student loan conqueror | surviving student loans | student loan debt | student debt | debt repayment

Surviving Student Loans is Digging Out of $125k of Student Debt

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Happy Tuesday friends! Today I'm super pumped for another installment of the Student Loan Conqueror Series. Student Loan Conquerors is an interview series. I talk with some awesome people tackling their student loan debt head on. Finding out how they are doing it and what inspired them to start in the first place.

If you are interested in participating, please contact me and share a little information about your student loan debt situation. 

Today I'm excited to have Rebecca from Surviving Student Loans sharing how she is working to pay off $125k of student loan debt. Rebecca is an avid wildlife lover and a travel addict. She graduated with a Masters in Conservation and Biodiversity from the University of Exeter in England. She is working hard to pay off her student loans as quickly as possible and hopes to inspire others to do the same. You can read more about her story on her website Surviving Student Loans.

Now on to the interview!

When did you graduate and with what degree?

I actually graduated twice. I graduated in December 2012 with my Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Studies from a state university and in September 2014 with my Master’s Degree in Conservation and Biodiversity from a university in England.


What was the maximum amount of student loans you owed and where do you stand now?

This is a hard question to answer because I owe the maximum right now. I took out $57K for undergraduate and $40K for graduate school for a total of $97K. Now, with all the interest that accrued while I was in school and after I graduated I owe $125K! That seems crazy, especially since I have been making payments for at least two years. 

editor's note: Same girl same.

via GIPHY

When did you start to focus on your student loans and what motivated you to do so?

I started focusing on my student loans when I realized how long it would take to pay them off and how much interest I would pay in that time. It would double my owed amount or more if I took my time paying them off. It just isn’t worth it. I want to be able to live a full happy life without student debt.

What is the one action you’ve taken that has made the biggest difference in your finances?

Sacrificing my dream job for one that pays better. It is sad, but I can’t work in wildlife conservation right now because it is so highly competitive even for the $12/hr jobs.

I took a job with a university that has great benefits and excellent pay. The good news is that I am still in the scientific field, so hopefully I am gaining skills that will help me switch to my dream career one day.

What are your long and short term plans to pay off your debt? (action steps you’re taking)

My short term plan is to pay off remaining credit card debt and to not accrue any more. I backslid a little this year while planning my wedding for next year and starting my blog. 

After that, I will attack my Private student loan because it has a variable interest rate which could potentially keep rising. It also has the least amount of benefits. Finally, I will attack the highest interest rate Federal loans which will save me the most money. 

Did you ever consider refinancing/ consolidating? Did you go through with either, why or why not?

Yes, I did refinance my Private loan in 2016 from 10% to 5.5% interest. I was tired of over 60% of my payment going to just interest. I felt like I was making no progress on my Private loan. However, I did not refinance my Federal loans because I didn’t want to lose my benefits and my interest rate on those weren’t as high. You can read about the Pro’s and Con’s I considered before I refinanced my loan.

Recommended Refinancing Company

If you have private loans or your debt to income ratio allows, consider refinancing with a company like SoFi. Learn more about what it's like to refinance with Sofi. Refinancing my bar loan with SoFi ended up saving me over $1,000. Use my link to refinance your student loan and you'll get a $100 bonus. 

What is the best piece of financial advice you’ve received? 

Start a budget! I was pretty all over the place with money until I started a budget. Now I can easily see where my money is going and I can limit my spending on any frivolous things. I prioritize my debt payments which has helped me pay off a lot of debt the last two years. I even bought and paid off my car in two years!

Best Budgeting Tool

There are tons of budgeting tools and apps, after trying Mint, I turned to YNAB and finally got my budget under control. Since my money wasn't changing much I went on to budget with a spreadsheet. Until, I became self-employed and had to figure out budgeting with an irregular income. I once again turned to YNAB and have finally gotten back on track, not to mention I LOVE all the new updates. My favorite new feature is the ability to set goals for either a set amount or an amount by a certain date, so you can see if your saving is on track. 

If you want to check it out YNAB offers a free 34 day trial so you actually have time to figure out if you like it and if it will work well for you. ​

What is one piece of advice you would give to others paying down student loans?

Attack you highest interest rate loans first. It may not give you the quickest “win” but it will save you so much money in the long run. Student loan interest is horrible and it keeps accruing no matter what.

If you could do it all over again, would you? Why or why not?

I would still go for my degrees but I would do things differently. At times I went to school part-time. This only made my interest grow. I also would have made payments while I was in school to help pay down accruing interest.

Are you actually utilizing your degree? If not, why not?

Yes and no. Yes, I have a science career at a university and my degree helped get me the job, however it is not what I thought I would be doing. Ideally, I would be working for the Department of Natural Resources or another wildlife agency. My degree is essential to getting that kind of career, so once my debt is paid down I will be utilizing my degree fully.

Anything you’d like to share with LDMW readers?

Short term sacrifices create long term benefits. Work hard towards paying down your student loans so that you can be free of them sooner rather than later. You will be able to do so much more without the weight of them on your shoulders (or on your credit report). 

The End. Thank You Surviving Student Loans!

Thank you Rebecca! I appreciate you taking the time to participate in the Student Loan Conqueror Series and good luck with repaying your debt! You can learn more about Rebecca at her blog Surviving Student Loans

Money tools & resources i recommend

Chime (for saving) works by starting a spending account (takes 5 minutes) and opting into the automatic savings plan. (Learn more about getting started with Chime).  Every time I use the Chime Debit Card it rounds up my purchase to the nearest dollar and puts in in savings. Right now they also offer a double round-up bonus on those savings. All those withdrawals add up over time. Chime is free to use, with no monthly fees. With Chime, you end up saving money without having to think about it.

Qapital (for building savings & reaching money goals) Qapital can help you reach savings goals. Once you have the Qapital App installed and a bank account (or in my case three) connected you set up a goal or goals.  Then you set savings rules for each of your goals. For example, I have a round up to the nearest $2 rule, a guilty spending rule -when I buy Dominos. Qapital is free to useBonus, when you use my link you'll get $5 after your first savings.

Qoins (for debt repayment) When you sign up for Qoins, you connect your bank account and then spend as you normally would. Qoins will round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and put that change towards an extra debt payment. Learn more on How Qoins Can Help You Pay Off Debt Faster

student loan conqueror | surviving student loans | student loan debt | student debt | debt repayment
student loan conqueror | surviving student loans | student loan debt | student debt | debt repayment
student loan conqueror | surviving student loans | student loan debt | student debt | debt repayment

Liz

Liz is a writer for hire, specializing in personal finance, entrepreneurship, and legal issues. She shares her own journey to debt freedom and helps graduates dealing with above average student loan debt on her site, Less Debt More Wine. She currently resides in NC after calling Massachusetts home for nearly a decade.

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