Here’s some truth… I graduated from college 10 years ago. To say that out loud makes me feel so old. In a lot of ways, I feel like I just graduated + I am still ‘young and hip and cool’ like I was in my early 20’s. However, I am happy to no longer be looked at like the green college graduate anymore. I’ve developed a strong sense of self through life experiences + matured to a (hopefully) better version of myself. College was really good to me though. It was way better + more fulfilling than high school ever was. I not only met some of my closest girlfriends but I  graduated at top of my class + paid for the entirety of education myself.

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Well, I didn’t exactly write a check and pay in-full. Like many of you, I took out student loans to cover the majority of my college tuition. I did put a few semester of books on my credit card because my loans would not cover it all. Yet, after 10 years… 10 LONG YEARS… of making monthly payments, I finally paid them off!

This past month, I submitted my very last student loan payment. I totally did a celebratory dance in my dining room the moment I hit the ‘submit’ button + I even made ryan give me a high-five. It was such an awesome feeling to know that I financed my education + took the steps to pay it off. Not only did I have to apply for all the grants/loans after getting accepted to school, I then went through the grueling process of consolidating my loans once I graduated.

Getting a college degree is an accomplishment in its own right but the pride I have in paying that debt off, is hard to put into words. If I had to compare it to something, it would be similar to buying my very first car at 19. While ryan + I are still a few years away from paying off his college loans, I am so proud of the financial strides we have made. I firmly believe my education has helped me on many levels + I know ryan’s education has too, hands-down. I truly have so much to be grateful for and this one financial milestone is just one more accomplishment to add to my list.

Do you have financial debt that feels like a lingering cloud over your head? While I am the last thing from a financial expert, here are a few tips to consider when paying off debt:

Consolidate: having multiple loans with varying interest rates is overwhelming. By consolidating your loans you will only have to make 1 monthly payment +  you will have a fixed interest rate. Additionally, you can defer your payments (with federal consolidated loans) if you need to job search or experience financial hardship.

Treat your bills like your mortgage: you never want to miss a payment. Doing so could put you in contention of delinquency or default. If you treat your debt like your mortgage/rent, you’re more likely to pay it on time. Likewise, if you can pay even a little over the monthly payment, it will cut down on principle. Paying down your principle cuts down on interest faster. I accidentally paid my student loan twice in 1 month (multiple times… oops!) but it was a happy accident in the long run.

Keep sight of your long-term financial goals: while paying off your debt is a major victory + end goal, setting yourself up for financial success is equally important. Continue to contribute to your 401(k), pay  your monthly bills + set aside money for an ’emergency fund’ if need-be.

Take advantage of tax deductions: you can deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest on your taxes if the loans are from an accredited source. If mom + dad loaned you the $$$, this does not apply. For all the details + specifics, read this helpful article.

Make a budget: sit down and figure out exactly how much you bring in + owe, each month. If your priority is to pay off your debt, give yourself an allowance to go towards entertainment, dining out + shopping. When we was saving up for a down payment on our 1st house, we literally pulled $100 in cash out of the bank every 2 weeks and made this our ‘fun money’. Anything we want to buy outside of bills, gas + groceries came from this fund. Ryan + I were able to prioritize our goals and hold ourselves accountable. While our social calendar slowed down (and my shopping came to a near halt), I appreciated my purchases that much more.

Stay positive. While taking on debt at a young age can seem daunting, don’t let your spirits falter. Chip away and work towards your end goal. It will pay off and your debt will begin to decrease steadily. 10 years was a major life commitment but I have never been more proud of myself. Keep your eye on the prize!

Written by Jaime

South on Broadway is a Denver based food + lifestyle blog for lovers of food, fashion and design. a destination for daily inspiration

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