I found the above e-mail in my inbox last week. It’s a note from Navient, the student loan company, congratulating me on the progress I’ve made with paying back my loans. As you may know, paying off my student loans is my number one goal for the year. While it’s nice that Navient’s algorithm picked me as one of the individuals to commend and to seek a success story from, I have to say that I’m not quite where I wanted to be. I was hoping to have paid off a little more than I have by this time of the year. However, as gingsnaps on Instagram was kind enough to remind me, “smaller steps towards your goals are better than none at all.”
I won’t be sharing my “success story” with Navient (thank you for asking!), but I’d like to share some of the things that are helping me tackle this debt.
1. Having this debt at the forefront of my mind.
There is no day that goes by without me thinking about my student loans. I made a list of the things I want to accomplish this year and I review it pretty much every day. It’s on the door of my closet, right on the inside, so it’s hard to miss it in the morning. The background photo of my phone is my student loan balance from the beginning of the year. Naturally, each time I use my phone, I see it. I also have a chart on my wall that tracks my balance at the end of each month.
While this may sound weird and a little whacky, it helps me keep my focus. Everything I do financially is weighed against my goal of being debt free. For instance, the 10 year old laptop I’m typing this on is literally falling apart. Some letters and arrows on the keyboard haven’t worked in years. My screen is unhinged on one side and is being held up by a pillow. However, as long as the laptop is still up and running, allowing me to do what I need to do, I refuse to replace it. Some people think I’m crazy, but hey, crazy is working for me so I’m good!
2. Keeping expenses low
The only expenses I have other than my student loans are rent, electricity, cell phone, internet and food/household product expenses. Even though my spending is very predictable, I create a budget every month to help me keep track of everything. I don’t eat out, I don’t pay for entertainment and I don’t travel at all. I tend to be a homebody anyway, but when I do go out, I tend to find free things to do. I love to read so I get all my books from the library. Keeping my expenses low allows me to throw much of my income at my debt each month.
3. Tracking my net worth
At the beginning of the year, I had a negative net worth. Right now, despite the student loan balance I have yet to pay, my net worth is positive. Seeing the numbers rise each month is extremely motivating. I’m not investing much, only enough to get the company 401K match, so it’s gratifying to witness how consistently chipping away at the loans is the primary reason I’m no longer in the red. I can only imagine how much further my money will grow once all the debt is gone. I’m looking forward to switching the recipients of my cash from Navient to Vanguard.
Despite all the progress I’ve made, I’m not sure that I’ll have eliminated all my debt by the end of the year. I experienced a “setback” a few months ago, which resulted in me not receiving some cash that I expected to come my way. In order to meet my goal, I need additional income. I’m evaluating my employment options right now and I’m also working on a side business. There are still seven months left to make things happen.
How are your goals for the year coming along?