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Ask the Readers: Any words of advice for paying off our $103,000 in student loans??

Today’s question is from Sara:

My husband and I do everything we’re supposed to . . . we plan meals meticulously, we shop at Aldi, we have been hunting for Christmas deals all year, we have no car payments or credit cards, we refinanced our house for a better interest rate, we dropped down to one car, and now we are even reorganizing our schedule so we can completely eliminate daycare fees (I am a work-at-home mom.)

But we have one debilitating financial problem that plagues us: $103,000 in student loans!

We had no idea what we were doing when we signed up for college, and we’ll be paying for it for the rest of our lives. We want to do Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, but we’ll be in the debt snowball phase FOREVER. I’m wondering how we’ll ever keep up the intensity required to pay off all that debt for almost a
DECADE!

MY QUESTION: Is anyone else out there trying to pay off an extraordinary amount of student debt on an ordinary income? Has anyone had success? Encouraging stories would be greatly appreciated!

Note from Crystal: here is an inspirational story about another reader who paid off $170,000 if student loans!

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104 Comments

  • Barbie says:

    My husband and I also have an enormous amount of student loan debit. Way over $100,000. We don’t like to add it up so we have just a ballpark figure 🙂 Anyway, we have started the debt snowball with the loans. We have no other debt except these loans. Not sure how your loans are but ours are all separated into groups. They are through the Dept of Education. I believe there is a group of loans for each semester that were taken out. So we have begun paying from smallest to largest within the debt. in other words, we are paying the minimum payment along with extra on a separate group. An example, we have a 450 min payment that we make and then we put an extra $700 on loan C. This has made paying them off feel rewarding!! And we need all the motivation we can get with such a large amount. Good luck 🙂

  • T says:

    Hi!! I am in a similar situation and doing all of the same things. One of the things that has helped is to break the loans into manageable chunks (and by that…I mean amounts that don’t make me break out in hives.) I put my largest loans on auto pay for the interest rate reduction. Every two weeks (when we get paid) , I zero out the checking account and send any money left to a student loan payment, no matter how small every bit helps. Also, I make sure any additional payments go towards principal…be careful, if you don’t specify…lenders advance your due date.
    By squeezing and using coupons for everything, we have cleared away 45,000 in debt since January 2011 and we are scheduled to pay off two small loans this year. Our goal is to try to get our expenses to one income and send the other to debt totally but it seems like everything keeps going up. You will be in my prayers 🙂 Let me know if you have any questions .

  • Sarah Ann Wong says:

    Since you have quite a bit of debt, you might want to check out income based repayment.

    Just copy and paste the site below into your browser to find out more:

    http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/plans/income-based

    • Mary says:

      Income based repayment saved our butts until my husband makes more money up his career ladder! Worth checking into.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I was going to suggest that as well! My husbands loans are $82,000. His original payment was $970 and we were able to get it reduced to $370. While we still have the debt, at least the payment is lower so we can breathe!

    • Heather says:

      that’s what we’re doing too. I could have almost written this letter :/

    • We did this as well as we were trying to save every penny the last few months to pay cash in advance forthe birth of our 4th child. Our payment was only $200 to start, but with our 6 person family, we have a $0 payment currently! There are some negatives to it (the interest continuing to accrue and being added to principal if you ever don’t financially qualify for the plan anymore being one negative), but for the “now” it is extremely helpful. Call them up, too, the lady I talked to on the phone was amazingly helpful at helping us figure out the pros and cons for each type of plan! Plus, if you do have the money at any time, you can still pay on the loan with no penalty and without getting kicked out of the income based plan.

  • Kelly says:

    Stay the course, every extra penny goes to those loans. We are in the same boat with about half that amount. Celebrate the small victories, we do everytime we knock off $10K. You’ll get there slowly but surely!

  • K says:

    My husband and I had about $75,000 of debt. $60,000 was student loans, and $15,000 was part of our mortgage that we wanted to pay off early to avoid a ballooning interest rate. We make a very normal amount of money–I am a public school teacher, and my husband is an apprentice for a construction company. We’ve been working on paying them off smallest to largest, like Dave Ramsey recommends.

    We recently sold our house and used our equity (the $15,000 we paid off early) toward the student loans. We’re renting a room from family members for a crazy low price so we can whip through the rest of our debt as quickly as possible. It’s embarrassing to tell people we live with family, but it will feel great when we have our own place and are debt free!

    We have a really comprehensive budget spreadsheet that allows us to see our average monthly spending in each category so we can make goals to reduce spending in areas that seem too high.

    We have small budgets for spending money for each of us, because we found that putting off fun seemingly forever wasn’t motivating. Instead of vacations, we usually do a weekend trip to a nearby city once a year.

    I also track the percentage of debt we have left to pay each month. For us, $75,000 is 100%. We’re now down to about 40%. It’s been almost 5 years–much longer than we hoped it would take, but we’re dreaming of the fun things we’ll be able to do when we’re debt free!

    Not all of these things work for everybody, but this is our story for now.

    • michelle says:

      We’re in a similar situation too. Lots of student loan debt and nothing else. No car payments, no internet, no cable, no date nights, no extras. We also follow dave ramsey’s plan. We just havent been able to make any traction with our income. Thankfully we have a lot of equity in our home so we are about to put it on the market, and with God’s help, we’ll sell, pay off a huge chunk, move into a low priced family-situation, and gain some traction to knock the rest out quickly. Definately not good for the pride to get help from family, but definately worth it to get out of this slavery for us, and our kids, and whatever God wants to use us for.

    • Audrey says:

      Love & respect the fact that you are renting from family to pay off your debt. Take pride in the fact that you are BOTH responsible people. We are farther along in life than you – no student loans for a very long time – we became totally debt free this year. We worked very hard to pay off our mortgage & did so earlier this year! WAHOO! I scrimp, save, coupon, cook from scratch, grow as much as possible, etc. It is well worth the effort. Hang in there. Before you know it, you will be debt free, too. Bless you.

  • brenda app says:

    We will have about 63,000. I am finishing my last semester currently. I have been using Dave Ramsey and have managed to pay off all other bills, without working. In the last year we have paid off about 15,000 without increasing income and a family of 6 living off less then 60,000 a year. My plan is that I will work part time and any extra money as well as any I can save from my husbands income will go to the loans until they are done. Just keep pushing forward and don’t loose hope. Planning helps a ton as well.

  • Kellie says:

    Im in the same situation i have well over $100,000 between me and my husband. We have 1 car, my mother watches our son we both work good jobs dont have a car payment or anything and in the exact same boat. We have been knocking out smaller and/or private loans the ones with the high interest first. We take any extra taxes/ profit sharing checks from work etc to them as well. We have a tiny house with a child and another on the way in desperate to move to a bigger house but because of our student loans it will be about 10 + years before we can move. We even put $400 additional cash to the student loans every month. We are doomed into student loan debt he has a masters and me only a associates. 🙁

  • Sarah says:

    WOW. $100k in student debt is a lot, and I feel your pain. My husband had $30k when he graduated and I had $62k. The only thing we could do was move in with our parents, live rent-free, and throw as much money at our loans as we possibly could. I wrote about it in a blog post if you’d like to see a little bit of our story — not sure if you can use any of this info, but please know that you’re not alone and I’m rooting for you!

    http://wifeytini.blogspot.com/2013/11/my-big-dumb-debt-story-and-what-ive.html

  • Kellie says:

    Oh and another thing we do the income based repayment plan and its nice but anytime we get a increase in pay at work theres no need to get excited, anytime I get a raise I get excited because I think maybe i can add a little extra at the grocery store now but then my loans increase depleting the raise I got, its fine I want to get them paid off but I would like a few extra bucks for food a month to. 🙁

  • Jessica says:

    There’s not really enough information here to give detailed advice.

