F-16 Flyover Jets

I Paid Off My Student Loans – Seriously – All of Them

You read that headline right. I paid off all of my student loans. And I went to graduate school. And it took me 2 years and 6 days to pay it all off.

Cost of Private School

Tuition for the University of Denver is currently $1,026 per credit hour plus fees, book, and other incidental expenses. The estimated total cost of attending is $91,994. When I was a student, I paid for everything out of pocket except for about $40,000 in student loans and an employer contribution of about $3,000.

I worked full time while I was going to school full time, and I made every effort to cut back on my expenses so I could pay for everything possible out of pocket. I even made payments on my student loans while in school to get a head start.

Payment Strategy

Student Loan Payoff

I used the debt snowball plan to pay my minimum on each loan and put everything extra into the one with the lowest balance. That gave me a victory feeling as the balances started to drop quickly. I had four loans total, a subsidized and unsubsidized Stanford loan for each year.

I found that I could afford to put $700 per month into my loan and did everything possible to hammer away at it and put extra income into the loan. My online income went to my loan on top of my $700 monthly payments.

Over the last two years, every dollar I earned from my annual bonus and every dollar from my tax refunds went straight to either my car loan or student loan payments.

Success in Sight

I set a goal on my life list to pay off my student loan in 2012. When I did that, I calculated exactly how much I would need to pay monthly to kill of my loans by the end of the year. The $554.83 plus interest seemed like a lot, but that is what led to my $700 per month plan.

mint.com goals student loan

I then used the goals feature in free web app Mint.com to track my progress. Watching the progress meter go gave me inspiration to keep the pressure on. I started to really look at wants vs. needs to find extra cash to put to the loan.

It was not until I calculated my annual bonus for 2011, which was paid out in March, that I realized how close I was to the end. On bonus payday, I clicked the button and my loan was gone.

Future Cash Plans

It feels like I am about to have an extra $700 per month. I have to remember, though, that I lived without it before and I can keep living without it. I have big plans for my money going forward.

Build Up the Emergency Fund

I feel like I am a bit financially insecure unless I have $5,000 in the bank for emergencies. I have $3,000 in the savings account now, and I plan to bump it up to $5,000. That gives me about 6 months of living expenses assuming I cut my spending to a minimum.

Pay off The Mortgage

Mortgage loan balance – $102,264.96. I am coming for you. Prepare to die.

Invest Like a Madman

I have never maxed out the Roth IRA. The maximum contribution is $5,000 per year. I am going to start a direct deposit from my paycheck for $192.31 to ensure I max out every year. Extra cash will go here to make up for the January-March deficit.

Anything extra is going to my regular stock account. I currently have shares of WMT, GE, and PM in the account with $100 in cash. Every time I hit $500, I am going to buy a new stock to build up a nice, diversified portfolio.

Excitement

I was excited to hit the button to make my last payment. I felt liberated. I felt free. However, I felt the same. There were no fireworks. A band didn’t start playing an inspirational song. The debt was just paid. Now I don’t have to pay it anymore. Maybe when I pay off my mortgage, I can arrange an F-16 flyover?

45 thoughts on “I Paid Off My Student Loans – Seriously – All of Them”

  1. Congratulations, Eric! I can’t wait for the day when my school loans are finally paid off. It will be quite awhile, but posts like this remind me that it could happen someday.

    I’m a little sad that there were no fireworks or anything, but I hope you at least did something fun to celebrate! 

    1. You’ll get there. You are smart and hard working. They will be paid off before you know it.

      In my mind, this 4th of July the fireworks are for me, they are just running a few months late. [Delusions of grandeur are amazing!]

  2. Jackie Walters

    Congratulations Eric!  Job well done.  Now if all college students would have an attitude and work ethic like yours there would be no Student Forgiveness Act 2012 on the table.

    1. Good point. Sadly, though, even most of my friends don’t have the right attitude towards their debt. Another way we could avoid our huge student debt problems as a country would be to stop having kids get $80,000 English or History degrees at a private school with no real career prospects.

  3. Analytical Planner

    Congrats!  I can’t wait until I have paid off all my student loan! I have plans to go after it when I return to work after my LOA.  Nice job!

  4. Absolutely.  Positively.  Without a doubt.  AWESOME!!!  Way to go Eric.  Must feel A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

    And no fireworks?  Surely you can fix that w/ the extra cash flow…. 🙂

  5. That is great. It is good to see the debt snowball in action succeeding. I look forward to the post after you pay off that mortgage.

  6. That is AWESOMELY AWESOME! I’d do a little happy dance in your honor…but when I dance it looks more like a seizure than dancing (one of the reasons I became a DJ instead).

  7. Roger_the_Amateur_Financier

    Very nice job; you’re an inspiration to all of those who are still in the ‘adding to our student loans‘ portion of our lives.  Here’s to plenty of good luck in all your future goals!

  8. ahh thank you so much for your story!! Can you share how much your annual income was after graduating?

    I am about to sign on to a $40,000 graduate program in Speech Pathology. Added to my undergraduate loans, this will add to $60,000. (all federal)

    It looks like my starting salary will be around $60,000- and despite the nightmare responses from people about how I’ll be paying on the loans for the rest of my life etc., I plan to pay back my loans quickly and intensely like you were able to! I think the problem is that people who graduate with loans refuse to continue to live like poor college students when they get out of school…  I hope to get my loans paid off in less than 5 years- and after reading your story, I think that might certainly be possible for once! 🙂

    1. Based on that income level, you should have no problem paying it off in that time period. I don’t share my professional income publicly, but I can vouch that you should be able to easily pay them off in 5 years if I was able to do it in 2.

  9. Andrew Levin

    Congratulations Eric! That is a big accomplishment!

    I did want to comment on your rainy day fund. Depending on your health insurance, you might need more saved up. If you are insured through a high-deductible health care policy, you may need to have significantly more than $5k saved up. In case of severe injury you may need to pay up to nearly $6k out of pocket before you reach your annual deductible. Having a Health Savings Account could make a world of difference as the wages you put in wouldn’t get taxed and the accounts often pay better interest. I use Alliant Credit Union which gives 1.5%

    1. My insurance plan has a fairly low deductible. Thankfully, I work at an employer that values its employee’s health and pay only $60 per month for great health benefits.

      Worst case, I have a huge credit card limit that could get me through in a pinch and I can sell stocks in my personal account to pay it off before paying a penny of interest.

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