:

  • We Stayed Positive, Never Got Discouraged, and Kept Realistic Goals – No matter how you go about paying off debt, or what resources you have available to you, you have to stay positive, and be realistic. We knew that life would throw curve balls, and there were some months where we could only make the bare minimum payment. And that just had to be okay. So, you can’t fall off the wagon! You have to stay motivated and keep pushing towards your goal! And that goal needs to be realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting your life to be perfect and peachy keen. Things will come up, but keep on trucking!
  • Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University – A few months after we got married, in 2012, we signed up to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at a local church. Both of our parents had listened to Dave Ramsey in the past, so we knew it was something we wanted to look into. The class was about 6 weeks, and we’d meet every Monday night. It included videos, discussions, and workbooks we would follow along with. Overall, it was VERY worth our time! We learned so much, and more than anything, we learned how we both felt about money. Getting on the same page with your spouse when it comes to handling money is crucial to making smart decisions, and being motivated to pay off loans! It never mattered whose loans they were, but what mattered was that we both agreed on how we were going to pay them off.
  • Snowball Debt Strategy – This is a Dave Ramsey strategy, but essentially it means we paid off the smallest loans first, and worked our way up to the biggest loans. Adding the payment we were making on the smallest loan, to the next biggest loan, and so on and so forth. All of our student loans had the same interest rate (6.8% which is insane, and don’t get us started on how ridiculous it is that student loans even have interest in the first place), so we didn’t necessarily need to pay them off by highest interest rate first. I hardly explained the strategy, but you can read more about it HERE.
  • Used The Envelope System – This is also a Dave Ramsey strategy, and something Adam’s parents STILL do to this day. As soon as we finished taking FPU, we implemented the “Envelope System” into our own financial planning, and it made a world of difference! We literally used envelopes. For several years, we paid cash for EVERYTHING except bills, which we either paid online or had auto-drafted from our bank account. Having the mindset of using cash makes you truly understand the value of every single dollar. When your “Dates” envelope is empty, too bad, no more dates for the week. When your “Grocery” envelope only has $80 left in it, you better plan your meals and not make impulsive decisions at the grocery store. It really makes you more responsible with your money!
  • Lived Below Our Means – This is one that should be common sense but for some it’s not. We’re both big believers in not living outside your means. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. If the money isn’t there, it’s not there. When we bought our house, we made sure our mortgage was below what we could actually afford in the event that if Adam lost his job, we could still survive. We don’t go shopping that often, Adam is the biggest bargain hunter I’ve ever met, and we try really hard to not splurge on things we don’t need. (And if we do splurge, we use our side hustle income to make up for it)
  • Drove Used Cars – Neither of us have ever drove (driven?) a brand new car. The cars we brought into our marriage were used, then when it was time to trade my car, we traded it in for another used car. Then the car after that (it was totaled) was a used car. And when Adam finally upgraded his truck, he bought a used truck, and sold his old truck by owner instead of selling it to a dealership. Both of our families believe in purchasing used cars, instead of brand new, so it’s simply something instilled in us. We also only had one car payment up until about 2 months ago.
  • Side Hustle Income Went Into Loans – We’ve both always had some sort of “side hustle” going on to bring in additional income. I’ve always used my photography business as a second income, and before Adam’s woodworking business, he built guns and sold ammo on the side. Any money I’ve made from the blog has also gone into the “side hustle” pot. A large portion of this “side hustle” income went into paying off loans. Back when I was shooting weddings, the majority of my income from that would go into the loan pot, so that was a huge help making progress early on!
  • Every Tax Return, Promotion, Bonus, and Raise Went Into Loans – This goes along with side hustle income, but every time we got our tax return, got any sort of promotion, or raise, we put it straight into loans. We were pretty strict with this, and except for the year I was pregnant, I’d stay we stuck to it almost 100%.
  • Didn’t Change Our Lifestyle When We Had An Increase In Income – Probably the most important, and biggest thing of all, was that we never changed our lifestyle or spending habits when we brought home more money. We always acted like that raise didn’t happen, and we put that difference of income straight into loans. I’d say this is the most crucial, because it can be a slippery slope when you start making more money to falsely believe you’ll pay off your debt faster.

Now that we’ve crossed student loans off our list, we’re focusing on putting that would-be-payment into the car loans pot, and getting both our vehicles paid off sooner, rather than later. I absolutely hate having two car payments, but unfortunately it just couldn’t be helped!

It definitely feels good to have one black cloud gone, and I’m so proud of us for working together to accomplish this goal!

How do you pay off debt? Do you still have student loans? How do you and your spouse work together financially?

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Annie
    March 9, 2017 at 5:50 am

    Wow, congrats to you for being so determined! My husband and I both suffer from huge student loan debt and do some of what you say but not all. I’m going to look into the Dave rampsey course!
    Annie recently posted…Quick Weeknight Meal IdeasMy Profile

    • Reply
      Sweet Miles
      March 10, 2017 at 2:03 pm

      Thanks girl! You should definitely look into the Dave Ramsey course! He really has some great methods!