    Basically, you need to pay more than the minimum amount due. In order to do that, you either need to increase your income or decrease your other expenses. Figure out what you can cut. TV service? Clothing budget? Trips? Memberships? Gadgets? Data plans? Also figure out how you can earn more. Work more hours? Ask for a raise? Take a second job? Sell stuff you don’t need?

    • WilliamB says:

      This is what I was going to say – are there ways to increase your income, if you’ve decreased your expenses as much as you can. Crystal has several posts about how to do this in ways big and small. Hopefully someone could link to them since I’m having trouble finding them.

  • ann says:

    My husband is a financial aid counselor for one of the top student loan companies. The thing that I hear him recommend repeatedly is to CALL YOUR STUDENT LOAN CARRIER! Explain your situation and goals. Ask about lowering your interest rate and/or monthly payment (to apply the extra monthly amount toward principle). Ask them what they can do/what they would recommend to help you. Also, if you don’t make as much progress as you would like the first time, call back again. Some loan counselors are more helpful than others. My husband takes great pride in finding a situation that will work for those who call! It’s worth the phone call! 🙂

    • Kris says:

      This is helpful! thanks

    • Becky says:

      While we are still tackling credit card debt, eliminating our student loan is on the horizon. It is great to know that I can call and talk to a counselor for help. I never thought of that. Thanks.

      • Lisa says:

        I tried that once and the counselor was so totally not helpful, which left me no choice but to fall into default. I laid it all out and she said I had to pay the amount or else. It was an income-based amount, and because of medical bills it was still about twice what I could afford unless I stopped paying utility bills or grocery (nothing else left to cut out). I managed to get a couple months of forbearance, but the situation will be the same when it runs out. If councilors have some flexibility I will try again, but not a day has gone by in the last 20 years that I haven’t been sorry for taking out that student loan. Financially, it ruined my life. Subsequently it means my husband and I can’t give our son the education we wish we could give him. My #1 advice to young people: school loans aren’t worth it. There are other ways to get an education and make a living.

    • BWeb says:

      I have spoken with my student loan carrier numerous times. I have $50,000 in student loan debt and the least they can get me to pay is $365/month. When I opted for income based repayment, they took my husband’s income into consideration and the amount that came back to pay was $550/month. Our income is average, it’s not a lot. Right now I’m on a graduated plan with $365 being the least I can pay. My carrier is Sallie Mae and they are completely unhelpful whenever I call.

  • Jennifer says:

    When I graduated, I had over 60,000 in debt. We decided that we would only live on my husband’s salary and that my salary would go towards the debt. (We also owed on two cars and a mortgage.) We decided to start with the loan that had a 12% interest rate, which happened to be one of the smaller ones. Then, we put the money that we had been paying on that one on the extra one. We kept snowballing the money and finally got it paid off, as well as the cars and house (over several years). I also coupon, shop at Aldi, and shop at garage sales. I shop end of season clearance sales for kids clothes and store them in the closets for next year. This allowed us to eventually sell our small house and move to one with one more bedroom. It has also allowed me to quit my job and now be a stay-at-home mama. I feel very blessed to have a husband that was on board with the debt pay-down plan.

  • Alaina says:

    Honestly, this is why all the ‘gurus’ in the world just are. not. helpful. I hear Dave Ramsey, and I respect him a lot, but sometimes I think things will only be able to change with the next generation or something. People talk about having no debt, but every story I have heard lately was someone who ‘had money set aside for college’. My husband and I had no financial help for college or graduate school. He is a physical therapist. You cannot ‘pay as you go’ for each class. The schedule is set, no compromises, and you get it done on their time table. With school 40 plus hours per week plus homework and clinicals, there was no extra time. Physical therapy school costs a minimum of $100,000 and you end up making maybe $60k in the midwestern states starting. The costs don’t add up.

    Our goal has honestly been to look at one number. We have lots of school debt and looking at it all can become overwhelming. Instead, we keep paying for each loan each month and I round up. If the payment is 296.52 I round up to 300.00. You wouldn’t think it makes a difference, but it really does because all those little amounts are going to principal. Aside from that, we look at the smallest loan and only the smallest loan, and keep chugging away. We are definitely aware of the others, but we can’t focus on more than one at a time or life feels hopeless and we order pizza! We also talk about money frequently, just to make sure we are following our own plans. But for us, this means being married almost 10 years with no children yet because we can’t live on our current incomes, much less with children. It has changed the landscape of our very existence. So yes, my husband is doing the work he was called to do, but it comes with a price. And unless you have wealthy parents who set money aside or a major inheritance, paying for this out of pocket is not an option. What 25 year old has $100,000? Not I. And to be frank? My kids won’t either.

    Cheers to you – and good luck. This is hard stuff. I would not trade my education for anything, I really wouldn’t, but it is hard stuff.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I so agree with you! I have the utmost respect for Dave and his daughter now Rachel who does money “talk.” My husband has severe asthma and didn’t qualify for the military, so no GI bill for college. He had a small scholarship but he still has $82,000 for his degrees including an MBA. All you can do is your best in life, and not everyone can do the military, scholarships, or financial aid if mom and dad didn’t fund college. And as a nurse, I agree that there are some programs you cannot pay as you go particularly healthcare. I was in a 13 month program to get my LPN and had to take out a loan, mom and dad were NOT paying. I had a partial scholarship and some Financial aid but I still had a small loan when finished. I worked hard and paid if off in 3 years. Best of luck to everyone here and the woman in the story Crystal shared!

      • Tonya says:

        I agree that this is tough. I feel like Dave Ramsey hit his heydey well over 10 years ago, and his advice perhaps often doesn’t square with the rising costs of college currently. College tuition costs are rising much faster than salaries, and it means that it’s virtually impossible to go to college without financial aid of some sort.

      • Sara Furlong says:

        Thanks! This was my story and I appreciate you sharing yours. We now know we were just dumb kids with parents who knew nothing about higher education, signing our life away because we were told we had to go to college – but sometimes the numbers make us feel like idiots! 😉 It’s nice to hear you say that it’s understandable.

        • JF Dayne says:

          I disagree. The information isn’t dated it’s just that it’s a little to late for us . As in if I knew then what I know now I would make different choices.

          I never even knew it was an option to pay for college without a loan.
          That’s lack of knowledge on my part but I worked and when my loans were more than school required – I should have sent that money back.

          If my kid wants to go to school – he’ll work and go because we know differently. That means he’ll have to choose an in-state school and live at home or he’ll have to start working and looking for scholarships in the 8th grade to do so and we MAY help- but that’s at our discretion it’s not a given it’s our choice.

          My student loans are not 100K but they aren’t far off. Is it a lot? – yes. Is it impossible – NO. It’s about choices. I WANT to stay at home or to take a less stressful position – my past decisions are affecting my present and that’s life.

          Living on a budget and staying out of and getting out of debt will never be outdated advice, no mater whose advising it. It sucks being in debt but it’s our choice to get out; it’s not easy; but what worthwhile, is?

    • Jen says:

      I agree about the healthcare programs. I just turned 34 and graduated from school as a Physical Therapist Assistant this past December. I found my calling late in life, but I feel I was born to do this job and I love it (most of the time, anyway, LOL). My program cost $25k, and I still have about $5500 in student loans left from massage school 6 years ago, a program that cost me $15k. It was all I could do to save up enough money to get me through the PTA program; I couldn’t work because the usual 2 year program was accelerated to 1-1/2 years, which meant it took over every second of my life. Paying off my student loans is now my #1 priority.

