My Student Loan Repayment Journey

I graduated in 2016 at 26 years old with $575,000 of student debt. I could tell right after graduation that the debt was going to be a psychological burden for me. Deep down in my heart, I had a wish to get rid of it as quickly as possible. However, consultations with multiple professionals made it sound unadvisory. It took me a while to find someone who believed that I could. More importantly, he believed that it was the better option for me, personally. It’s a choice not many people make. But I have zero regrets. My decision shaped my life for the better.

Here is my student loan repayment journey and timeline.

2016

May – Graduated with $575,000 of student debt plus four credit cards maxxed out to an additional $36,000.

June – Moved in with my parents. Took up side-hustles to make a few extra bucks: Dog-sat, photographed a birthday party, did some calligraphy for a wedding

July – Moved in with my fiance, Mike, in our first home.

September – Got my license from the State of California. My first day of work was September 29, 2016.

October – Hired a financial planner with my first paycheck. It was the best decision we ever made to go with a professional we could trust. These days, I recommend Travis Hornsby from Student Loan Planner. Entrusting our finances to a professional who gave us the wherewithal was the best life decision I ever made. Not only did it help us pay off this debt and saved us tens of thousands of dollars in interest, it also empowered me to achieve my dream life.

November – Started budgeting with YNAB. This is our favorite finance tool. It keeps us accountable, and on the same page. We have grown together as a couple because of YNAB. Try the app for FREE for 34 days by using my affiliate link!

December – Got married in DTSA. We threw a wedding for 125 guests for $10,000.

2017

January – Spent way too much money traveling to New Zealand for a month-long honeymoon. It was an amazing trip, but also an ode to really bad spending habits. We spent $20k on our honeymoon, which we tacked onto our credit cards. This was before we knew about travel hacking or financial independence. My financial intelligence was still super low.

February– Started frugal living. I published a long list of everything I have given up in the name of frugality and it remains, to this day, one of my most viewed blog posts!

March – Discovered travel hacking! Started opening up credit cards so we could fly for free.

April – Paid off all credit card debt! Told by my financial planner that our frugal muscles may make us a candidate for a 10 year loan repayment after all!

MayStarted paying back my $575k student debt!

June – Started getting into creating less waste, slow living and an intentional lifestyle.

JulyWent to Hawaii with my family.

September – Started a curated wardrobe and living with less.

October – Traveled to Germany for October Fest. We used credit cards to get our flight for free.

2018

January Decided to Co-house / House-Hack . We got a roommate which lowered our monthly rent by $700. We also negotiated with the landlord to lower our rent by another $200, in exchange for us taking care of maintenance issues. This lowered our monthly rent by $900 in total.

February – Took an affiliate marketing course that opened my eyes to making money off of a blog. This really opened my eyes and provided me with a side-hustle income stream that I was already doing for fun! I really recommend this course to new bloggers or mommy bloggers who love to create content but don’t know where to go from there.

March Traveled to Mexico City for Free Using Southwest Airlines. We visited coffee shops, ate at wonderful restaurants, and took a sponsored cooking class!

AprilWent to San Francisco using Southwest points. Did I mention how important travel-hacking was to our financial journey? We love to travel and it was our number one priority when we got married. Using credit cards to travel for free helped us reach our student debt finance goals while also traveling the world.

May – I published an update on the first year of paying back student debt! We paid $84,000 towards our student loans that first year. About half went to interest. Yikes.

June – Recorded my first podcast episode for ChooseFI, to be released a few months later…

July – Went to Banff National Park in Canada, still using Travel Rewards. These are our favorite hikes in Banff. Also, these are our eating recommendations!

September – Bought our first property. It was a live-work loft in a downtown area that was commercially zoned for business. We paid $499,000 for it. Here are a few posts about owning property.

OctoberChoose FI Podcast on HyperDebt released on Apple Itunes.

NovemberPodcast episode with Travis Hornsby of Student Loan Planner released on Apple Itunes. This is where I first learned I was in a repayment plan that cost me thousands of dollars. Travis advised we switch from IBR to REPAYE, and it saved us a LOT of money. This entire conversation is the reason why I recommend his services. His team really knows the Ins and Outs of student loans. Schedule a consultation with his team today (affiliate link). Like I say, you don’t know what you don’t know.

December – Started dog-sitting with Rover. I made my first booking. Try being a pet sitter on Rover today and receive a $20 credit with my affiliate link.

