How to Pay off Your Student Loans in Seven Months
Judah graduated from Central Washington University in May of 2017. Earlier this month, January 2018, he made his last student loan payment. Judah is 20 years old, holds a bachelor’s degree in Law & Justice, and is employed by the Washington State Patrol. He couldn’t be on a better track for a successful, debt-free life.
Here’s how he did it.
Minimize You Loans
In Washington State, we have Running Start an amazing dual enrollment program that allows juniors and seniors in high school to enroll in community college. In the case of homeschoolers, they can earn their high school diploma while earning college credit, or even an Associate of Arts degree (as our children have done).
Judah graduated from high school, with an AA degree, at age 17 (he has a summer birthday). This meant he only had to attend university for two years to complete his bachelor’s degree (in Law and Justice…if you care). This literally cut his student loans in half.
Work During Every Break
Yes, I mean every break.
Judah worked during every single break he had while attending university. He didn’t view spring break as an opportunity to party or winter break as a time to relax. In fact, on some breaks, he worked two different jobs. As soon as he turned eighteen he got his flagging certificate and worked long grueling hours all summer long. On breaks, Judah picked up work at both former jobs. He did the work of contacting them ahead of time and working out a schedule that worked for them all.
Learn to be thrifty.
Coming from a large family is definitely a bonus here. Judah has watched me plan inexpensive meals and be thrifty when buying clothes for him and his siblings. Judah’s first semester he signed him up for the largest meal plan. Judah quickly realized that the plan was more than adequate so moving forward he chose the smaller meal plan, saving money.
Judah doesn’t own a smartphone. He has a flip phone that costs $12 a month.
Take Advantage of Work Study Programs
One way Judah kept his loans and expenses to a minimum was by signing up for work-study. Judah worked in the office the psychology department which gave him skills that helped him get his job as a dispatcher for the State Patrol. Studies show kids who work through college actually do better than kids who don’t!
Live at Home
Even if that means sharing a tiny bedroom with your 17-year-old brother.
Believe me, there are days when Judah would prefer not sharing a bedroom with his brother, a single bathroom with ten other people, and would love some peace and quiet after working nights (or early mornings). The trade-off? Living rent-free as long as he focuses on paying off his student loans.
Don’t Buy a Car
Until you absolutely have to.
Judah spent his entire two years (five hours away) at university without a car. He had a bike, his own two legs, and the friends he made. This meant he didn’t need to spend money on insurance, gas, or maintenance. This, alone, saved him hundreds (thousands?) of dollars.
Teach the Value of Hard Work
When Judah came and told me he had made his last payment on his student loans (and I hugged him and did a happy dance) he said, “I know you think that having to work during university made me value it more, but really? I think it’s just the way you raised us”. Take that however you want, but we do believe strongly in teaching our kids to work.
Find a Job (Any Job)
I could say that Judah was lucky to find a job right out of college, but more than luck went into it. Judah studied hard, got excellent grades, and graduated with honors. He was chosen more than once to give speeches in his field and was chosen to speak at his commencement ceremony. He was part of the Douglas Honors College at CWU. Judah’s hard work set him apart from other applicants. So, maybe a little bit of luck was involved but that “luck” wouldn’t have happened without his hard work.
And before Judah was offered a job with the State Patrol? He went back to the construction company he worked for in the summer and worked as many hours as he could (including working out of town).
Now, we are encouraging Judah to save up and buy a car, have an emergency fund, and first and last month’s rent. Right now he is looking at rental prices near work and making a budget.
And us? We couldn’t be prouder.