      Here’s what I’m currently doing:
      -I pay more than the minimum due and make sure my loan service providers are applying the excess to the principal.
      -One of my student loans is through Sallie Mae, and they started offering a credit card which gives me 5 points per dollar spent on groceries and gas, and 1 point per dollar for all other purchases. 2500 points gets me $25 off my student loan. I’ve only had the card a couple of months, but it looks like I’ll be able to reduce my loan by $200-$300 a year simply by using the card. I use the card for pretty much everything since it’s free money; gas, groceries, online purchases, even regular bills like the cell phone whenever I can. I pay the balance in full every month.
      -I picked up a PRN job 2 weekend days a month in addition to my full-time job. The nice thing about PRN jobs is that they pay more; I’ll be making $8/hour more than my full-time job. I had been working 4 weekend days per month as a massage therapist, but the income was very unreliable due to cancellations, tipping, etc., so I decided it made more financial sense to be a PRN PTA even though I enjoy massage.
      -I got Quicken. Not only does it help me track my expenses and income, it’s rewarding to see less negative net worth every time I log on. Yes, the progress is slow, but it’s there!
      -I’m planning on moving in the next few months after I achieve one year’s experience in my new profession. I live in AZ, which pays better than the Midwest ($60K for a PT, are you kidding?! I make close to that just with my full-time job. Your husband could make so much more out here, and PTs are in demand big time!), but there are other states that pay better (bls.gov has statistics if you want to compare states). I don’t have many roots in AZ, so I’m going where the money is. That means if I need to move to Podunk to get a $10k sign-on bonus and tough it out for a year or two, that’s what I’m doing.

      There really is no magic pill or one size fits all solution. As another poster said, you have to decrease expenses and/or increase income, that’s it. Progress is slow, and it’s frustrating, but stay the course and know that you’re not alone! I think you’re to be commended for being committed to paying down this debt; I’ve met a lot of people who defer, defer, defer, or only pay the minimum and don’t seem to worry they’re going to be paying the rest of their lives. Good luck!

    • Bethany Bergen says:

      I agree! I’m an OT and those programs are set in stone, fulltime for a few years doesn’t allow for much working while in school.

      • Alaina says:

        Thank you all for your replies to my comment. It makes me feel as though I am not alone. My husband is doing what he is called to do – and every month when I make those $1100 loan payments I just have to breathe and remember that.

  • Emily E says:

    I had $120k in law school loans and paid off half of them using the debt snowball. The loans were divided into loans A, B, and C based on each year of school. I paid them off in order of highest interest rate then proceeded to the next one. I still have the approx. 60k in consolidated federal student loans but the payment on that is really low since the loan was subsidized and consolidated at a ridiculously low rate. You should call the loan holder and see what your options are.

  • Courtney says:

    I would talk to a financial adviser, see if your church or other community program offers a no-cost or low-cost financial consult. You’ll def. be paying it off for quite a while, but the only piece of advice I can give you is stay the course and try to see the light at the end of the tunnel; you sound like you’re doing everything right!
    Maybe you could downsize your house, I don’t know your situation, but most of us COULD live with less. Could one of you take on a second job? If you can’t are you doing things like Swagbucks and surveys that can add money to your budget? Or are you an excellent seamstress or painter or have some other talent that could earn you money? Could you cut your expenses? Even eating out once a week ads up over a month or year. To put it in perspective, if you’re a family of 4 eating out could be $40…$160×12=$1960 a year!
    Good luck!

  • Amy Enter says:

    First of all…KUDOS to you for all of the steps that you are taking to get your financial life in order!! I agree with all of the other posts….make a plan…break it down into baby steps and FOCUS on your goal. But I would also say: Consider multiple streams of income. Make it a goal to find just one more way to earn $$$. Just look at what Crystal created here…it’s an AWESOME service plus it brings in $ for her family! I started selling It Works! health and wellness products just a few months ago, and I am already filling our grocery, clothing, and misc envelopes out of my profit! In our house that means that there is much more $ to save and give every month! I have friends who are making an extra $6-8,000 after just 6 months in this business 🙂 You need to be very careful what business you choose, because many “opportunities” cost you money instead of making you $!!! One more word of encouragement: It’s WORTH IT!!! Living life without any payments is totally worth the sacrifices that it takes to get you there…You CAN do it!!!

  • Denise says:

    Hi. I get it!

    We have my 60k in student loans, 20k in medical debt, and my husband’s car loan 🙁

    We’re currently desperately looking for a better paying job for my husband. Prayers appreciated…

  • ashley says:

    Don’t give up! Keep doing what you are doing, put any extra money toward your principle, pray a lot. We had my husband’s debt of over $40, 000 that we were paying down. My husband is a minister and I am a stay at home mom, so no extravagant salaries here. Any extra money I could earn (making cakes) went toward debt. We were very open and honest about our money mistakes with others, and wound up being blessed earlier this year when an anonymous family at church paid our last $14,000 in student loans. We were floored. They blessed us immensely with financial freedom and a greater ability to bless others.

  • Ann says:

    My husband and I don’t have student loan debt anymore, but we have made many other money mistakes and have the credit card debt to show for it. About 7 years ago, we got a consolidation loan for it. Since that time, we have paid off almost $50,000 in debt, mostly by just making our payments on time and adding as much extra as we could each month. It can be done! Just keep doing what you are doing and the results will come.

    One side comment – if you are a church attender, please don’t let your tithe be affected by your debt. We made that mistake before too. Give God His portion first and you will be amazed at how much farther the rest goes!

  • Courtney S. says:

    I am right there with you! When my husband and I got married in 2011, he had just graduated from law school with $175k in student loans. We took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University two weeks after getting back from our honeymoon and got our debt snowball rolling, even though we knew we would be in baby step 2 for years. He had a bunch of different loan groups, so we put them in order from smallest to largest, paid the minimum payments on all of them and threw any extra money we had at the smallest. I am thrilled that today we are down to “only” $54k of student loans after two years (part of that was savings that I had before we got married that we used to pay off some groups right at the beginning).

    I’ve learned that paying off large amounts of debt involves doing everything you can to 1) get your income up and 2) keep your expenses down. In terms of income, we both work full-time jobs and since we don’t have children yet, we look for any extra jobs we can take on during the nights and weekends (babysitting, housesitting, petsitting, Swagbucks, testing food products and giving opinion etc.) I recommend care.com and sittercity.com to find babysitting and petsitting jobs. We also sell whatever we can on craigslist. To keep our expenses down, we try to cut out all of the non-essentials (we eat out maybe once a month, live in a small 1 bedroom apartment, don’t have cable TV, etc.). We make a budget every month and at the end of the month, I go over every dollar we spent and put whatever amount of money we have left over into our smallest loan group.

    Staying motivated can definitely be a challenge when you are looking at years of debt payoff. My driving factor since day 1 has been I want to be able to stay home with my future kids and that would not be possible with a $1550/mo. student loan payment. Dream about what life could be like without any debt and find one thing to focus on that will make the sacrifices worth it for you. I also listen to Dave Ramsey’s radio show and seek out blogs like this one that will keep me motivated. Paying off debt is like running a marathon. It is hard work but it will definitely be worth it in the end. There are lots of us in the same boat that are cheering for you!

