I paid off my student loans 7 years early after calling my servicer

  • I graduated from college with $28,000 in student loans. My minimum student loan payment was $350 per month, which was 20% of my net pay.
  • I called my student loan officer to find out what would happen if I paid an extra $10 a month and they told me my debt repayment would take a full year. I could not believe it.
  • I wanted to get out of debt as quickly as possible, and that moment changed the way I handle money. It made me realize that the way I was spending my money, even just a few dollars, could change my future for the better.
  • I started changing the way I managed my money and paid off my loans in three years instead of ten.
  • Request a free quote from our partner SoFi to see how much money refinancing your student loans could save you »

I graduated from college with $28,000 student loans. That might seem like pennies to some, but I wasn’t exactly rolling in dough. As an entry-level newspaper reporter, $28,000 was also my starting salary.

When you’re barely shrieking from month to month, it’s easy to feel trapped by your debt. But as I soon found, a tiny shift in approach—and mindset—was all it took Having control over my financial situation.

When I discovered that $10 could get me out of debt

My minimum student loan payment was $350 per month, which was 20% of my net pay. After rent, gas, utilities, groceries, and my loans, there was very little left at the end of each month.

According to checking my budget, I decided to spend an extra $10 each month on my student loans. It seemed like a drop in the bucket, but I decided to call my student loan provider to see how much of a difference it would really make.

The customer service rep said that paying an extra $10 a month would mean I would pay off my loans in nine years instead of 10. I was surprised. I couldn’t believe that a measly $10, the cost of a movie ticket, would have such a big impact on my student loan timeline.

I wanted to get out of debt as quickly as possible, and that moment changed the way I handle money. It made me realize that the way I was spending my money, even just a few dollars, could change my future for the better.

I finally felt like I had my finances under control

After that revelation, I felt in control of my finances for the first time since graduating from college. Instead of a prison, my debt felt like a weight holding me back — and I finally understood how to lighten the load.

I decided to change my wasteful behavior and examined how often I turned to shopping therapy when I was sad or bored. Bad day at the office? That meant a trip to Urban Outfitters for a few items that I may or may not wear. Miss my long distance friend? That meant buying a pint of Ben & Jerry’s to eat in one sitting.

Now my number one goal was to get out of debt and I was willing to do anything to get there.

I started letting go of my brand obsessions. Instead of going to Sephora for makeup and skincare, I found similar products at the drugstore. Instead of buying new books, I borrowed them from the library. I’ve printed coupons and used Groupon at restaurants and salons. I also started finding ways to make more money such as taking online surveys or joining new banks to get the sign up bonus.

My editor even let me start blogging about my personal financial journey for the newspaper’s website. When I finally got a new job, I started my own blog. Writing about money has become my current full-time career.

That $10 sparked a lot of small changes, but most importantly, it made me realize what’s really worth paying for. It was like that then Financial Freedom and become debt free. Now I travel abroad and renovate my home.

When I got a new job, I added the raise to my student loan. A year later I moved in with my boyfriend and a mutual friend. By then I was putting 50% of my net salary into my debt. Three years after my first student loan payment, I was debt-free.

I almost went too far the other way

After seeing the difference $10 could make, I was determined to skimp and save wherever I could. Very quickly, I went from someone who cared about saving money to someone consumed by it.

I once spent 15 minutes agonizing over a Redbox movie rental company and deciding if I should spend $1 on a movie. Every dollar counts, I told myself.

I found it difficult to allow myself small indulgences like a 75-cent candy bar at the vending machine. I would beat myself up for all my past money mistakes and keep thinking about reckless purchases I made years ago.

My obsession with money began to make me unhappy. I refused to buy things that I knew would make me happy, like a gym membership or art classes. I was depressed and wanted to do therapy again but told me it wasn’t worth the cost.

I also avoided doing things with friends, like going out for drinks or going to a concert. If someone wanted to hang out, I would either push for cheap activities or not participate.

Since I was very conscious of my financial situation, I also secretly made myself jealous of others around me. “Must be nice not worrying about your student loans,” became my constant internal refrain.

Even after I paid off my student loan, the stinginess continued for years. It took me a while to break free from the scarcity mentality I had developed.

Eventually I reached an equilibrium. I went back to therapy, had dinner with co-workers, and had fun with fun things. Now, five years after paying off my student loan, I finally have a healthy relationship with money.

Request a free quote from our partner SoFi to see how much money refinancing your student loans could save you »

About Gloria Skelton

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