Let’s talk about student loan debt! My husband and I have been working to pay off our $100,000 student loan debt since 2016. This is all from Tyler’s undergrad and graduate schooling. When Tyler graduated from college in 2016, we were engaged. I knew about the debt he was going to have from college, and I knew the plans he had to go to graduate school. Knowing we would not be able to afford to cash flow each semester on just my teacher income, we took out loans. None of the zeros behind the one came as a surprise to me, but it definitely feels like a chain. I defintely feel bound by these loans. They are very inconvenient. They are not wanted in our house.
My dad has always listened to Dave Ramsey, and has taught me the principals throughout the years. If you are interested in Dave and his financial messages, I would go to his site and try out Financial Peace University. He has a free 14-day trial going on with it right now. Our pre-marital counselor also gave us financial advice that aligns with Dave’s plan.
Before we got married, I had $18K in my savings. This was money I had saved during my 20 years of life whether it be from working my mom’s consignment, babysitting, selling jewelry, painting and selling furniture, dog-sitting, birthday/Christmas gift money, etc. That was what I had. Though this is not in alignment with Dave’s plan, I put $16K of that towards Tyler’s loans a month before we were married. If I had been listening to Dave, and any other sound advice, I would have waited a few more months to do this action after we were married, just to be safe. Thankfully Tyler held up his promise, and married me. But, I would not suggest giving that type of money to a boyfriend/girlfriend or even fiancé. Wait until after the wedding. Nevertheless, it has worked out.
The first five months of marriage, Tyler worked as many jobs as possible and I student taught. Even with him working three jobs, he was making less than $1,400 a month. He was working jobs that he hoped would help him get into graduate school. And we think that they really did help him get into graduate school at UAB. We joke that he could have made more working at Hobby Lobby or Walmart, but instead he worked as a patient care assistant, personal fitness coach, and direct care staff member at group home. He worked everyday of the week—well over 40 hours. In addition to working at a local farm hauling plants and prepping for pumpkin season, I also began tutoring students on the side. Tutoriing was a fun gig that paid me for doing what I really enjoyed doing—teaching kids. But, we lived on next to nothing.
Our rent was only $445 a month and our grocery budget was $150. We lived near my parents and grandparents who fed us often. We were paying off student loans as much as we could squeeze out each month. I remember getting physically sick of Zaxby’s fried chicken, because we had so many coupons and giftcards for there, we would eat it multiple times a week. I was so exhausted from student teaching to cook/add to the dishes in the sink, so it was easy. Every Sunday we would bring our church bulletin and get a large Pizza for $5 from Papa Murphy’s. We had little hacks like this that we used every week to get by.
In July 2017, eight months after we got married, we moved to Birmingham for Tyler to go to graduate school at UAB. Looking back, we could have done a lot better financially. We got lax. We still lived as if we were broke, but we were not very intentional with ever dollar we spent. We deferred our loans since he was in school, and would just cash flow (this means paying with cash) what we could of graduate school expenses. We finally tightened up the last semester (August 2019) and paid for his the whole semester in full. That was exciting. No more loans!
In August 2019, I started listening to The Dave Ramsey show everyday. That is about three hours of Dave a day. He is now a part of my coping methods when I get stressed. If I feel sad or overwhelmed about something, I’ll go turn on Dave. Tyler can attest to this strategy. Not sure how healthy that is; however, we took a four day vacation to Florida for $900 whenever I got on this Dave kick fully. Our $900 included food, gas, stay, etc. We stayed at an amazing AirBnB near Seaside/Rosmary area. We were able to bike, kayak, swim, walk to the beach–the WORKS! This place even had a dreamy outdoor shower. I really need to write a blog post about this trip!! I love eating seafood and eating ice cream while at the beach, so we found creative ways to include these things, too! It was so much fun and it was just the boost we needed to keep the course during his last semester of graduate school. We really buckled down, and was able to squeeze out several big payments! My goal was to be at less than 70K by 2020. We did it!