2019

January – We traveled to Australia and New Zealand for three months using FREE flights. You can find travel guides to NZ here.

FebruaryBecame an early morning baker for Rye Goods.

April – Published an update on our second year of paying down student debt. We had funneled a total of $145,000 so far.

June – Left Rye Goods and opened my own micro-bakery Aero Bakery.

July – Published a course teaching people How to Master a Budget. I originally sold this course on Teachable but have since made it a FREE resource on my blog. You can always start below:

September – Placed sourdough bread into a coffee shop, a restaurant and a market.

November – Hired my first employee for the bakery, which also happened to be my roomie.

2020

January Blood Debts Podcast released on Apple Itunes. In this episode, I talk about how culture influences our financial journey.

February – My husband quit a well-paying engineering job he wasn’t happy at in order to pursue his interest in coding. He signed up for coding camp which we paid for in full. The goal was to work remotely so that we could live anywhere in the world.

March – THE SHUT DOWN

  • Cancelled a trip to Japan.
  • Cancelled a humanitarian mission with Bogobrush.
  • Closed Aero Bakery.
  • The dental offices I worked at closed for a month.
  • Stopped dog-sitting with Rover.
  • Paused student debt and started saving up for an emergency fund, not knowing what the pandemic will bring.

April – I returned to work at one of the dental offices, working 3 days a week. Mike continued his online coding camp, and our roommate continued to WFH. Mike was getting help with the COVID relief through EDD.

May – Paid off Mike’s car loan in full! We no longer had any debt outside of the student loan and the mortgage.

June – opened a Marcus High Yield Savings Account to tuck our saved dollars into. This is my favorite avenue for keeping an emergency fund, or cash flow at hand. Open one today using my affiliate link and you can receive an additional 1% in interest for the next 3 months! That bumps up the current rate from 2.15% to 3.15%!

July – Refinanced our home which lowered our monthly payment by another $200/month.

August – Started making a few hundred dollars a month blogging from home. You can find my income reports during the pandemic here.

November – Gained enough financial independence to quit my job, even though my husband was also out of work. We were saving what we would normally paid my student loans, which was double our monthly expenses, since the shut down. This gave us a buffer of 12 months of savings, which gave me the freedom to quit a job that wasn’t aligned with my values.

December – Mike went back to work as an engineer for Rivian. Because of the pandemic, he is now able to work remotely as an engineer, which was not a possibility prior to the pandemic. We got a full refund for the coding course that he took (even though he completed it), because they guaranteed a job in coding after their course. Unfortunately for them, there were no coding jobs available during the pandemic, so Mike ended up getting the course for free.

2021

January – Started working as a dentist when an old colleague needed to go to Thailand to take care of her sick dad for a few months. I worked 2 days a week.

February – Started as the wholesale director for Rye Goods.

March – Went on our first trip to the GetAway House.

April – did a second refinance of our home in under a year. We lowered our monthly payment down by another $300 per month. At this time, the interest rates dropped more than 2% from what we were paying. We refinanced in preparation for our roommate leaving us in the Fall (September 2021).

May – Traveled to Telluride, Colorado with a few friends!

July – Traveled to Iceland to meet up with my sister once again using travel hacking. We were there for two weeks. You can find all my Iceland travel posts here.

August – Traveled to Madrid, Spain to visit my sister’s city. She has been living in Spain since the pandemic started.

September – Our roommate moved out.

October Created a living trust

November – Sold our live/work loft which we bought for $499k in 2018 for $660k. We then bought a small townhome down the street from my parents and my current dental office for $670k. We used part of the equity we gained as a downpayment and pocketed the rest of the profit.

2022

January – Started a pet-sitting business in my community called RMV Tail & Paws. I missed pet-sitting through Rover but decided I wanted to make it my own business.

February – Started volunteering at a community farm.

April – Travel hacked our way to the Coffee Expo in Boston. We went as volunteers so that the Expo cost us $5 instead of $350. We ended up meeting the best baristas in the coffee industry. We also got to see the newest innovations in the industry.

MayMade my first $1k in a month pet-sitting. Published a course on how to start a pet-sitting business.

June – Went to Catalina Island, and stayed at the Banning House.

July – Published the The Ever-Growing List of Things I’ve Done to Get Out of Student Debt.

AugustMade $2k in a month pet-sitting.

SeptemberMy second podcast with ChooseFI released on Apple Itunes. I published a student loan update around the same time.