Maybe Matilda: 5 1/2 Little Ways We’re Paying Down our Student Debt

Saturday, July 5, 2014

5 1/2 Little Ways We’re Paying Down our Student Debt

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Capital One 360.

(^the dude on the right belongs to me.)

Sending Jeff to chiropractic school did quite a number on our finances. In the debt department, if we want to get specific. I mean, it was what we wanted to do, it fit into our long-term goals, and I think it was a necessary evil, but that debt—ouch. We actually feel like we escaped school with the smallest amount of debt that was possible for us—we only ever took out the bare minimum needed for tuition, and neither of us had any debt from our undergrads, or consumer debt. But the amount of student debt we did end up with, even though it’s about as low as could be hoped for in the circumstances, it still pretty horrifying. I don’t know if anyone in Hollywood has considered filming a horror show about the student debt experience but I’m calling it, right here, right now. It would strike fear into even the most brave and stalwart of hearts. Mark my words.

Just look at us back then, about to head into the biggest money pit of our lives. So young. So awkward looking. So clueless about the mountain of debt we were about to dive headlong into. Poor little things.

If I’m careful, I can sometimes go days at a time without thinking about the mind-boggling amount of student loans we need to pay off. Those are always a nice series of days. But now that we’ve got our practice off the ground and growing steadily, we’ve gotten serious about getting these loans out of our lives for good. Our goal is to have them paid off in 5 years. It’s kind of a lofty goal, but we’re optimistic about it. We want them gone for good, and the sooner, the better.

I thought I’d share a few of the small ways that seem insignificant but really add up to make progress toward our goal of financial independence. I doubt any of these will be ground-breaking or revolutionary, but they’re simple, no-brainer everyday things that are making a big difference toward paying off those horrible, terrible, no good very bad loans.

1) Plan ahead when shopping. Before grocery shopping, I always plan out a menu for the week and only buy the items needed to restock pantry staples and get what I need for the recipes on the menu (I wrote more about how we save money on groceries HERE). Having a list and a plan for the week’s food means less food waste and less money rotting in the fridge or pantry (metaphorically). If we need to go clothes shopping, we decide what we need ahead of time and take our time finding it at the best price we can. ‘Just browsing’ is a pretty solid way for me to end up buying things I don’t really need, so I always try to plan out specific items we need/want and search for them instead of just wandering through stores, picking up whatever looks good—when that happens, I inevitably end up shopping again way sooner than necessary, because although I may have found things I liked, they aren’t the things I needed.

2) Cut down on impulse purchases. So obvious, but so easy to forget. Because seriously, how big of a deal is that $5 lip gloss that caught my eye in the makeup aisle? or that $10 scarf? or the $7 toy that Forrest will throw a tantrum over when I try to convince him to put it back on the shelf? Individually, they don’t seem like problems, but it only takes a few impulse purchases every month/week to really add up and land a solid blow on our budget. I used to take Forrest out to eat pretty dang often . . . partly for the ease and convenience of getting a cheap meal he would actually eat (dang picky child), and partly just to get him out of the house and get some of his energy out in a fast food play place. This sort of sight here? It’s become much more of a rarity as we’ve gotten serious about our budget. One visit may be cheap, but once we add up all those visits over the course of a few months, or even a year? That little impulse lunch isn’t nearly so little anymore.

5 ways we save money

3) Secondhand all the way. There are definitely some items that don’t make for great thrift store purchases, but there are plenty of things that are just dandy when they’ve been previously owned (such a nice way of putting it, right?). I often joke that the only things in the kids’ closets that haven’t been owned by another kid first are gifts from grandparents. Almost everything my kids wear—honestly, probably 95% of their closets—came from the thrift store, or was given to us when friends’ kids outgrew their clothes, or was purchased on mega-clearance from Kid to Kid (and I recently discovered the budgetary thrill of selling back their used clothes to Kid to Kid and putting that money towards their next season’s wardrobe). Quite a bit of our home décor and furniture is either from thrift stores or hand-me-downs from relatives. But thrift shopping only helps if it goes along with point #1 on my little list here—unnecessary purchases, even from the thrift store, will still mean wasted money, so I generally go thrifting or garage sale-ing or to Kid to Kid with an idea of what I’m hoping to find, and try to avoid getting things that I wasn’t planning on (even if they’re cheap). It’s not a bargain if you didn’t need it in the first place, no matter how cheap it is.

4) Trade services. We’ve been able to save quite a bit of money over the years by trading services when we need/want something done. Back when I worked as a massage therapist, I’d sometimes trade massages for haircuts (and even fun stuff like pedicures or facials). When Forrest was in the midst of his terrible twos and driving me up the wall, he ended up in day care 2 mornings a week so I could have a little time to try and recover my sanity. The teacher was struggling to figure out how to get her son to school everyday since riding the bus wasn’t an option, so I drove him to school every day and Forrest went to daycare for free. Right now, we’re toying with the idea of having a buddy of Jeff’s build us a deck in exchange for chiropractic care. And prep yourself for an oooold picture of me, but it goes without saying that I have been known to swap crochet goodies for all sorts of things (both locally and online, which is always a giant leap of faith but hasn’t bit me in the rear yet), from jewelry to gifts for friends to services (like getting family pictures taken). And of course, my etsy shop has been a great way to earn a little extra cash as well as provide an easy platform to show people what I can offer if they’re interested in trading something for my crochet. An armful of crochet orders on their way to the post office means a fuller wallet and a little more freedom in the budget for me. Win.

5) Remind yourself of the budget. It’s a lot easier to stick to a budget if you’ve got visual reminders handy. We have a budget printout posted on our fridge where we’ll see it every day to remind us to stay on track, and we sit down together each week (ideally) (it doesn’t always happen) to review our spending and saving for the week. And, hand-in-hand with this little tip, is . . .

5 1/2) Remember why you’re doing it. It would be a lot harder to stick to a budget and scrimp and save and say no to things you’d really like to buy/do if there wasn’t a clear end goal in sight. Our main financial goal is to pay off our student debt in 5 years. Just remembering that goal and thinking of the freedom and peace we’ll enjoy once we reach it makes it easier to stick to the plan.

How do YOU save time and money? Capital One 360 is celebrating the everyday ways you save in order to reach financial independence. And by entering the #my360independence sweepstakes and sharing the ways you’re headed toward financial freedom, you’ll be entered to win one of sixty-one $1,776 prizes (see what they did there? clever, very clever). Visit Capital One 360 and submit a photo or post that shares how you reach financial independence, and be entered to win cash prizes!

What’s your biggest financial goal? And what are some things you are doing to reach it?


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Capital One 360.

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  1. I'll never forget the day when we payed off my husband's student loans from pharmacy school. It took 3 years. Sometimes it was hard, there were a lot of fun things we could have bought along the way, but we waited and it was so worth it when we made that final payment!

  2. These are such great tips - I love the idea about trading services. I've never really put much thought into doing that, but it's so smart.

  3. Oh the cuteness! I hope you're compiling all these into a little book for him, cuz he's quite hilarious. Makes me crave Indigo Sprinkles too! ;-)

  4. That is so encouraging to hear! I am so excited for the day we send out our last student loan check.

  5. Oh really, Miss Coolest Interior Designer Ever?

  6. Psh girl you make me blush! Thank you. I will murals for food or whatever services I can get! New motto.

  7. Your boy is hilarious! Kids are so good at making you forget all the words you know " So mama’s hair will all fall out and then she will be bald and then she will turn into a boy?"
    Love it!

  8. ohhhhhmygosh. Forrest is too funny! I think I like his dinner prayer best. :)


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