Thank you Navient for sponsoring this post.
If you’ve been following along on the blog for a while you know that I’m a self-proclaimed wanderlust who can’t stay in one place for too long. You also know that I’m a millennial paying back my student loans on a teacher salary. Often times being a teacher on a strict budget usually equates to less fun than most. However, that is just not true. As a clever millennial and a budget savvy teacher, I’m able to travel to beautiful countries 2-3 times a year without the principal of my loans suffering in any shape or fashion.
As a first-generation college student (and I say that loosely because I did just turn 29 years old… so I’m definitely not a student anymore) I didn’t make the best decisions when it came to funding my college education. My parents couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket, obviously (I mean really who can?) and after my scholarship and grants I still had a substantial balance. Student loans were the quickest (and only) way I knew of to take care of the balance from semester to semester so I wouldn’t be locked out of registering for new classes.
Fast-forward 7 years since my college graduation, and I can definitely say I know a great deal about student loans, but more specifically, how to manage my student loans in a manner that allows me to still live a meaningful life. If you allow it to, student loans can feel devastating and crippling. When I graduated back in 2010, I had a career path laid out but still no job and a 6-month grace period looming over my head. It was terrifying. Honestly, I was planning on moving out of the country to avoid having to deal with the payment process over the next “x” amount of years. Even after I secured a full-time job, I wasn’t able to move out of my parent’s house and pay the full payments. I started making interest only payments and was still drowning.
Month after month, interest-only debit payments were taken out of my account and I was miserable. I wasn’t doing anything but working and coming home to my parent’s house. I kept looking at my loan balance and it didn’t look like any of my payments made a difference to the total balance in front of me. Something had to change. I did tons of research, looked up my options, and decided there were several things I could do (and would have to do) in order to break this pointless, monotonous cycle and really start putting a dent into that principal. That would be the only way that I would be able to truly feel some sense of peace and live a life that I enjoyed.
Traveling The World As A Millennial With Student Debt
I knew I wanted to travel the world, but I also knew that being a millennial in debt is no joke. So I took several steps that allowed me to live a life I could be proud of, while still making sure that all my adult responsibilities are handled.
- First things first, I called my loan provider. I asked what my options were. I was initially placed on a graduated repayment plan, which I ended up phasing out of when my salary increased. There may be options available to you when it comes to paying back your student loans, you just have to ask. You have to ask questions, especially when you are lost or confused. Not only will a discussion with your loan provider give you a tangible plan, it will also help you keep focused.
- Set up a banking account/separate fund: This has been extremely helpful in helping me reach my goals of traveling 2-3 times a year. I have one account strictly for savings for emergencies/ major loan payments as well as a savings for vacation/ dog expenses (yes my dog is special and yes she does have a dog budget). I’ve managed to save money to put towards the principal while also slowly but surely building up a vacation pot. Everyone’s circumstance is different, therefore if you can’t do two separate savings accounts it is still important for you to save whatever your means will allow.
- Pay more than the minimum when you can: Just like with step two, this all depends on your funds. Some people can afford to take both step two and three and some have to choose either/or. It doesn’t mean you’ll never get out of debt, it just means you’ll get out in your own manner, your own time, and at the level you are comfortable with. Every year I pay off one loan balance. This helps me in two major ways when it comes to traveling the world: By paying off a loan in its entirety, I rid myself of the dreaded extra interest payments. Also, by paying off a loan balance, my monthly payment is less/lowered. This means I can either put that extra “found” money to the side for a rainy day (a vacation or emergency). I usually put it to the side for a vacation because, well, hey… I deserve it.
- Look for deals: Traveling is not as expensive as it used to be. There are several options and sites that you can use to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck. Once you choose a location you can download several apps as well to help you keep an eye on flight pricing glitches or price drops in airline and hotel.
There isn’t one cookie cutter way to achieve financial freedom. Every day I inch one step closer to paying the balance of my private student loans, and that is financial freedom to me. That provides me with the tools and the extra money to do more of what I like and less of the adulting that is required on a daily basis. With these methods and a little ingenuity/ willpower, I’ve been able to visit about 20 states and four different countries in the last seven years. I’m hoping to continue to do so and take one giant trip once my loan balance is paid in full.
What are some methods of loan repayment that you find helpful?
Thank you again to Navient for sponsoring this post. All content and opinions expressed here are all my own.