I wrote a while back about taking the losses with victories in life, and vice versa. Thankfully today I’ve got a great victory to share! I’ve finished paying off ALL of my student debt from my undergraduate degree from Azusa Pacific University! It’s a huge win, and it feels great to finally be here.
I graduated just under five years ago (May 2014). I walked across the stage with $25,000 in student loans. That ballooned to $25,810 by that November (2014) when I made the first of my minimum payments. I gave little to no attention to the loans I owed on and figured I would make those minimum payments for the 10-year term they were set up for. I was oblivious, broke, and naive about my financial situation.
Fast forward a few years. I was getting ready to start a new life with Jos as a new husband, preparing for a move to Oregon with no job and a lot of question marks about our life in a new state as she began her graduate program for Speech-Language Pathology. When we moved here in July of 2017, my loan balance was $22,400. I had hardly made a dent in my principal balance even though I had already been making minimum payments for over three years. It was truly disheartening! Would this debt thing ever come to an end? Not at this rate.
In the month leading up to our wedding, God brought a startling realization to me: I was now responsible for the well being of not only me, but a young, wonderful, beautiful new bride to be. I had to get my act together! For me, the fire was lit with the idea of wanting to provide a better life for my new wife. I didn’t like what I had accomplished financially up to that point, and it was time for a change.
Fast forward again to May of 2018, about 10 months ago. My balance lingered at $21,200. But this time, things were different. Since getting married, we had dispatched around $15,000 in credit card debt. That was a victory in and of itself. Our sights were now set on my college loans. The minimum payments kept getting applied each month, but we began chunking away at it with large payments in between those minimums, and we started to see results. Each month the total balance would slide a little more. The $15,000 mark felt good to reach. Then $12,000. We had a goal to be under $10,000 by the end of December 2018, just this past Christmas. We came in at $7,500 left instead, way ahead of schedule. I continued the breakneck speed of both a demanding full-time IT job and driving to deliver pizzas a few nights a week. I got a bit burnt out, but it was too late for the loans, the damage had been done.
Three months later, on Friday, March 29th, 2019 I clicked “submit payment” for the last time. We made our FINAL payment on my loans. Victory! We had done it! $29,751.04 paid in full!
There will be other posts as we continue to the final Phase 3 of our debt payoff journey as we pay off Josilyn’s grad school loans. But is important to celebrate the wins, so that is what we have done this weekend. We are able to breathe a little easier, walk a little lighter, and smile a little more. We have a lot to be thankful for. God has blessed us mightily and He deserves credit for his continued provision.
Wrapping up this particularly joy-filled post, I want to reiterate as I have in the past that if you are in this boat of owing more than you could even imagine paying off, YOU CAN do it. You can do this too! We are normal, average Joes (technically Justins and Josilyns but you get the idea). If we can do this, so can you. If you or someone you know is struggling with debt of any kind and feeling hopeless like there is no good place to start, let me know! I love talking about this stuff, and I love the chance to encourage others to make good financial choices. As usual, thanks for reading, friends. Onward and Upward!
Additional Shoutout – Josilyn finished her last internship on Friday, making this a particularly wonderful weekend for us. She has worked so hard at her graduate program and is clearly going to make an excellent Speech-Language Pathologist! Graduation in May for her – so much to celebrate!