$35,000 Deep in Student Loans

How I went from swimming in debt to living the Debt Free Millennial dream.

A phone call changed it all.

It was 2008, and I was living the American college dream. I was at a four-year university, living for game days, staying up too late, and only worrying about having enough money to buy beer. It was at this point in my life where I received a phone call from my mom explaining that she and my dad could no longer support me financially. 

I was knocked off college cloud nine. Shit.

Every year, I took out loan after loan. Not ever really comprehending the amounts that I would have to pay back once I graduated.

When I graduated from college in 2011, I was under a mountain of student loan debt and only making a meager $10 per hour working as an intern for an ad agency. I panicked. This was NOT how I pictured my life after college. I saw friends purchasing new cars. I saw friends going out to expensive restaurants and bars. I was jealous. Pissed off. And not going to put up with my circumstances. I was going to create new rules.

I read books and online articles on how to dump debt. I was $35,000 deep in student loans, but damnit, I was determined.

Driving a Beater

In 2012, my poor Ford Escort was rear ended. Rather than going into car debt, I took a salvage title, $3,200 cash from insurance, and found a replacement bumper at a you-pull junkyard.

Tracking Debt Payment Progress

Using a visual thermometer, I kept track of every single payment towards debt. I posted this to my fridge to keep me motivated daily.

Debt Free Scream

After paying off my debt in full in 2014, I headed to Nashville to do a debt free scream on The Dave Ramsey Show!

So Exactly How Did I Pay Those Loans Off?

Cash Flow

All of my monthly expenses were paid in cash.

Online Budgeting

Expenses tracked in an online spreadsheet that I could access at any time.

Small to Large

Paid off the smallest loan first for fast gratification and motivation.

Focus and Grit

Visual reminders kept me focused on my goals.

Allow Myself to Introduce… Myself

Well, hey stranger!

Justine Nelson, here. I am the founder of Debt Free Millennials and my mission is to spread the debt-free lifestyle to fellow millennials. My goal is to get you bank rollin’ so hard, Warren Buffett raises his eyebrows.

Other fun facts:

  • Grew up in Shawnee, Kansas
  • Live in San Diego with my husband Kyle
  • Budgeting is my bitch
  • Lover of coffee and beer
  • 90s and 2000s hip hop is my jam
  • How I Met Your Mother is my favorite sitcom
  • I am a firm believer that we have a life plan. We just have to listen to it.

Join The Conversation

If you’re ready to make some drastic financial changes with grit, faith and determination, let me know, would you? We’re starting some great conversations over in the Debt Free Millennials private group on Facebook. You can’t do this alone so join us in this supportive group where we can lift each other up. I’ve got your back.

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