I have been waiting to write this post for a really, really long time. In fact, writing this post means so much to me that I’m still in a little bit of disbelief that this is happening. Guess what the big news is, world? At the age of 25, I have paid off all of my student debt. That’s right – as of today, I am debt-free.
My story started back in high school. My parents wanted me to go to a university in Toronto, since living at home would be much cheaper for them. As much as I was aware of their financial predicament, I just couldn’t accept staying in one place. Growing up in the city and going to university in the same city sounded very claustrophobic for me and I wasn’t about to let money get in the way of what I wanted. So, at the age of 18, I decided that I would get a loan to pay my tuition for a university that wasn’t in Toronto and work my way through school to pay for rent.
Now, I don’t for one second regret this decision. Most people I’ve told this story to see my debt entirely as my fault, and I’m perfectly okay with that. It absolutely was my decision to move away and be independent. I was proud of it – I still am proud of it. Moving away taught me so much about myself and really caused me to be the person I am today. I grew so much and learned so much about who I was and am.
This, however, is why four years later, I was hit with the fact that I owed $40,000 (I know that’s nothing compared to tuition in some countries, but in Canada, that’s still a lot). Even though most people thought it was something to be nervous about, I never really wanted to look at it that way. My decision had landed me here and my future decisions were going to get me out of owing that much.
If you have any debt, here are some tips I have for you if you want to get out of it quickly:
t i p o n e :
Find a job that pays a lot.
It doesn’t have to be conventional, but it’ll help a lot. When I was done in university, I taught in Asia for a year. Most people were surprised that this was something I wanted to do, (considering the fact that it was well known I never wanted to be a teacher) but I knew it would give me the opportunity to travel and make a lot of money at the same time. Now, I’m not telling you to get an international job or do something that makes you uncomfortable. I’m saying that you should find a situation that works for you and milk it. Literally make all the money you can while doing that one thing. Or, you can do many different jobs. You can also keep multiple jobs, that maybe don’t pay a whole lot – but set a time limit and do it for as long as you can, till you feel like the rewards have paid off enough. By the time I was done teaching in Asia (only one year later), I had paid off $10,000.
t i p t w o :
Don’t cut out the fun out of life, but also set some limits.
People tend to think that you still can’t do everything you want in life if you have to pay your debt off. Well, guess what – that debt is still going to be there at the end of the day, so you might as well enjoy your life while you can. I still traveled to Hong Kong, Vietnam and South Korea when I was living in Asia, purely for the reason that I was unsure of the next time I would get to travel these distances in such close proximity. Sure, I could have saved some more money instead of taking these trips, but they made me happy. Endlessly happy. And you can’t put a monetary value on that. Now the second half of this advice is to also set limits for yourself. The secondary reason why I allowed myself to take those trips was because I had already paid $10,000 off for my loan at this point. I made that goal for myself and once I hit it, I rewarded myself. However, when I moved back home to Canada I also made a decision that I wouldn’t take a vacation again until my loan was paid off. I had met the mark once before and this would give me a reason to hit my mark again.
t i p t h r e e :
Don’t let your debt define you.
(Images from Pinterest)
So many people have thought that my actions have made me irresponsible. That I wouldn’t have owed so much money if I just lived at home and settled into that life. However, the truth of the matter is that no one can really judge you, other than how you view yourself. I never saw that as a mistake. I’m so proud of myself and so glad I took that leap of faith. It gave me the power to move across the world by myself. It gave me strength to trust who I am and my decisions. It gave me faith in myself. Looking back on this whole experience, I have never doubted myself for a second as I never let the idea of my debt overwhelm me (because it’s really really easy to let it become this big scary thing). No matter who lectured me, or who tried to scare me into thinking that it was this big horrible chip on my shoulder, I wouldn’t let them. And guess what, after 3 years I have paid off all of my debt. And now I really get to celebrate all of my choices.
So, if you’re struggling with owing money, making a big decision or trying to figure out how to live within your means, just remember – you can do it. You can do anything. Just trust yourself.