December 15, 2015

Today’s dear debt letter comes from Andrew! Andrew is a 28-year-old from Canada who recently started his own blog debtman.org to inspire others. He’s a new blogger, so let’s show him some love.

Dear Debt,

We met when I was the tender age of 19. You said, “I’ll get you through University.” I said, “Thanks, let’s be friends!” Quickly, our relationship turned from friendly to irresponsible…

Who had $55,000 worth of non-mortgage debt by the time they were 25? This guy right here.  What did that $55,000 represent?

  1. Student loans: $30,000 ($17,500 @ 5.25%; 12,500 @ 3%)
  2. Credit card: $5,000 (11%)
  3. Car loan: $20,000 (5.5%)

I graduated university at 25, and had 6 months until I had to start making payments on my student loans. Like most recent university grads, I thought that I would graduate, find a great paying job immediately (our instructors led us to believe so, so why wouldn’t we think otherwise? (Shakes head)), and the payments would be easily met.

That obviously wasn’t the case. I graduated university, and couldn’t find a permanent position for 4 months. Luckily, I found a temporary position, which lasted 3 months, and paid well enough to pay off my credit card, while paying my monthly expenses, within those 3 months of working for that company.

Continuing with my naivety at the time, I purchased a lightly used car (price tag: $20,000) while working for that company. Yes, that’s right: I purchased a $20,000 car while knowing that my contract was over within 90 days. Looking back now, I think what an idiot I was. At the time, I thought I was playing the car dealership knowing that I was out of a job soon, but really they were playing me with a 5.5% interest loan.

Within that 1 month off, after my contract ended, I found a permanent position. Starting salary: $40,000. You would think I would be happy with that offer, but truth be told, I was annoyed. One of my instructors said I would easily earn $70,000 when I got my first job, so was this a reflection of me?

Of course not; it was a unionized position with a salary scale. Also, I quickly learned that what instructors tell you in class is not always the journey for everyone. Within those 3 years, I was promoted, and doubled my salary.  Like I said, not everyone has the same journey. So, do what works for yours.

During that time, my net income averaged $3,000/month, and my expenses averaged $1,800. My company put 15% of my pre-tax income into a pension plan automatically. With the extra $1,200 I had each month, I didn’t do what was expected of me… pay off the loans.

Instead, I did what I felt was right for my journey, and put it in a tax-free savings account (TFSA).  This gave me a sense of security, while only paying the minimums on my loans. I also put all of my tax refunds in my TFSA. Once I had accumulated enough to pay off the car loan, I paid it off. Then, I moved on to saving again, and once I had enough for the student loan with the 5.25% interest rate, I paid that off in one swoop.

And, lastly, I did it one last time for the student loan at 3%, for a final KO*. I expected to feel this amazing high, while the clouds in the sky opened up saying, “Congratulations, you’re debt free!” Instead, I sat there looking at the student loan provider’s website, wondering when the balance would get updated. It took close to 2 weeks, so it didn’t really feel over, until it was over. I eventually saw the $0 balance, and the smile was there: I did it.

It’s almost been a year since that smile, and I can tell you it only gets better from there.  My final words: Keep your focus, because the end result is abso-fucking-lutely worth it!** Debt, we are no longer friends, and I can’t say I miss you. 

*I know this cost me more in interest than if I had paid off the loan with larger payments, but I did what made me sleep better at night.

**Bonus points if you know where that word is from. 

 

Melanie

Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at DearDebt.com.

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

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12 responses to “Dear Debt, I’ve Moved On”

  1. Congrats on being debt free, I can only imagine the feeling!
    Shirria @ GDTH recently posted…November Online Income ReportMy Profile

  2. Roz says:

    Well done!! Best wishes on all the new options that being debt-free will provide!!

  3. Huge congrats, Andrew!! Kudos on becoming debt free, and welcome to the blogging community!
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…The Best Peanut Butter BlossomsMy Profile

  4. Lindsay VanSomeren says:

    Everyone’s paying off their student loan debts around here!

  5. Tyler says:

    Congrats on becoming debt free, I’m looking forward to that day more and more as I read letters like this. I’m years away at my current rate but I know oh so much that it is possible

    • Melanie says:

      Remember, it took me nine years — and four and a half of those were intense. Like I said, even if it’s five to ten years later, it’s temporary. You can and will get there! I believe in you Tyler!

  6. Michelle says:

    Yay Andrew! Congratulations on your debt freedom-you earned it.
    Michelle recently posted…Celebrating One Year Of Self-EmploymentMy Profile

  7. Debtman says:

    Thanks, everyone! It’s awesome reading these comments from you bloggers, as I read so many of your blogs!

    For those still fighting the student loan battle: During the fight, it feels like forever. Once it’s over, you’ll realize how quickly those years flew by.

    And thanks again, Melanie, for allowing me to share my debt story!

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