  • Hi Sara,

    You are not alone! My husband graduated from law school a year and a half ago. We ended up with $130K+ in student loans for a 4-year JD/MBA, despite living frugally throughout school. My husband is working at a small firm making less than $40K and we have a family of 5. We have paid off $38K so far and have about $101K left We are eager to get our loans paid off as soon as possible! I recently started a blog SixFiguresUnder.com to document our journey to be debt-free and share ideas for others who want to do the same. Come join me and we can encourage each other!

    Have you set a goal? I recommend setting a goal of when you want to have it all paid and then break it down into a monthly goal of how much you want to pay each month.

    Paying your loans off fast makes such a difference. I’m sure you know how interest adds up quickly. When we were setting our goal, I did some calculations to figure out how long it would take us to may off the remainder of our loans and what the total interest would be with different monthly payments. For example on $100K of debt at 7.9% interest, if we pay $1,000 per month, it will take us 13.5 years to pay it off and we will have paid $63K in interest. If we pay just $500 more per month, we nearly cut those numbers in half (7.5 years, $32K in interest). I have a chart on my blog that shows further comparisons: http://www.sixfiguresunder.com/the-big-fat-goal-pay-off-the-remaining-100000-in-student-debt-in-3-years/ Seeing those numbers really motivated us to set a audacious goal.

    Stay positive and focus on your successes! It sounds like you are doing many great things already. Just the fact that you are focusing on paying off those loans is a big deal (rather than ignoring them and hoping they’ll disappear). Work together with your husband and make it a fun challenge.

  • Jen says:

    I’m in a very deep student debt hole. I hate to even confess how big because I’m so embarrassed by the high number . . . let’s just say it is well over 200k. This is a result of paying for a lot of grad school for both me and my husband when we were in our early 20s. My advice for others would be to never take on that amount of debt.

    But now that we have it, we try to stay positive by focusing on the largest debt, living within our current means, paying an extra $200/month on a debt snowball plan, and whenever we can make additional income, like if I take a temp job (I’m a SAHM with 2 small children), or my husband has the opportunity to earn income on the side, it all goes to debt. It is so easy and common to use “windfalls” of cash to treat yourself, but it is so, so better to put it toward the debt. I could work regularly outside the home, but I am not willing to sacrifice my ability to stay home with my children. For us, it is better to scrimp and pay down debt slower over the long term than give up on me being at home and plans for homeschooling in the future.

    • Sara Furlong says:

      God bless you and keep us posted! It’s funny how when it’s your story it doesn’t feel so glamorous, but when I hear what you are doing I am amazed! I think we will all be the better for this debt payoff fiasco! One day we will highly disciplined people who are focused on what truly matters – AND debt-free. 😉

  • Susan in St. Louis says:

    Good for you for wanting to get this taking care of ASAP! While I have never been in your situation, I want to encourage you to think beyond “forever”. Make a timeline and be encouraged as you meet goals.

    Just last night I found a paper on which I’d jotted some goals my husband and I had for paying off our house, as well as a projected pay-off date. It made me smile, because we’d ended up paying off the house almost a year earlier than I’d put down on that paper as our goal. Having the projected goal gave us momentum, though.

    It might take you a decade, but that’s not “forever”. You can do this! 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    Great Q&A! My husband and I are currently in the same boat. We did Dave Ramsey about 9 years ago and are stuck on the “big one” of student loans (now currently $60k). It seems like we can’t make traction. My husband is working at a law firm where he is 100% commissioned with no health benefits (very unusual situation). So we are budgeting the best we can on variable income. We have been blest to cover our monthly bills, but there isn’t anything extra. I’ve often have wondered where are the people who take more than a couple of years to pay off their debt! It’s nice to know there are more out there – maybe I just didn’t hear of them because they are too busy working and keeping blinders on to be distracted!

  • Penny says:

    You can do it with the debt snow ball. and as you pay them they get smaller.
    Dave plan works, there are many in my own church, who are totaly debt free using FPU

  • Jennifer says:

    My sister and her husband had enormous debt when they got married – about $300,000 if I remember correctly. He is a doctor. They moved to the middle of nowhere where they paid doctors very well to entice them to come. They lived there for 7 years I believe and were able to pay off all debt, pay off their house ($200K) and save a huge amount to then pay cash for a home and remodel back in their original state. I have no idea what your jobs are now but have you thought about moving somewhere with a very low cost of living temporarily so that you can pay off the debt quicker?

  • WL says:

    We have around 60,000 in student loan debt. We kept “throwing minimum payments” at the companies for YEARS, with almost no change in the amount,…. little did we know that at least half (sometimes more than half) of each monthly payment was put toward interest charges. So, you may think you are “getting ahead”, when really after interest is calculated, only a portion of what you are paying is chipping away at the loan. It almost cancels out the payment because the interest is adding more & more to the total, while you are paying. So be sure to look at your payment history and the way your loan company processes your payments (how much toward interest and how much toward principal). See if you can get a “hold” on paying one and pay the highest interest rate loan first… you may be able to claim financial hardship and catch a break. See if they will work with you at lowering your payments on one so you can focus on another one. We are in the same boat, .. but we only just realized that unless we start putting significant amounts of money toward the loans, the payments we make will do next-to-nothing… because the interest is so high and what goes toward the principal is tiny. I highly recommend getting financial advice from a friend or family member who knows “the biz” and can suggest strategies. It is very discouraging, I know!! But I have friends who got out of as much debt as you within about 10 years, by doing Dave Ramsey type techniques (Financial Peace book, Total Money Makeover, etc).

  • Laurie says:

    Sara –
    Firstly, congratulations on doing all the right things to get out of debt and live a lifestyle within your means. I have no doubt you and your husband will tackle this student debt successfully. I am a single mom and I struggle every single pay period, too, so I know how it feels to have to hold on tight to every dollar and make it jump through hoops for you. But I will tell you it is possible! I paid off $33,000 in less than 2 years – by myself (with God’s help)! I sold stuff, got a side job tutoring, had garage sales, and basically got obsessed until I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I won’t lie and say it was easy, but it was SO worth it! My advice is to not look so much at the end goal.. That huge number seems daunting – and it is. Instead, make small, immediate goals. If you already have a 3-6 month emergency fund in place, I would temporarily stop adding to it and throw additional money at the debt. Also, depending how old you are, I might also (temporarily) hold off putting into retirement until you cut a chunk out of the loan balance. Then look for stuff to sell, ways to bring in more cash to the household, and just get so obsessed people think you’re crazy. 🙂 Once you start getting weird looks from others, you know you’re on the right track! Good luck!

    • Sara Furlong says:

      Thanks for your encouragement and good for you! I think not focusing too heavily on the end goal is ESPECIALLY good advice. And, trust me, we are obsessed! We have been selling things in our house left and right! Haha. We actually have a can in our house called “the van can.” We put our leftover money from the envelope system and money from sold items in it because we know eventually, somewhere along this journey, we will need a new car! 😉

  • Lynn says:

    I’m not sure what lines of work you’re in, but if you’re considered to be public servants there is a really cool program a fellow teacher told me that he and his wife (another teacher) were currently enrolled in. If you are a public employee (teacher, law enforcement, etc.), you can apply for income based repayment, and since public employees tend to make less than private employees, can have the debt balance forgiven after ten years. My husband and I are fortunate enough not to have any student loans and I do not remember the name of the program, but it’s worth looking into! I do remember he said to make sure you researched through government and not private sites as there are some look-alikes out there.

