Game-Changing Decisions that Helped Us Pay Off Student Loans

When we started our journey, our student loans totaled more than 3x our annual income.

You read that correctly. At the time that my husband and I got married, our student loan total was more than 3x our annual income. THREE TIMES.

However, when it comes to making goals and following through, we both knew that it was going to be worth the peace of mind. We were going to be SO proud of ourselves.

What that meant was that we were staring at a VERY large – seemingly impossible – task of paying off our debt before buying a home.

So we decided to start by putting every spare penny towards our student debt.

Three Rules for Paying Off Student Loans Quickly

There were three rules we set in place at the start of our debt payoff journey.

Rule 1: We Communicate AND THEN Over Communicate our Goals

When you forget the WHY behind your dreams, you quickly get off track. We talked through our game plan almost weekly. YES – it was annoying.

However, the more we talked about it, the brighter the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to be.

If you don’t believe in your goal enough to discuss it – basically – to death, then you probably won’t make it to the finish line.

Rule 2: We Work REALLY Hard – with a Focus on Work-Life Balance

When you go to work, you go to work. Standing out by working hard helps you to reach goals in two ways:

REAL LIFE TIP: Always document your successes at work in whatever way you can. If I didn’t keep track of my best work, I doubt I would have had as much success in getting better jobs throughout this journey. When I sat down at a job interview, I had a portfolio of examples to use to back me up.

Rule 3: We REFUSE to Let Other People’s Lives Change Our Plan

Oh man. Our friends & family members were buying houses, having babies, taking trips, and more. We were staying home, eating mac n cheese for dinner, and watching a lot of movies for “date night”.

We were constantly reviewing our WHY and reminding ourselves that we were making different choices for a reason.

Refusing to change direction out of impatience or jealousy was tough at times – but it’s been a few years of funny stories and memories that we’ll treasure later in life. (at least we hope so, right?)

Crucial Career Decisions that Grew Our Income

My husband and I were both fortunate enough to find jobs after college that (at least somewhat) related to our areas of study.

Don’t get me wrong — we definitely didn’t end up with our dream jobs right off the bat. In fact, it’s safe to say we are nowhere near there yet.

We grew our income by focusing on being hard workers – but also by being willing to do the work we were asked to do, even if it didn’t make us feel excited.

As I mentioned above, we were pretty firm about keeping a healthy work-life balance. However, when the time came to put in the extra hours, our goals meant that we were ready to make ourselves valuable.

In my experience, there are two key goals to moving up in a new job:

  • Being willing to do the work – with enthusiasm.
  • Making yourself valuable to other people on your team.

Between the two of us (mostly me), there were several job changes and tough conversations with bosses. We had to gather up some bravery and take initiative to make decisions that supported our goals and our future.

A student debt-free future!

How Changing Jobs Helped Us Pay off Debt

So changing jobs: it sucks, right?

One huge upside for us has been increased potential for a higher paycheck whenever we’ve made the jump. That is, assuming you’ve done a few things in the correct order.

Some people get hired at a company and stay there for a LONG time. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think that if you find a great company that supports you and your career goals, you should absolutely stay put!

However, there are certainly some benefits to jumping jobs every couple years: namely, increases in salary.

Rarely will you move from one job to the next without attempting to attain some sort of additional benefit. It may be salary, 401(k) matching, better insurance, or even just a better company culture.

Luckily for our debt payoff goals, my job changes always came with both an improvement in company culture and an increase in salary.

Plan to Keep Learning to Grow Your Income

It’s always uncomfortable to get a new job, but learning new things is humbling. It’s good for our brains. (Especially if you have a tendency to be a know-it-all like me) It also turned out to be great for our student loan payoff plan.

Millennials change jobs all the time — anyone else tired of hearing about that? It’s true, and it’s expected these days. Don’t stay in a job that doesn’t offer growth for you just to avoid the classic “millennial” stereotype.

For more inspiration and student debt blogs, check out these other faves:

5 Things to Cut From Your Budget this Month

Can a Saver REALLY Survive Marriage with a Spender?

Money Lessons I Learned from The Sims

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