How did I get into all this debt?
I was idealistic and looking for a career in a field where I could be an expert and valued for my knowledge. I loved exercise and was a personal trainer, also teaching capoeira, a Brazilian martial art. I wanted to learn more about the human body and how it worked. Physical therapy was the obvious choice.
I was completely debt-free before I started school.
During school I lived frugally. I was able to live with my parents, which helped with living expenses. I didn’t go out much, didn’t buy clothes, and drove a hand-me-down car from my uncle. I was able to work part-time as a personal trainer during the second two years of school, which helped as well.
I graduated with over $150k in student loan debt.
For someone used to NOT being in debt,this was a huge number. Each semester as I signed the documents to get more loans, I felt a gradual sinking feeling in my stomach. It was such a huge number that it was easier to bury my head in the sand and not really think about the reality of it.
I soothed myself with thoughts about being able to get a job easily, with thoughts that everybody else is going through the same thing, that it was all going to be ok. “I’ll just be paying off these debts for the rest of my life!” It was a joke we all laughed about.
Ok, so that last thought is true! It is all going to be ok.
I didn’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life.
Despite the desire to be debt-free, I wasn’t very invested in paying off all that debt all at once.
I wanted to enjoy my life!
After 5 or so years of working my butt off through school and watching every penny, I wanted to relax and enjoy myself a little. In fact, I did a couple of things that probably prolonged my debt, including taking a year off to get additional training in Australia and India, and a couple years later requesting for a decreased monthly payment while I focused on building a private practice. I’ll write about those adventures more in the future, for now, suffice it to say that while those choices didn’t do much for my debt, they did add a depth and interest to my life that I believe was totally worth it.
About two years ago I fell into a job situation that increased my pay. After 6 years of not particularly making much progress on the loans, I felt it was a good time to start.
I had done some online searching for best ways to pay down debt and came across the debt-snowball method. In this method you pay down the smallest debts first, regardless of interest rate, the idea being that the motivation that comes from knocking out a smaller debt completely is better than the long slow trudge of working on a big debt and not seeing results right away. Do what ever works for you, but for me it was such a rush to see an actual loan get resolved to $0 balance- it motivated me to continue.
That first year I was able to put a total of $2000 per month to those loans, and it felt so good.
Today my loan balance is just under $60,000. It feels so good to be at such a low (!) number!
I’m so happy to have reached this point in my debt journey that I’ve decided to share my experiences with you.
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