Debt Update: 2 Months Until Freedom

My debt is almost gone. Five months ago, I had $13,000 in student loans. Today, that number is less than $4,000.

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 10.48.45 AM

 

In two months, I will be 100% debt free. For the rest of my life, my money will be mine. It won’t belong to a bank, the government or a credit card. It will belong to me.

In many ways, it feels surreal. After all, my entire post-college working life (all 7 months of it) has been shadowed by debt. Each paycheck was sliced in two as I made aggressive loan payments and built a small emergency fund.

I’ve thought about my debt a lot. In fact, I probably think about it at least once a day. Sometimes it feels like my life is on hold until it is paid. But other times, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come.

 

$10,000 paid off in 5 months.

 

I know that I’m in the home stretch now and it’s finally feeling real. Even though it’s been stressful, the truth is that I’m still thankful for my debt and that will never change. In many ways, I feel more thankful than ever:

 

1. My Earning Potential is Limitless

Before I got serious about paying off my loans, I thought that my earning potential was defined by how much a company would pay me. During college, I dipped my toes in freelance writing, but my earnings were small. Once I got serious about paying off my debt, I knew that I needed to earn more…a lot more.

I did some research and found that earning a significant amount of money through “side hustles” is entirely possible and honestly, it’s changed the way I think about money. I still work a full-time office job (that I enjoy!) but the company I work for no longer defines my earnings.

In February, my “side” earnings from freelance writing and social media management will hit $1000.

If someone had told me that was possible when I was in college, I would have laughed and thought they were insane. But it turns out, it’s entirely possible. $1000 in extra cash?! UM, YES PLEASE.

But what’s even better than earning extra money is the feeling of control that accompanies it. I’m in control of my destiny—financial and otherwise, and that’s the best feeling in the world.

 

2. I Can Live (Happily) on Less

When I made the decision to aggressively pay off my loans, I knew that I needed to keep my spending low as low as possible. BUT, I also knew that extreme budgeting or deprivation would lead to a spending binge. So I learned to create a sustainable budget with “fun” money budgeted in.

But even beyond that, I was never too strict with myself. If I wanted to buy something extra one month, I did. There was no guilt or shame. Instead, I tryto always approach my spending desires from a place of acceptance and understanding.

The result is that I’ve learned to happily live on less. I’ve lived on less before and it wasn’t fun (or sustainable) because it was driven by fear, necessity and shame. But this time has been different. I want to be debt free so badly, but I want to be happy and healthy even more.

3. Everything Happens in Time

When I was in college, I never would have believed this was possible. In fact, I thought that my loans would haunt me for life. (Yep, even though they were “only” $13,000) At the time, $13,000 was more than I had ever made in a single year and it felt utterly impossible to pay off such a big amount in a year, let alone 7 months!

But paying off my debt has shown me that everything happens in time. The things that felt impossible last year now feel simple and that’s a trend I hope to accomplish throughout the rest of my life: constantly pushing myself to be better.

 2 months until freedom!
2 months until freedom!

Okay, so the lessons learned are awesome. But what about the fun part…what will I do when I’m finally done?

Although it’s a little taboo in certain financial circles, the truth is that there are some things I’m super excited to buy when I’m done paying my student loans in March.

There are a lot more than the ones listed below (K-cups! Perfume! New couch pillows!). But, these are three I am most excited about:

 

Exploring the streets of London in December 2015
Exploring the streets of London in December 2015

 

1. Vacation

I love travelling and like most Millennials (we’re awesome, what can I say?) I believe that traveling is critical to a happy and healthy life. While I was paying off my loans, I was still able to travel a bit and visited London, South Carolina and San Francisco. But my travel rewards credit cards are brimming with points and I’m excited to expand my destinations once I’m finished. The top places on my list? Mexico, Italy and New York City.

 

IMG_3119
Mimosa flights (aka: My greatest weakness)

 

2. Brunch

I’m a sucker for brunches (especially ones with mimosa flights….) but I’ve curbed my brunch cravings quite a bit in past few months so I could focus on my loans. I can’t wait to indulge in brunch more regularly once I’m finally free.

 

3. Freedom

This is definitely the one I’m most excited about. I cannot wait to build my savings, invest and create a killer nest egg. When money is taken care of, life is infinitely easier. After all, how can I plot world domination if I’m concerned about next month’s rent? 😉

 

What are the indulgences that you couldn’t live without? Any advice for what to do when I’m finally free? If you’re still paying off debt, what would YOU do once it’s gone? I would love to hear from you!

 

 

26 thoughts on “Debt Update: 2 Months Until Freedom

  1. Claudia @ Two Cup House says:

    Congratulations on being so close to your goal! If I were a year out of college again, I would have worked to save half (or more) of my income to be FI and pursue other interests. I’m going to write about this soon, but from a different perspective than having freedom and options. 😉

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  2. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure says:

    This is great because I’m a firm believer in spending money where money is worthwhile to you. This whole debt repayment journey has made you realize that Brunches are part of that list for you! We each have our own list of things that are “worth it” to us but wouldn’t make any sense to anyone else. I’m super excited for you in the next two months! YAY DEBT FREEDOM!