  • Reply
    Heather @Lunging Through Life
    March 9, 2017 at 6:59 am

    Yay! We paid off all of ours last year and it was such a great feeling!!
    Heather @Lunging Through Life recently posted…Let’s Play Catch UpMy Profile

    • Reply
      Sweet Miles
      March 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      NICE!! We’re freeeeee! 😉 Except babies…so not really, haha!

  • Reply
    Jana @ Happy Wife Healthy Life
    March 9, 2017 at 7:41 am

    That is so awesome lady – congrats to you both! We are actually about to pay off both of our car payments and our student loans, and we couldn’t be more excited about it! When we first got married, we actually bought two brand new cars and I honestly don’t know if we’ll ever buy ‘new’ again. Gently used, yes, but new? I am not so sure! The value depletes by just so much simply by driving it off the lot, and there are so many used cars out there that are basically new. We definitely learned a valuable lesson from those purchases, and I think it’s really held us accountable and shown us the direction we want to stay on for future financial choices! 🙂
    Jana @ Happy Wife Healthy Life recently posted…This Year’s Spring GetawayMy Profile

    • Reply
      Sweet Miles
      March 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      Thank you! That’s EXCITING!!! Oh man, new cars, they are always so appealing though! And they get you on those low monthly payments! Ha!

  • Reply
    Heather @ Polyglot Jot
    March 9, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Yay congratulations! My husband and I are currently working through our loans as we both have a large amount. We should have them paid off in the next 3-4 years which sounds like a long time but it’s the best we can do!
    Heather @ Polyglot Jot recently posted…Working Out While PregnantMy Profile

    • Reply
      Sweet Miles
      March 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      Thank you! 3-4 years sounds totally doable!! You got this!

  • Reply
    Emily
    March 9, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Congratulations! My husband and I are amongst the people with a giant amount of student loan debt, equivalent to a second mortgage, thanks to private schooling. It’s going to take us quite a while longer to get there, especially since I stopped working full time after having Amelia. But we don’t have car payments or any other debt, so we’ve just accepted that it’s something we have to pay off little by little…even though the monthly payments are not little, ha!
    Emily recently posted…But I Loved You FirstMy Profile

    • Reply
      Sweet Miles
      March 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      Thanks girl! But you’ll get there! And it sounds like you’ve got a plan 🙂 Unfortunately like you said, it’s just something you have to accept these days and knock it out little by little 🙁

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    March 9, 2017 at 8:29 am

    Congrats! One of my goals for this year was to start seriously paying off my student loan debt. I got a work from home second job just for that reason since I have about $87K. Thankfully my boyfriend didn’t go to school and has a great job so we only have mine to pay off! My Goal to have everything paid of is 2022!

    • Reply
      Sweet Miles
      March 10, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      Thank you! Awesome! Way to go being proactive and getting a second job to help!! That will be so nice to only have yours to worry about, definitely a blessing!

  • Reply
    Bethany
    March 9, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Congratulations! Great tips! We are huge on saving money as well! We move a lot because of my husband’s career, so we try to live off solely his income. I do work but we try to look at it as just savings money because I am often unemployed because of us moving so much. We try to do little things like us filtered water and reusable bags (saves money and the planet).

    • Reply
      Sweet Miles
      March 10, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      Those are great ideas! And I think that’s super commendable that you’ve learned to live off just his income! I bet that really helps you guys!

  • Reply
    montessoriishmom
    March 10, 2017 at 7:12 am

    Congratulations!! That is exciting news 🙂
    I had to laugh about your toddler petri dish comment. I almost never get sick, BUT when I first started teaching young children, I got sick ALL the time for the first six months or so. It was terrible. I do feel like it built up my immune system though, because now I can’t remember the last time I got sick. I’m sure that will change when our little guy starts school some day though 🙂
    montessoriishmom recently posted…Operation Bring Friday BackMy Profile

    • Reply
      Sweet Miles
      March 10, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      Hahaha it is so true!!

  • Reply
    Laura
    March 10, 2017 at 8:02 am

    Congratulations! What a huge accomplishment! We are starting the snowball process with ours and we’ve already paid off two of them in the last few months! Sometimes it can be a bummer to skip going out to dinner or buying a new dress and putting that money towards the loans, but this post gives me so much encouragement!!

    • Reply
      Sweet Miles
      March 10, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      You can do it!! I know exactly how you feel! But, give yourself a little wiggle room 😉 I’m glad it was encouraging!!

  • Reply
    Sharon
    March 10, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Congratulations! Such an important milestone! Thanks for sharing how you did it!

    • Reply
      Sweet Miles
      March 10, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      Thanks friend!

  • Reply
    Amanda Bumgarner
    March 13, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    We don’t have any debt other than our mortgage and it’s such an amazing feeling. I will be driving my car into the ground and hopefully we don’t have another car payment for a long time! Congratulations on paying off your student loan debt! We had about $25k and paid it off in a few years doing all the things you did too!
    Amanda Bumgarner recently posted…Friday IntroductionsMy Profile

  • Reply
    Lindsay
    March 21, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    I am very fortunate to still be at the point I’m with my debts. I have only about $5k left in both student debt and new car debt. I am hoping to pay both off within the year. I am doing it on my own, at 26, I am just praying that nothing big comes up so I can start saving for a home.

    • Reply
      Sweet Miles
      March 22, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      That’s great! It will be gone before you know it!

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