Unexpected Benefits of Paying Off Debt

The last few years have been a serious financial boot camp.

Let’s start with a history.

  • In 2010, I started taking out student loans. I didn’t have a plan. Where do I sign for money?
  • In 2011, I started being conscious with my loans. I found a few PF blogs. I didn’t take out all I could. I tracked every penny I spent. I budgeted. I planned.
  • In 2012, I continued with my plan, but chose to take out as many loans as I could to cover my expenses for the foreseeable future. The 1% origination fees and little bit of interest were a price well paid for peace of mind.
  • In 2013, I graduated with a bunch of debt and no job prospects. I’m a horrible liar and I didn’t want to practice law. Interviews were a disaster. I searched my soul and networked like crazy. I had to figure this out.
  • In 2014, I figured out what I wanted to do. I landed a great job doing just that. After my first paycheck hit, it was time for my loans to die. I started this blog. Things got serious.
  • By early 2015, my loans were gone.

Most of the reasons for why I attacked my loans and paid them off aggressively were based in fear. I was scared of the statistics. I didn’t want these loans to follow me around for the rest of my life. I was sick of being in school forever. I wanted to distance myself from the reality that I’d been in school for my entire life. I was a little scarred that it took me so long to figure out what I wanted. I felt helpless and hopeless. Paying off my loans felt like something I could control. I didn’t want to feel helpless or hopeless again.

It’s been over a year now and I feel like I’ve successfully addressed my fears.

I am a statistic, but one of success. (Note: We are always statistics. It just matters what side of the statistic you are on.) My loans are gone. They only followed me for a year. I’ve moved on from school and I’m happy where I am.

These are all benefits I hoped to accomplish by ridding myself of my student loans. In addition to these benefits, I’ve found that there are a few I didn’t anticipate.

Here are three benefits I didn’t expect

1. Personal Finance 101

Paying off debt is a crash course in personal finance. I was alright with money before student loan destruction started rolling around in my head. Now, I would consider myself an expert. I know the pros and cons of different strategies. I know the ins and outs of various products. I can recommend different ways to save more or earn more. Even better, I act on most of my knowledge. I still have a few skeletons in my financial closet *AHEM* car loan *ahem* but I have a plan for it all and I’ve accepted my actions.

If it weren’t for my student loans pissing me off, it would have taken me years to figure all of this out. It would have taken even longer for me to put it all together. Thanks to reacting to my debt emergency, it all came together within roughly the same time it took my to be free of my loans!

2.  Saving Residuals

I had a big fire in my gut driving me to kill my student loans. It was a huge goal and I wanted it. I continually challenged my expenses and did a little work on my hustle to get that debt off my back. With all of this force behind my spending and saving habits, I was able to put significant sums of money toward being free.

After my loans were gone, I experienced an incredible residual effect. I still had the same amount of income but I no longer had that huge payment every month. I channeled all of that money into savings and became the bad ass saver I was meant to be. I maxed my IRA, gave my 401k a big bump and threw the rest into the House Fund.

Without a debt emergency, I wouldn’t have been able to minimize my expenses to the extent that I have and save this much. I save more than I thought I could and that’s coming from someone who claims to be a  saver by nature! By having and reacting to this debt, I know I’ve already come out ahead in the long run.

3. Unintentional Intentionality

By constantly examining my expenses, I had to make some tough choices. I challenged everything. That fine tooth comb got a lot of use. By closely examining my expenses, I was able to determine and prioritize what I actually want out of life. What do I want to spend money on? Where can I cut back? Hubs and I have cut back a lot and we are still happy. Actually, we are happier. We know where our money is going and its where we want it to go!

If I hadn’t faced my debt emergency, I wouldn’t have had to evaluate the life I’m living. I wouldn’t have made those decisions and I wouldn’t have realized that I’m happier on the other end.

 

In effect, I paid 50 grand for a crash course on personal finance, how to save a ton of dough and the ins and outs of intentional spending. Oh yea, and that degree. Sounds like 50 grand well spent.

 

Have you noticed any unintentional benefits of paying off debt?

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10 comments

  1. I LOVE that thinking – “I paid 50 grand for a crash course in personal finance.” Yeah. Totally. And it was the best investment I ever made:)

  2. Hahaha all I can think is that someone will find this post while looking up how much to charge for a personal finance course, and I ~love~ it. I also just love the post in general! Especially the unintentional intentionality part – it’s so true. Just from paying attention to my spending I’ve gotten a lot more intentional about what I’m spending time and money on, without even really trying to!

    1. Please make checks payable to Kate!😂
      It’s pretty incredible what a little attention can do to your finances. Though it does make me a little sad that I may never be able to spend recklessly again!

  3. Where do I sign for money?, hahahahahaha, oh I can relate.

    Wow, now I’m really curious to know what you do for work if you’re not practicing law (which is what I assumed you were doing). I’m guessing you’re not going to share it here though…

    Man, I wish I had discovered a personal finance blog as early as 2011. That would have saved me a lot of stress. I wasn’t a blog reader though, and didn’t come across any until 2014. 😦 But I can definitely relate to feeling like my loans (eventually) pushed me to figure out some stuff that it probably would have taken me years to figure out otherwise. Well, it still took years, but it could have been more years.

  4. So awesome that you got rid of your loans so quickly! I experienced the increase in savings after we paid off our student loans. It just felt natural to save since that money didn’t go away once the loans were gone.

  5. I am so looking forward to our residuals. I panic a lot of days about how low our retirement funds are – and I know we may never be able to retire “early” because of the place we got ourselves into. But I remind myself that, after our student loans are paid off, we can stash away nearly $20k a year in retirement (on top of the contributions we make now), and I feel better. Once the house is paid off, we will more than double that.

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