  • Sunny says:

    I know a lot of people are crazy for Dave Ramsey’s plan, but what do you do if you or a family member collects SSI due to being disabled? You can’t keep all those cash reserves in your savings account or you lose your SSI. Limited income means nothing extra to pay those bills like student loans. Any suggestions?

    • Carla says:

      This is a great article. My husband has a Parents Plus loan $88,000 (uggg) and I have $82,000 in student loans. This is the only debt we have but it is going to be the death of us. Our income is less than the combination of the loans. We are renting and we must stop paying $1700 for someone else’s mortgage and have put together a short term goal to buy a house. Outside of that we need a plan and quick. Parents Plus loans are not eligible for income repayment plans. Any tips will help. I am going to call as a read above because something has to give.

      • Lori says:

        A Parents Plus loan actually belongs to the parent only, not the student. So unless it belongs to your husbands kid, why is he paying?

    • K says:

      If you are permanently disabled. Look into loan forgiveness. That and death will get most federal loans zeroed out I believe.

      • Sunny says:

        Unfortunately, the loans are mine, but my underage child is the one who is disabled and collecting SSI. I cannot work, or we will lose his SSI as well as his Medicaid. I could replace the SSI income with a job, but could never make enough to cover the amount of medical co-pays/payments that his Medicaid covers every year.

        As a result of this discussion, I did apply for their program to pay back based on our income. As of right now, it says my payment will be $0, and if it remains like that every year, I will be forgiven after 25 years (except they will take the write off and count it as income for that year’s taxes).

  • Sandy says:

    Oh my gosh, I have no idea what I could possibly say to help you. I can’t imagine a debt that large, but I understand it was for your education. Best of luck to you in finding the answer to paying your loans off!

    • an says:

      In addition to what others have written, I would look for a better paying position anywhere, even if that means moving to another state. I would also look for part time sporadic work, such as a catering assistant. The tips from those jobs can knock off chunks of student debt without taking up regular blocks of time. Give yourselves an allowance. You’d be surprised how much less you’ll spend just knowing you have the financial wiggle room that an allowance offers. If selling your house is not an option, would it be possible to rent your house for a small profit while living with family or in a low cost rental. Part-time work can vary in pay depending on the venue. For instance, evening cleaning crews at hospitals get paid more than the evening crews at offices. Assess every purchase, repeatedly and regularly. Read every frugal blot or book you can. Challenge your property taxes every year. Call every service provider you have

  • jennifer says:

    Everyone was so brave to share their stories here and I wish everyone luck getting their student loans paid off. Peace.

  • Angela says:

    I can completely relate. I’m single and have a job in the performing arts, which I love, but nothing prepared me for the letter which came about six months after I graduate from a pricey private college, detailing the hundreds of dollars I owed per month to repay about $40,000 in debt. I wouldn’t trade my education for anything, but MAN, do I wish I had had the knowledge or forethought to ask more questions when I took out my student loans. I had the highest partial scholarship my school offered and held a part-time job through undergrad, but I just didn’t make the connection between signing away for student loans and actually receiving the bills. While I utlimately was the one who took out the loans and have to take responsibility for that, I wish I had received more counsel on what that actually looks like post-graduation.

    I’m following the Dave Ramsey plan, I’ve cut my expenses, I try to make extra money, and I’ve applied for Income-Based Repayment (which I’d highly suggest). I’d also suggest calling your loans servicers and see how they can help – ultimately, they want you to pay your debt, not default.

    I keep a monthly budget in Excel, and I also keep a separate “Debt Snowball” Excel document. Google “Vertex42 free debt snowball worksheet” and you’ll find it, although I’m sure there are many others out there. It allows you to list your debts with the interest rate and minimum payment and create a schedule of payoff – it will actually give you the month and year during which you’ll pay off each debt. When I first entered my debts, my stomach sunk to see that it would take years to become debt-free. But this particular spreadsheet also allows you to fill in “debt snowflakes” or little extra payments you can afford to make each month. It caused me to plan a budget though January 15, and I budgeted my “extra” three paychecks per year (I’m paid bi-weekly) to go straight to debt. Just getting myself organized allowed me to plan for so many extra debt snowflake payments, and that knocked a few years off my pay off and gave me great hope! Looking at the big picture is key in winning this fight.

    Good luck!

  • TopPic says:

    I have a question for everyone out here. When my daughter graduates college (she has 1 more year) she will be gong to Medical School (already took her MCAT’s). Excluding my daughters undergraduate loans, by the time she is done with medical school I calculated she will have at the minimum, 250,000+ in loans plus additional loans for additional schooling for her specialty. I can not help her financially though I wish I could. Other then not going to medical school any suggestions regarding loans, paying for medical school . Thank you.

    • Angela says:

      I’m not sure which area of the country you live in, but a friend of mine attended medical school in Indiana – the state offers a program to pay a student’s tutiton in full if they commit to practicing medicine within the state for a certain number of years. I’m not sure if other states have something similar, but it allowed her to go through medical school at no cost.

      Best of luck to your daughter!

    • Julie says:

      I have listened to Dave Ramsey take calls from doctors who have large medical school debt. His best piece of advice is to not fall into the trap of buying a nicer car, buying a bigger house, etc. once you do start making the bigger $ as a doctor. In other words, live well below your means and use every extra $ to pay off your debt faster. Too many doctors (and that probably applies to many other higher income professionals) think they must have that Mercedes to show everyone else they’ve made it. Keep driving the clunker and pay your debts off faster.

  • Emily C says:

    PRAY FOR HELP.

    Check out the prudent homemaker’s website. (Google it)

    Throw EVERYTHING you can at that debt. Find free substitutes for things you like to do.

    Choose hobbies that help you earn or save money, like crocheting things to sell or repurposing clothing.

    We’re choosing to live without a car entirely (I take the bus and rent a car once a month for a monthly grocery run) to save us money. I have three kids, 3, 4, and 6, so it’s not easy but it’s worth it.

  • Shortly after my husband and I got married in 2005, we topped out at $238,000 in debt ($70,000 student loans, $18,000 vehicle, and a $150,000 house with 2 mortgages). We’re down to $14,250 on one student loan, and $106,500 on one mortgage. We’ve made a lot of progress, but we’ve still got another $120,750 to go! We’re hoping to pay off our student loan debt by the time our daughter is ready for Kindergarten next year. I’ve learned a lot from Dave Ramsey and Crystal Paine. You can read more about our story on my blog. Good luck!

    http://theabundantwife.com/about-taw/

  • Deidre says:

    Every year our tax return goes towards our student loan debt. It’s an extra couple thousand dollars so we never make plans for it except student loans. It’s a great way to help pay the debt down.

    • Crystal says:

      When my husband decided he wanted to go back to school (we were debt free at the time, but didn’t have much in savings) we knew it was an investment in our future. After 3 1/2 years of schooling, 2 graduate degrees, and 3 children later, we have about $190k in student loans. Our income, however, immediately doubled upon getting a job after schooling, and in 1 1/2 years of working, our income has tripled from our pre-graduate degree life. It will take us time to pay off the loans, but our income has surpassed what our peak income would have been in his previous career. These loans are an investment in our future that I am confident will pay off in the long run. We live frugally and will continue to live frugally until we are debt free, but our future has so much more potential because of these degrees. Remembering this helps me not get so frustrated at the amount. Investments take time to pay off.

