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Your Debt Story: $90,000 in student loans

Posted October 10
Updated October 11

Budgeting worksheet

Our first "Your Debt Story" is shared by a blog reader and her husband who had $90,000 in student loan debt and managed to pay it off in only 2.5 years!

Read on to see how they were able to eliminate so much debt in such a short time period.

My great thanks to "sbs0325" for sharing her story!

Your Debt Story: $90,000 in student loans!


I am 26 years old and my husband is 27. We both went to Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC, and right after I graduated in 2012 we married. We started our new life together with $90,000 in student loans. Yikes!

My parents had heard Dave Ramsey on the radio a few years prior and got hooked on his principles (living below your means, having no debt, "living like no on else SO that you can live like no one else"). Previously, they had lived the typical American-consumer life...multiple car payments, a mortgage, credit card debt....the usual. They got into action and paid off their last debt (their mortgage) about 5 years ago.  I was fortunate to get to watch them turn their financial status around.

My brother (who also followed Dave Ramsey's methods) gifted my husband and I "Financial Peace University" for our wedding present. We attended the classes for 9 weeks and learned a lot. The best part of the class was having the support and camaraderie of other people walking through the same principles and trying to figure out what life looks like on a budget.

It took us 2.5 years to pay off our debt.

We drove older, reliable cars with no payments. We lived in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment. We didn't go out to eat except maybe once a month - we brought PBJs to work for lunch every day. Bottom line - we made sacrifices! We lived like no on else. A lot of our friends thought we were crazy - but now they all want our advice as to how we did it!  We lived completely off my of my husband's salary, and every penny of mine went to our loans.  Perhaps most importantly - WE BUDGETED!  We knew where EVERY penny we made was going.  We didn't ever get to the end of the month and think, "wow, where did all our money go?"  We knew exactly what we were spending our money on.  It was freeing to have control.

If I had to give advice to others who are in debt, it'd be to not worry about keeping up with the Jones'. We were fortunate to have a couple of friends who supported our lifestyle - they were okay with spaghetti/pancakes for dinner & watching Netflix/playing board games as our sole, FREE entertainment! You've got to find people who will support you!  Also, there are a LOT of fun, FREE things to do around the Raleigh/Cary area.  We hiked a lot, rode bikes, went to free museums, walked around the Flea market....we were not miserable.  We look back very fondly at our "debt-paying" period.

One more thing - you've got to be, what Dave Ramsey calls, GAZELLE INTENSE! Have you ever seen a gazelle run from a predator? It's amazing how fast they can move. You've got to be the gazelle running from your predator - DEBT. It has to be intense and intentional.  If you don't change, nothing will change.  Stay focused!

If we could do things differently, I think we would pay off loans that had higher interest rates first. Dave Ramsey recommends paying off your smallest loans first (because it provides momentum - if you pay off a $1,000 loan quickly, you'll be excited and want to continue), but we had a big $40,000 loan that had a really high interest rate and it accrued quite a bit over 2.5 years. So looking back, I think we were disciplined and motivated enough that we could've attacked the loan with the highest interest rate instead of attacking the smallest loans without regard to their interest rate.
After we paid off our loans, we saved my paycheck for the next 2 pay-periods and took a trip to Universal Studios and did whatever we wanted and ate whatever we wanted - and we paid it in CASH. It was the best vacation ever.

We still live well below our means and follow a budget. It is a freedom you can't understand until you've done it when you don't owe anything to anyone! We are free to save for exciting goals and also to give generously.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach out! We currently teach Financial Peace University at our church and love getting to share our story!

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Again, thank you for sharing your story, sbs0325! I think you are a perfect example of doing whatever it takes to get out of debt. From the small apartment to the PB&J sandwiches every day, you remained dedicated to your goal. And I love that you were able to really enjoy your vacation paid for in cash! Teaching FPU after going through the program yourself if a great way to reach out and help others struggling with the burden of debt, as well.

I think your thoughts about paying off the loan with the highest interest rate first is excellent advice. You will pay less interest in the end if you go after the high interest rate debt first.

Have any of you taken the Financial Peace University class or read any of Dave Ramsey's books? How successful were you with his techniques?

If you are wondering how much time it will take for you to pay off your debt based on different payment amounts, check out these very helpful debt management calculators at Bankrate.com.

7 Comments

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  • cbm2phil Oct 23, 12:26 a.m.

    Nothing better than being debt free.

  • ctya Oct 12, 12:27 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing! Awesome story and what a blessing you are to others to teach what you know for a fact works!

    I'm excited to read more stories and hope to get some info for myself.

    Love the idea of living off of one income. A most when I get married. One of the key lessons from your story was the willingness to work together.

  • meredith88 Oct 11, 11:31 a.m.

    Awesome story! Very similar to our story and so much fun to read someone else who went through all the same things :-)

  • jdouglas13 Oct 10, 5:54 p.m.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story with us!

    I am really looking forward to more stories in this series.

  • claytonsaver Oct 10, 4:29 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this ( I can almost hear your debt-free scream! -Listeners of his radio program will know what I mean.). The Ramsey methods are right on. A relative took the FPU course and did very well coming out of a bad situation with a lot of debt.

  • Amomoftwo Oct 10, 4:20 p.m.

    I found this so inspiring! Congrats to you for having that Gazelle focus. My daughter and her hubby apply the same Dave Ramsey principals and their friends are amazed at how much they fun they can have with ZERO dollars involved. Keep teaching and keep preaching!

  • newssaavy72 Oct 10, 3:30 p.m.

    Thanks for that story! My husband and I often talk about this process and Dave Ramsey. That is amazing to have no debt at a young age. AND before the kids come.