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The thing that I don’t like about some of the personal finance gurus out there is that they tell you to basically stop living your life to pay off your debt.
And I do get the reasoning, if you can get it done in a couple of months. If you can buckle down and be debt free in 2 months, absolutely do it!
But, what about if you have 6 figure debt and it’s going to take you years to get out debt? Do they seriously expect you to not live your life for years?
That would be crazy! And I can speak from experience (approaching the 4 year mark of my debt free journey and still have $66k to pay off) that you will burn out and be miserable if you do this.
I’m not saying spend all your money on fun things and have no money to go towards your debt. But, you should be doing things that are important to you on your longer journey.
Here’s how I have made it possible to still live my life while paying off $201k in student loans.
1. I am constantly trying to find ways to increase my income compared to my 6 figure debt.
As a teacher, my income isn’t exactly high. It’s just how it is in the US, teachers don’t make much money, even with a master’s degree. So, I found other streams of income to supplement my salary.
By increasing my income, it allowed me to still apply extra money to my debt, while doing the things I wanted to do.
When you have 6 figure debt, it helps a lot to increase your income. Whether you use the extra cash to pay off debt, or afford some of the things you want to keep in your budget.
2. I find ways to lower my expenses I don’t care about.
When I first started my debt free journey, I had to move home with my parents. The reality was that my minimum payments were $2,000 and my salary was roughly $3,000, 10 months of the year.
My salary was only this high because my parents live in New Jersey, where cost of living is high. In a lot of places in the US, my teacher salary wouldn’t have even covered my minimum payments.
This allowed me to slowly pay off my student loans. Eventually I could afford to move out, but I continued to live at home and put more money towards my student loans.
Find ways to lower the expenses that aren’t as important to you. For me, living at my parent’s house made sense because it allowed me to have a higher income and lower cost of living.
3. I have sinking funds.
Sinking funds are wonderful. They have helped me so much throughout my journey. I have sinking funds for expenses that I know will come up, like car maintenance or medical.
But, I also have used them to afford things I want to do in the future. For example, I created a moving out fund when I did decide it was time to move out of my parent’s house.
This allowed me to slowly save up money to afford a move. I was able to decorate and afford other moving expenses without it impacting my monthly budget when I did move.
Sinking funds also allowed me to go on trips and other experiences. I slowly saved for it in the months before and got to enjoy my time guilt free because the money was in my sinking fund.
4. I stick to a strict zero based budget.
Zero based budgets are a game changer when managing your finances. Basically what a zero based budget does is allow you to tell every single dollar where to go. If you need help creating your own zero based budget, you can get my template here that I use every month.
It gives you the control of where you spend your money. So, you can give yourself the money you need to do the things you love.
This is where lowering your expenses you don’t care about comes into play. You need to lower your expenses in those categories so that you can spend money in the places you want to.
Do these things at once to live your life and pay off 6 figure debt.
By doing these 4 things, I have been able to pay off $134k of debt in just under 4 years. I still have gone on vacations, experienced new things, and got a puppy.
You just need to decide where you want your money to go and make sure it goes there. Spend some time really figuring out what things make you happiest in your life.
Start saying no to the things that don’t bring you joy and start saying yes to more of the things that do. How have you still enjoyed life while paying off a lot of debt?