    • Michelle says:

      We do the same thing with our tax return, and it has gained us a lot of traction in paying off debt quickly! I know, however, that Dave Ramsey is against getting tax returns and instead recommends working things so the money goes into your bank rather than as an “interest free loan to the Treasury”. Bottom line is, look at your tax situation and see if you can start putting that money directly into your banking account every month or if you’re not comfortable doing that, plan on using your tax refund strictly for paying down your debt. If your average refund is even a couple thousand dollars – after ten years, that translates to $20-30,000 or more!

  • Becky says:

    Sara,
    My heart goes out to you. We started our marriage in debt – over $20,000.00 – 20 yrs. ago. It seemed such a huge mountain we couldn’t even see the peak. It was huge and a burden for sure. Over time we slowly paid it off, but it took 7 yrs. We took extra jobs and lived as frugally as we knew how. Extra jobs and finding margin through cutting back in our budget allowed us to pay it off. Increasing income can seem daunting when you already have full-time jobs and small children.

    I wrote a blog post some time ago about this very issue: the college loan debt trap and pay-off. Maybe you could find some useful information there as well: http://wp.me/p2JwxQ-D

    I wish you all the best as you push through your mountain. You CAN do it….little by little over time.

    Blessings~Becky

  • Summer says:

    My husband and I graduated from graduate/health professional school with the combined debt of$230K in student loans. It was a difficult place to start off in our marriage–our income was limited and our expenses were high. Honestly, it was really overwhelming. We lived on my husbands income and used mine strictly for paying down our loans (which was a great way to transition to living on one income when I became a stay-at-home mom several years later). We did without a lot of things–no cable, older vehicles, we didn’t eat out–we were on the delayed gratification program for sure! We always paid over the minimum (even if just slightly over). It took us 8 years, but we paid them off. Our loans were a HUGE burden and felt very stressful. But, now it seems like a distant memory. Just stick with it–you’re not alone!

  • Jennifer says:

    Working the debt snowball diligently goes much faster than people imagine or even calculate! We thought our $69,000 would take over three years but we made it work in 22 months!

  • Heidi says:

    We too are trying to pay off $88,000 in debt. One thing that keeps me motivated is “getting to the next level”. What I mean by that is setting smaller goals in paying the big huge debt. Since our loan is just one loan we don’t have the satisfaction of paying off a debt and feeling like we’ve accomplished something so what I do is set goals like:

    1) Paying extra to get below the next thousand. It encourages me to see the thousand place value go down another number. This can motivate me to stay within or below my other budgets in order to do this.
    2) You can amortize your loan and see when you’ll pay the next lower interest payment. For example, if you are currently paying $525 a month in interest charges, see how long it will take to get below $500. It may motivate you to find extra cash, birthday money, etc. in order to get there. Sometimes it seems like I could get so much more enjoyment out of spending that $100 birthday money on what I want instead of throwing it into the “huge hole” of debt, but if I have these smaller goals, it doesn’t feel like I’m just throwing it to debt but not really making a difference.

    Be encouraged that you are serious about paying your debts and that you are being responsible. Sometimes after going to Walmart or the grocery store my children have asked why it seems that everyone else just buys whatever they feel like buying, sale or no sale, coupon or no coupon. I tell them that either they have an abundance of monetary resources or they may be going into debt to buy all those extra things. Just be greatly satisfied that you are not going into debt to buy things that you can really do without. Your debt is always getting lower and never going higher. Even if there is a month when you can’t pay extra on your loan, you can rejoice that your debt load is lower than it was.

    Also, look for creative ways to save money. This year our family is seriously considering not buying Christmas presents for each other in order to pay more toward our loan. This may be extreme for some families but for us, it may be worth it. Even the children are already on board with this. They know that they really have everything they need and just this evening one even made the comment that if we bought a bunch of presents, it would really just be a waste. We are leaning towards planning some fun activities instead for the Christmas Season and focusing on the Lord coming to earth to pay our sin “debt”.

    Be motivated that your debt will be paid off, even if it is years away. You are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing! Reading all these comments has already motivated me to keep on the course : ).

    • Lynda says:

      Thanks, Heidi, for your comments; I like your take on the repayment of your loans. We are currently in FPU, and the other debts, tho frustrating, aren’t anywhere near as daunting as my husband’s $62K student loan (acquired 10 yrs ago). It is a consolidation loan with Sallie Mae and we are already on the income-based repayment, after having exhausted all the deferment possibilities. Sooooo, the goal of getting below a certain “$1000” mark and shooting for lowering the interest amt paid is good motivation for when we finally get ‘snowballed’ to that debt.

      For others who have large amounts of debt, as one who has been married for 23 years and with my hubby over 50 (I’m SAHM, homeschooler w 5, 2 now grad’d), let me encourage you from this side of 30 yrs out of college: altho 7-10 yrs seems a lifetime (& I’m well aware that any given moment beyond the one we just breathed is not a guarantee 🙂 ), take courage that it will fly by, and your commitment to pay off your loans and be/live debt-free will stand you in good stead.

  • cathy says:

    do loan consolidation
    enroll in income based repayment to make the payment fit your budget, then when you find ways to make extra money pay towards the principle
    if you work in certain jobs there is a program where you make payments for 10 years and the rest is forgiven

  • Kim says:

    Sarah, it is possible to pay off large amounts but it’s a marathon! The debt snow ball goes so much faster then it seems it will. We were on the Dave ramsey show last week screaming that we are now debt free. We paid off about 30,000 in 10 month using Dave’s plan back in 2007. We only made about $45,000 then and had 1 child but we increased our income by my husband delievering pizzas evenings and weekends and i nannied, babysat, sold everything I could, and followed crystals advice on cutting living costs. Durin that time we did have many set backs like my husbands truck being hit when he was delivering pizzas! We just fixed it enough that it was drivable but ugly. Then 3 yrs ago we decided to pay off our modest house that we owes 80,000 on we now make 70,000-77 depending on over time and if I was babysitting (I just now stay home full time). We could have paid this off quicker but wanted to reward ourselves as we went along. Stay encouraged, make frugal friends and keep following the frugal blogs. And know each month you are paying less in interest. 7 yrs ago we never thought this would be possible, even 1 yr ago we almost gave up but we are so glad we stuck with it! Here is a link to our scream.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyJOrQY3q7s

  • shannon says:

    Hi Sara! I know this post was a couple of days ago but I was just thinking of it again today. I had $40,000 in student loans and am now a stay at home mom. I have so many regrets and student loan debt is one of my biggest (I used to not want children but praise God he changed my heart and am now pregnant with #3). Anyway, lots of good advice but here’s a bit more in case it may help.
    1. Check with your employer to make sure they don’t repay student loans. I was eligible for 2 years at my last employment before I found out about it! This was through my employer and I had been a dedicated employee so I asked my boss to write a special request for me to the CEO to retroact it. Guess what, they did and I got about $2,000 retroacted. Employers like to see good employees so if you’ve been there for awhile, really look into this. We were given $1 towards student loans per hour worked so it was like a $1 per hour raise. They allowed us to take out more but I didn’t want to be in debt to my employer too (LOL) so just did the minimum.
    2. Besides that program, there was a student loan repayment program through the state. I had to agree to work for the same employer for 2 years and I was going to have like $20,000 repaid because I had a social work degree in a rural area. This took a lot of digging to find out but I did qualify. I did not choose this option as I quit to stay home (and am so glad I did) but it is was an option. There really may be something similar if you do some digging through your current employer or somewhere else.
    3. Finally, just like when anything seems unattainable, BREAK IT DOWN. Thinking of losing lots of weight is daunting but breaking it down into 1-2 pounds a week makes it practical. Set a goal for the next month, then 3 months, 6 months and a year. Do something special when you achieve each goal, even if it doesn’t cost $. If you are a type A personality like me, you’ll enjoy the challenge and put it into a spreadsheet or graph or something and watch that figure come down quicker than you think.
    God bless! It’s possible.