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    1. Taylor says:

      I totally agree! Brunches (and especially mimosa flights) will always be on my list of things that are just worth it 😉 Thank you for the encouragement! I can’t wait 🙂

      Like

  3. Matt @ The Resume Gap says:

    This is awesome! There are people out there fleeing the country because of $30-40k in student loans ( http://www.vice.com/read/talking-to-american-debt-dodgers-who-moved-to-europe-to-avoid-paying-off-their-student-loans-111 ), and here you’re crushing your debt in just a few months. Very inspirational!

    It’s totally taboo in the personal finance circle, but I’m all for the little rewards to celebrate. Debt warrants a lot of lifestyle sacrifices until it’s gone… but then I think you’re in the clear to let some mimosas pour!

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    1. Taylor says:

      Thanks, Matt 🙂 That article is insane! The burden of student loans is super intense, especially emotionally. In case you can’t tell, I’m super excited to be done 😉 I can’t wait for ALLLLL the mimosas! haha. Also, I’m really looking forward to your next installment about how you achieved FI with your partner so young. Super inspirational and once again, congratulations!

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  4. John says:

    Congratulations on your huge debt reduction and being so close to completion. It’s amazing how much we can accomplish when we set a goal and stick with it. Not always easy……but always rewarding!

    Keep it up and finish strong. You’ll love being debt free!

    John

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    1. Taylor says:

      Thank you, Melanie! Your journey has been a HUGE inspiration to me. And oh my goodness. Italy with your mom?! That sounds like a dream! I can’t wait to hear about it and see all the pictures 🙂

      Like

  5. Alyssa says:

    AHHHHHH! I’m so frikken proud of you. You’ve done it so quickly, and your willpower is extremely spot on. Thank you for letting us follow this journey with you. I’m looking forward to hearing of all your new goals and travel experiences.

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    1. Taylor says:

      THANK YOU, ALYSSA 🙂 Your support means the world to me and following along on your amazing debt repayment provided SO much inspiration. Can’t wait to see where 2016 takes you 🙂

      Like

  6. Sarah Noelle @ The Yachtless says:

    Ahhh, so exciting, Taylor! I’m so happy for you that you’ll be free of debt so soon!!! $10,000 in five months is an amazing feat. Also, that’s awesome that your side earning endeavors are going so well. I really need to start getting serious about that stuff in the very near future. Also, I’m glad you posted some more photos! It’s always exciting to get a better idea of what bloggers look like in “real life”. 🙂

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    1. Taylor says:

      Thank you, Sarah 🙂 I have no doubt that you will bust out your loans just as fast, if not faster! If you ever want to chat about side hustles, please feel free to email me (taylor.milm [at] gmail.com) I would love to have an accountability partner 🙂

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  7. Alyssa @ GenerationYRA says:

    Congrats, Taylor!! You are so close & that is incredible!! I am so happy to hear that you’ve been able to find a healthy & happy balance while paying off debt. 🙂 Also, kudos to such great earnings with your side hustle! I could only imagine that number will keep increasing. When you’re finally debt free, remember and/or write down how you feel in that exact moment. Attempt not to reflect on the stresses of the past, or fast-forward to the future, how do you feel in that given time. I can imagine it is going to be one filled with euphoria. 🙂

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    1. Taylor says:

      Ahhh, I love this so much, Alysssa! Your advice is always so spot on and makes me thinks about things in new ways. I think it’s so easy (and tempting) to think about things in terms of where we’ve been and where we’re going, but you’re totally right—the present moment is so powerful and is what I’ve been working for. I can’t wait to soak it all in 🙂 Thanks for the reminder!

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  8. Our Next Life says:

    You’re SO CLOSE! It’s going to feel so incredible to slay that dragon once and for all. I think it’s totally fair to do a little more with your money once your loans are gone — you live such a frugal lifestyle currently, so upping it a smidge is not going to lead you to financial ruin. Travel is something you will never, ever regret, as you already know. 🙂

    Like

    1. Taylor says:

      Thank you, ONL! I really appreciate all of your support 🙂 I can’t wait to indulge a teensy bit more once my loans are gone 😉 And YES, travel is something I cannot wait to submerse myself in. So excited for so many trips in the next few years!

      Like

  9. Jim Wang says:

    Great to see your progress! So many things in life are about mindset and earning is certainly one of them, it’s awesome you “saw the light” at a much earlier age than many folks! So close!

    Like

    1. Taylor says:

      Thanks, Jim! Switching my mindset about earning has definitely been the craziest (and most enlightening) part of the entire journey. Also, I LOVED your So Money episode. It was great to learn more about you, your journey and your family 🙂 It made me even more excited to see what you accomplish with Wallet Hacks!

      Like

    1. Taylor says:

      Thank you, Anum! And thank you for stopping by. (I’ve been silently reading your blog for months now and love all of your content!) I can’t wait to be done and eat ALLLLLL the brunch 😉

      Like

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