This week I’m featuring a guest post by my friend and fellow financial blogger Zina Kumok. I’m always getting asked questions about how to deal with student loans and since I never had any, I like to incorporate the voices of experts on the topic.
Zina Kumok is a personal finance freelance writer and blogger at Debt Free After Three. In 2014, she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years. Now, she’s created Student Loan Knockout: 20 Days to Debt Freedom, a course on how you too can pay off your student loans quickly.
When I started making payments on my student loans in November 2011, I was earning $28,000 a year at my first job after college.
That number sounded a lot bigger when I first got the job. I knew people who were making $25,000 a year and living in New York. But I soon realized that $28,000 wasn’t enough to pay for everything I wanted – and needed.
Oh yeah, did I mention that not only was I earning less than $30,000, but I also had $28,000 worth of student loans?
I grew up watching my parents struggle with debt, so I was determined to pay off my loans quickly. It didn’t take long before I realized that if I really wanted to do that, I had to make some changes to my lifestyle.
I won’t lie. Those three years were rough. I said no to a lot of nights going out and a lot more staying in. I ate leftovers at my desk and said no to co-workers inviting me to lunch. I worried over $25 parking tickets and late fees from the library.
But in November 2014, all that hard work paid off when I made my last student loan payment. I was free.
As soon as I became debt free, I merged my finances with my then-fiance. We started saving diligently for an emergency fund. I’d been contributing about $900 a month toward my loans, but now put that money in a savings account.
Around the same time I became debt-free, I started freelance writing on the side. At first, it was just a way to make extra money, but as the months went on, it became something greater. I dreamt about becoming a full-time freelancer. But I knew that an emergency fund would be a huge part in me being able to quit my job.
Becoming self-employed might be one of the riskiest things I’ve done. But it never felt that way. I spent about a year freelancing on the side and building up my client base. I also spent nine months saving for an emergency fund that would help when times were lean. Fortunately, I’ve never needed it.
When you work for yourself, one of the best ways to ensure success is to cut how much money you have to earn each month. Even during a bad month, you still want to be able to earn enough to pay all your bills. Any debt payments are just one more source of pressure as a freelancer.
Even if you stay with traditional employment, being debt free can help there. If you lose your job or switch to a lower-paying career, you’ll have fewer bills to worry about.
Life has so many more options for people who are debt-free. Without the constraints of loans, you can find more money to spend on what you care about.
So why don’t more people focus on becoming debt free? Because it requires sacrifice. Money guru Dave Ramsey once said, “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”
Many people may feel like focusing on their debt will only make them more stressed about their finances. That’s probably true. But doing that for a short period of time will also make you way better off in the long run.
Now that I’m debt-free, I’ve created a course for anyone struggling to pay off their student loans. It guides you through the steps I took to reduce my living expenses, learn to budget and become debt free in three years.
Student Loan Knockout: 20 Days to Debt Freedom is a self-paced online course that can help anyone feeling overwhelmed about their loans. Plus, readers of AmandaAbella.com will get 15% off with the code AMANDA.
So what are you waiting for? Learn how to become debt free today!