  • shelley h says:

    Well if it makes you feel any better, my husband has about 160k in student loans. I have about 20k. My two daughters have about 60k….and i took out the loans in my name for them for school. My husband and I found a program for loan forgiveness since we are both medical professionals. However, we did not get picked for the program for 2014. There are programs out there for varying types of professionals. We had our loans stretched out for as long as we were allowed– giving us the smallest pymt possible each month. We do pay extra on the larger loans and we are actually a month ahead on them which helps with interest. It would be nice to have a fairy god mother come along and make them disappear. That would make raising 6 kids easier.

  • Amy says:

    You CAN do it. We are almost done!!! We set a crazy goal – to pay off over $100K in student loans in 4 years. We will be debt free in a couple of months. We also paid $20K downpayment on a house, and have $20K in savings. Neither of us made over $35K/yr.

    Here’s what we did. We had cars that did not have car payments – with the least amount of insurance possible (I don’t recommend that insurance bit). We both worked 2 jobs for a good chunk of the time. We had no credit cards or prior debt. We moved to the cheapest, but still safe, apartment we could find. (In the middle of the paying off stage, we actually ended up moving to Australia for 1.5 years, and had a child there – which was completely free because my husband is a citizen and they have gov’t healthcare). We also moved back to the US during that time, so include in those bills an out-of-country move…twice.
    We did not go out to dinner. Our budget or holidays was $50 – and we made sure to buy each other things we needed or could both benefit from. We didn’t go to entertainment that cost money…we had an xbox, board games, did things around the city that were free, spent time outside, or hung out with friends. We didnt go out to eat – ever. We budgeted our groceries and couponed. We didn’t buy clothes unless we HAD to, and they were always used. Most of everything we did buy was used. Once we got our home, I learned how to wood work and literally built a majority of our nice furniture (I’m a woman, BTW). Our child was breastfed and wore cloth diapers, so there wasn’t much cost to having a child. Her toys are used, or given to her as gifts – same with clothing. There’s no coffees from retailers, no drinks at the gas station, no splurge here or there. It’s really not all that hard when you just cut things down to the bare bones. But it is emotionally HARD. It is SO hard to lose friends because you can’t go out, to not be able to buy something you really NEED, to do without. It is depressing, and overwhelming. BUT, paying off the loan makes up for ALL of it.

    Truth be told, if I had not met my husband or had he not been on board with giving up everything for 4 years of his life, I could not have done this. I made $30K out of school and my minimum payments were $900/mo. So alone, I could not have done it.

    It’s a daunting task. But IT CAN BE DONE. You have to be ready to really sacrifice and you need a good support system behind you. You need to be each other’s cheerleader – some days it is going to effect one more than the other…you need to be there for each other.

    • Jessica says:

      What you guys did was amazing! What an amazing inspiration for others. Am always so happy to hear stories from people who didn’t have huge incomes making real progress on their financial goals.

  • MaryBeth says:

    Sara,

    We are in the exact same boat as you. All I can say in hopes to encourage you, is to think about how long it would take you if you weren’t following this plan. Some of the loans my husband and I have are 15 years (some even 20 years), so if we can get it down to 10, we are still way ahead. I crunch a lot of numbers in our budget/debt spreadsheet, but should really look into how fast we can get it done. I’m thinking if we stick to it we may be able to do it in 8!

    Oh, and I have a little thermometer I made to hang on the fridge to color in our progress on just the loan we are currently working on. Seeing it every day seems to be really helping us!

  • Kara says:

    My husband was blessed to not have student debt, but my graduate school was private and expensive! I have a little over 60,000 when we got married and then our car broke down and we had to buy a new car which added a few more thousand. My husband had flipped a house, and we decided we wanted to use that money for paying for a down payment since our apartment bill was so high. Our mortgage is far cheaper and now we have some equity. Anyway, after my husband flipped the first house, I paid off $10,000 for my student loans right away and we put over 20% on a house. The means that we had a little over 100,000 from everything when we really started to dig in. We make about 40,000 a year combined, being a pastor and community college instructor. Right now my school debt is down to 39,500 and our car will be paid off in two months. We paid off our car in a year and a half instead of 3 which is awesome. We use the snowball method and that has helped us because we’ve been able to put 800 a month toward our car, 450 toward our student loan, and 600 toward our house payment. In two months we will start putting 450 plus the 800 toward our student loan and should have that knocked out in 3 years if we can keep at that rate (although we are expecting a baby in May) Anyway, most people are shocked by how much we spend on our loans for our income, but we make it work!! We shop at aldi, meal plan, and have a set amount of “fun” money a month which is usually 50 each. That is all the money we have for going out with friends/coffee/dates and we make it work. We still have lots of fun and enjoy eating out about once a month. We are very conscious of our water/electric bills so that we can save there and same with our phone bill, we have terrible phones, but it is worth it to pay off the debt. We are hopeful that we can continue at this rate, and that in five years after I graduated we will have paid off a car and my student loans. It can be done, and we will still have a chunk for our mortgage, but if we added it all up with the snowball we’d pay our house off in less than 10 years. I hope that is encouraging!!! Oh, try to get enrolled in automatic withdrawal because that took my interest rate down .25% which doesn’t seem much, but it has helped when the numbers are so high!

    • Libby says:

      I have $30,000 in student loan debt and my son, who only attended one year of a trade school for auto mechanic has $12,500. We were expected to pay 80% of his schooling the year he went to school because the tax year previous we had made $70,000 combined income. What the school, feds, and loan agencies didn’t care about was my husband was laid off and there went $49,000 of that income, instantly, just two months before he was to start school. We couldn’t even get a parent loan with his income gone. We moved cross country for his new job, costing our entire retirement, and now on two incomes only make $40,000 a year for a family of 4. I struggle to pay the minimum on my student loan and this year fell and spent from April to September undergoing surgery, physical therapy, unable to work. My disability insurance covered my medical premiums, but that was it. I have been paying on my loans for 12 years and don’t think I will ever pay them off!

    • Emily says:

      I am so overwhelmed when I look at the total to pay off that I get discouraged. I pay and will always pay as little as possible. If it takes me 50 years to pay them off then so be it. I’m at the point where I just don’t care. If I can pay as little as $50 a month versus working two jobs to afford the $500 originally requested per month, then so be it. I’m not going to kill myself over paying back student loans. You could die tomorrow.

  • Mary says:

    Look at your interest rates and how much you could get in interest with various options. With Dept of Ed loans, sometimes the rates are low enough that CD rates are higher (granted, I haven’t looked at either rate in a while). Then it makes more sense to save the $ for a while than to pay extra.

  • KP says:

    I joined the Air National Guard and he joined the Army National Guard. It gave us everything we need to get ahead financially and in the job market. We both have our Masters Degrees, ZERO Student Loan debt, 2 rental/investment properties and I now have the luxury to be a stay at home mom to my 8 week old baby boy–who we have transferred our Montgomery GI BILL through the Post 9/11 GI BILL program so he will have tens of thousands of dollars waiting for him when he gets to college. The best part? WE LOVE our decision to serve our community, state and nation and couldn’t be more proud and honored.