Since the beginning of our journey, we have paid off a total of $32,000 on a less than $30,000 annual take-home pay. I feel like that is extremely commendable. As we planned our move to Alaska, we knew our increased income would help us be able to pay off our debt even sooner. Though the cost of living is about 20% higher here, the salary for pediatric occupational therapists was much more than 20% higher than what Tyler could find in the lower 48.
In this blog series, I just want to give you light-hearted money-saving tips. Just ways you can adjust your mindset and your spending in order to save a little. These methods are not going to have you saving hundreds a month, unless you are spending hundreds a month on nonsense.
Since we are Dave fans, I will always suggest that people listen to Dave no matter if you have $100,000 in debt or $1,000,000 in assets. He gives incredible advice in all directions. If you read his book or listen to his show, you will learn things like: live on less than you make, make a plan for your money (aka budget), debt is dumb, pay cash for everything (or use debit), etc.
I do not want to just repeat things I have learned from him, but I want to let you in on some money saving tips. These are tips I definitely suggest for someone who is trying to get out of debt as well as those who are trying to build your savings. These are sacrifices I don’t think everyone should have to make (if you are out of debt especially!). But, they work for us as we are trying to pay off $68K in the next year.
Each day this week I will take you through different parts of our house and life where we have found ways to save money. Today I will go ahead and give you my money saving tips for the bathroom.
Repeat after me, “You are not a product tester!”
Baby girl, you are trying to pay off debt or save money for an emergency fund. You do not have the ability to try out every new dry shampoo or mascara you see your favorite influencer use.
Here is my suggestion is whenever you see an influencer post about a product they love or something they suggest for someone “just like you”: write down the product you would like and how much it cost. When your mascara runs out and it is time to buy a new one, THEN you can consider the one your favorite influencer suggested. But until then, you will use what you already have.
If you go look in the cabinet of any girl’s bathroom, you will see a million-ba-gillion partially used products. Don’t tell me this is not true! I know. I have been that girl before.
This strategy goes for all the products: hairspray, lotion, moisterizer, lipstick, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc. If I see a type I would like to try, I remind myself that whenever mine runs out, then I can try this new kind. Now, I understand that makeup is different for everyone. But, as much as you can limit your spending on makeup, the better. I personally do not wear much/understand it, so it is easier for me to say limit your lipstick shades. But, again, just don’t be a product tester.
When I go to purchase deoderant, shampoo, soap type items, I will buy double packs if I can. This not only saves you a little bit of money per item on the front end, but this also limits the amount of times you have to go to the store and walk down an aisle packed full of options. Limit the amount of times you are advertsised to about buying new products. People get paid way more than you do to “sell you” on items via facebook, instagram, amazon, and in the store! When you see all of the new scents and new designs, you may (most likely) be lured in to spending more money.
I attempt to stretch bathroom items as far as they can go—while still being hygienic of course. Whenever you buy a new product, write the date on it with a sharpie. See how long you can make it last. I made a set of shampoo and conditioner last from July until February. I’m not trying to rub it in, but I am just saying that is just like $2 a month on shampoo/conditioner. I bought a huge pump bottle of each, plus I bought a name brand. I don’t always suggest to buy name brand, but some off brand shampoos and conditioners do not feel like I get clean, and I end up using more of the product each time trying to get my hair clean. (I use Aussie btw. I have used it off and on since high school, and I like it.) Just be cautious of the money you are spending on these type items.
So, to help you out, I have made a Toiletry and Make-Up Budgeting tool for you to use. It will help you calculate how much you are spending in these two categories per month and how long your items are going to last you.
This can help you visualize your needs and wants as well as how much they cost each month.
Hope this helps you as you are tackling your debt! Tomorrow we will talk about budgeting in the kitchen! I would love to hear where you are at on your debt-free journey whether you are about to be debt free or you are just getting started! Let me know in the comments below.
That Teacher Wife