Do you want to know my story on paying off $50,000 in student loans in 3 years? If so, keep on reading!
I came to the US in 2001 from a country called Kazakhstan. Right away my parents wanted me to apply myself and really make the best of all the opportunities our new home had to offer. I studied hard, generally got good grades and went to a good college.
My parents are pragmatic and wanted me to stay at home and commute to school to save on costs. I absolutely hated the idea because I thought I would miss out on all the fun. I threw a few tantrums, but in the end I had to concede and began commuting to school everyday. And I was right, I absolutely hated it!
Sophomore year I took matters into my own hands and applied for a student loan to cover the costs of my housing on campus. My parents protested, but this time it was their turn to concede because they saw how unhappy I was. So in September of 2009 I moved into my new dorm which would be my home for the next 3 years. Needless to say I was over the moon!
The First Time I Checked My Balance
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My college experience was excellent and I had a great time. It was a big slap in the face when I checked my balance shortly before I graduated and happiness was replaced with panic! I was $53,000 in debt and my highest job offer was only $45,000. What is worse, during the course of my entire education I never once learned anything about personal finance. I could tell you random facts about marketing and management, I could recite something I learned in history class, but I literally didn’t know how to build a personal budget!
After the initial shock wore off I quickly started doing research and reading up on anything I could get my hands on. My first read was The Richest Man in Babylon which was given to me by a friend and that book literally changed my entire outlook on money. I started to understand the difference between wealth and income. I began to understand the behavior of money and how to make it work in my favor!
On my graduation day I made a pact with myself that I would pay off my student loans in 5 years or less no matter what. I did not want to be entering my late 20s and early 30s still making minimum payments and living paycheck to paycheck. I committed to learning more about personal finance and budgeting.
I didn’t get it right the first time and it took me about a year before I finally settled on a system to keep track of my money. I created a custom Excel sheet where I meticulously kept track of all my expenses down to the penny. I daresay I took it too far at times by foregoing social events because I knew I would end up spending money there. Looking back, it would have been better to take it easy at times and not be so stingy with my money.
In any case, I decided to take the aggressive approach and paid more than double the minimum payment suggested by my lender. I also made the decision to live at home for a while so I could divert additional funds towards my repayment. All in all, the first year after graduation I paid off $21,000 in debt.
I was proud of this achievement, but it came at the cost of not having any savings. I was essentially throwing the majority of my paycheck towards loan repayment and not saving anything for myself or helping my parents. I still look back to this time and thank my good fortune that nothing bad ever happened which would have required a savings cushion!
Paying Off $50,000 in Student Loans
After the lessons, I learned from my first year I toned it down a lot with my loan repayment, but I still paid double from what my lender suggested. I re-balanced my budget to save more money and even started putting a little bit aside to invest in a retirement account. It was a slow process, but a constant one towards being completely debt free.
During this time I learned that consistency is much better than the wild repayment I practiced in my early days. I was able to achieve multiple things at once by being conscious of my budget as opposed to throwing all my money into one basket. If I could go back in time I would have rather paid off less in my first year but would have saved more instead.
Freedom At Last: Paying Off $50,000 in Student Loans
On January 2016 I made my final debt payment! I was ecstatic and literally jumped up and down the house while screaming. My dad thought I was fighting off a burglar. I successfully paid off all my loans in 3.5 years, 1.5 years ahead of schedule.
Something changed inside me that day and I suddenly felt like anything was possible. I no longer needed to have a job that was so demanding just to pay the bills. I started being more relaxed in the workplace which somehow led to me being more respected by my coworkers! I no longer had that fear inside me which makes people do things they don’t like. It was the most liberating feeling ever.
So I decided that it was the right time for me to pursue one of my oldest childhood dreams; traveling the world! I quit my job in May 2016 and after spending the summer selling my stuff and getting things in order, I boarded a one-way flight to Colombia. The plan was to backpack around and use the new-found freedom to pursue my other passion which is writing and creating value. The freedom was intoxicating!
Being Debt Free is More Than Just a Number
Having freedom from debt is one of the most pivotal moments in my life. Paying off $50,000 in student loans debt gave me the courage to pursue my dreams and live life on my own terms. I was no longer afraid to be myself for fear of upsetting my boss or coworkers. It was more than just a zero student loan balance, it was a rebirth.
Having successfully tackled my student debt I feel confident in my ability to make good financial decisions. I’m not worried about making big purchases and major investments because I know I have the skills to succeed. I honestly learned more in the 3.5 year period I was paying my loans than I did in college.
One of the best things anybody can do with their life is to become debt free. Even if you don’t have wild ambitions or a crazy desire to travel the world, your quality of life will increase dramatically.
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Author: Bakhtiyar Baidaralin is the founder of Beat Student Loans and he’s super passionate about helping his fellow millennials with their student debt problems. He graduated college in 2012 with $53,000 in debt and made a vow to himself that he would pay off my loans in under 5 years. The thought of having complete financial freedom absolutely electrified him and he poured all his energy into achieving this goal.