  • Abigail says:

    My husband had over $125k in school-related debt at the time we met. He started on Dave Ramsey’s plan soon afterwards, and in the past almost-four years we have brought the total down to around $34k. This includes paying for a lot of our wedding and honeymoon, moving out of state and taking a pay cut, a herniated disc that required a couple months off work, buying a second car, getting my wisdom teeth out (insurance covered very little), taking several out-of-state vacations, and having our first baby (paying for all costs out of pocket). I only work part time from home so we’re mostly living on one average-sized income. We’re so thankful for all the ways God continues to provide for us, and we’re very excited to see the numbers going down! I enjoy couponing and finding good deals on the things we need: living frugally is a lot of fun if you let it be. 🙂 Looking forward to starting to save up for a home of our own in the next year or two!

  • Rachael says:

    My husband graduated with about 210, 000 in student loans last june. I am going back to school too. But working on getting into a fully funded graduate school so they will actually pay me to go to school. But we only have his income and it isnt what you would wamt it to be having soent that much to get there. But we are on income based repayment. We are snowballing our debt right now that within the next year or so we should be down to just his debt. Income based is the only way we could do it. Just got a letter the other day saying that if we fail to turn in the required paperwork to renew the income based stuff our payment would be 2100… HA!!!! Just keep your head up and keep working hard and it will be great in the end… atleast thats what we keep telling ourselves.

  • Fae says:

    It’s so bad that people have so much study loans. I also didn’t know the interest was so high in America! I’m already stressing out about the loans I will get (I’m 18, just started studying), while the interest in the Netherlands is only 1 or 2%!

  • Brenda says:

    My student loans were rung up before I met and married my current husband. My student loan total is around 33,000. I went to school for medical assisting and in our area of Michigan it is economically depressed. All the doctors in our area want to pay 5,000 to 9,000 less a year then the fair market value of pay for aCertified Medical Assistant. A medical assistant is supposed to make 25,000 to 29,000 a year. So it is very hard to make enough to pay 450 dollars a month for student loans. My husband says that he is not responsible for my loans because they were done before we met. I lost my job in April and at the end of December my unemployement will run out. I have been looking for a job since then and have no offers yet. My husband said if we can consolidate these loans that I have with two different loan companies, it may be feasible to be able to make the payments. I applied to loanconsolidation.ed.gov I have loans with Sallie mae and NelNet. They will be able to make me have one payment. It raises in payment amount every two years about 10 dollars, but it is a payment that is affordable. For the first two years it will only be 156 a month. If we have extra we will pay extra on the balance and it will come off the top. This will work for us until I can find a job, then it will be easier to make the payment and more and pay it down faster.

  • Jeremy says:

    Similar to many of the stories here, pay off the smallest first and so forth. I use Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) to create separate savings accounts for different activities/purposes. One is “Loan Payoff”, I put a set amount each paycheck into this account and when it reaches a certain amount I pay down the loan debt. It is satisfying to see a large chunk come off at once. Also, in case of emergency I have those additional funds available to cover that incurred expense without having to go into further debt.

  • Christy Baughman says:

    Public service employees qualify for loan forgiveness after so many years. A large portion of the country qualifies and they don’t even realize it. I’m not sure what your husband does but it is always worth looking into. I work for a nonprofit school so my loans qualify and my husband is a teacher in an underprivileged area so his loans qualify, as well. My best advice is don’t have a stroke about it, just keep plugging away and realize that sometimes we make budget mistakes and they are just minor setbacks.

  • JF Dayne says:

    Break it down into small goals. Are your loans seperated into muliple loans if so tackel one at a time instead of looking at the big picture. You didn’t list your incomes. You also said you are a work at home mom in order to save money on daycare but could you earn enough out of the home so that even if you payed for daycare the rest of the money could go toward the debt?

    What’s your goal to have the loan payed off? How big is your shovel?
    I have a good amount of student loan debt and after we pay off the cars (20K for two) we’ll roll those payments up and everything else and throw it that the big debt it’ll be 2 to 2.5 years. My goal is to be out of all debt but the house in 3 years.

    Set a monthly, yearly goal for the debt. Each year you want to may off 25K of it? That’s 4 years to get it done 2083 a month toward the debt. You can do it!! If that’s too aggressive try 15K a year for 1250 a month. Break down the goal into small bites. One bite at a time till you’ve eaten it up. Chin up!!

  • Allie says:

    Even though it feels like a lot, it can be done! After my husband and I graduated we had 100K + in student loans. It felt so good to be “adults” with real jobs, we promptly bought a house for 0 down, a new car, and a boat. Yeah, I know. After a year we came to our senses and started paying it all off. We took extra hours, learned to cook everything from scratch, found free activities in the community, cut out most extras, hunted and gathered (seriously), and made do. It took 5 years but we paid it all off save a 20k dollar loan my employer pays on. We took another couple years and continued to save the money we were paying towards the loans. Now we’re debt free except for our house and the smaller loan we could pay off if I ever decide to leave my job. There’s a really healthy emergency fund in the bank and growing investments for the future. When we first buckled down it was painful, but now it feels uncomfortable to be wasteful. Plus, we love the jobs our education led us to. Totally doable and totally worth it. Just have patience, commitment, faith and be flexible.

  • Kim in Cali says:

    Crystal,
    I hope it’s ok to post this. It’s not my blog and I don’t know the writer of it personally but I had started reading there and thought it might help those in this situation.

    http://www.sixfiguresunder.com/

  • Kim says:

    You will get through this! I was also drowning in student loans and credit card debt by the time I finished college, and wondered how I would ever get my head above water again. My loans were also separated into groups, so while I paid the minimum amount on some, I paid extra on another until one by one I was able to pay them in full. As I paid them off, I would roll that amount into my next focus, until I eventually had them all paid off. I didn’t have a cell phone or a car for several years, I even did without tv and got creative and made many gifts, or offered my time or service in lieu of a gift. Now we don’t owe anything except our mortgage, which I am paying off ahead of schedule, simply because that feels good! Be proud of the sacrifices you are making, and teach your children why money is so important, so they can help and not repeat your mistakes. I respect those that are willing to do things the right way- like paying off your loans, and not just looking for an easy way out. Good job and be proud of what you are doing!

  • Katherine says:

    My husband and I each owe about $25,000 in student loans. Our debt is significantly more manageable, but when the total amount you owe is more than what you make in one year, it seems the end is never is sight. One thing I learned in a home-buying course is the “power pay” option. You take the loan that is the smallest (I have to imagine you have more than one lender – probably federal and private), and you save to pay that one in full. Once that loan is eliminated, you take what you paid per month on that loan, and add it to your payment for the second-largest loan. You continue to save to pay off that second loan, and when it’s paid off, you take what you were paying per month for the first and second loan, and apply it to the third…

  • Leanne says:

    My husband and I paid off $116,000 in student loans in July. It took us 4 years. I thought we would never be done but am so thankful we stuck with it! Even if you don’t feel like you are taking huge steps forward, it’s better than steps backward! Stay focused and keep your eye on the prize! Visualize yourself without the student loan debt and think about that feeling every time you get down. Chances are it will take considerably less time than you think! We had several raises over 4 years that caused us to more than double our income. We also had crazy expenses happen too. Just keep moving forward!

  • Amanda says:

    We paid off all of my husband’s student loans with a federal loan forgiveness program via his employer. If he committed to work 2 years, they would pay up to $25K per year on his student loans. This is in addition to a regular salary and benefits. They paid up front too, so it saved us the 2 years in interest. We made a move to make this happen, but it is one of the best financial decisions we have made as a family. It has now allowed me to quit my job and be a stay-at-home/homeschool mom. You can Google “loan forgiveness” for your professions to find the programs.

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