Today I’m excited to introduce our guest who’s learned that through working hard and staying focused you will achieve your financial goals. Idara paid off $30,000 in 12 months and would like to share her inspiring story with you!
Let’s Meet Idara!
MP: Hey there, Idara! Welcome to MendingPockets! I’m thrilled that I get to chat with you today about your debt payoff journey. To get started, would you please tell us more about yourself?!
I: Hello!! I am a critical care nurse practicing in Brooklyn, New York. I’m a University of Maryland College Park and University of Delaware alumni, where I earned Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Nursing respectively.
I come from a large Nigerian and American family. Subsequently, I am very family-oriented and have a deep love for culture (my own and others included).
I enjoy cooking new recipes from scratch, attending poetry slams, and riding my bike in Prospect Park, amongst other things. My favorite foods are plantain (made any style) and homemade apple pie.
MP: Plantains and apple pie sound like a tasty blend of both cultures, I’d be interested to know what else you love to cook!
Education wise, you earned two Bachelor’s degrees from two different universities. That sounds expensive!
Tell Us About Your Student Loan Debt
MP: How much student loan debt did you sign up for in total and how long did it take you to pay it off?
I: I owed over $100k in student loans. However, I set out to specifically pay off a Sallie Mae loan which totaled about $30,000 as of January 2016. My goal was to pay every penny of that loan within 12 months.
My specific method of paying off my loan was two-fold:
- Use 0% interest balance transfer offers from credit cards
- Earn more income
MP: The daily interest accrued will kill you for sure, so finding zero interest offers to transfer your balance to maximized your payoff efforts. That’s not something many people might think to do. The important thing was to pay off the cards before the intro period ended, which you did.
I: Yes, exactly. I didn’t have any chunks of savings or assets to liquidate or items in my house to sell. I simply knew that if this was going to work for me, I would need to reduce my monthly interest charges and make enough income to pay the loan off.
On January 5, 2017, I submitted my last payment to Sallie Mae, which was within my 12-month target time frame.
MP: How did that feel when you paid off the loan?!!
I: Honestly, when I clicked submit for my last payment I simply exhaled. I sat in silence for about 5 minutes, with my eyes closed as I held back the tears. I was just in awe that I had actually done it. The moment felt very surreal.
Don’t Just Look at the Overall Debt – Find Ways to Break it into Smaller Reachable Goals
MP: Paying off $30,000 on a single income in 12 months is really impressive, regardless of using balance transfers or not! Why did you target that specific loan (from the $100K total owed) and payoff time frame?
I: The original Sallie Mae loan amount was $30,000 in 2007. I used the loan to pay for my freshman year in college.
By September 2014, the loan balance had grown to $46,000 because of interest. It was the thought of paying that additional $16,000 that woke me up.
It took me two years to bring the loan balance down to $30k, and those two years motivated me all the more to pay the loan off in 2016.
MP: It’s crazy how fast interest builds up on loans and seeing the loan grow about 50% larger would make me get serious about it too.
We often don’t realize how much the interest accumulates while only making our monthly minimum payments!
I: Definitely! I’ve obsessed over my student loan debt for years and was in a perpetual search for strategic ways to pay it off.
I spent hours reading stories of how others paid off thousands of dollars in student loan debt in short spans of time and wanted to accomplish the same thing.
Every story is different, and I hope that my story will inspire someone else.
Motivation to Achieve the 12 Month Debt Payoff Goal
MP: What did you do to stay motivated during the 12 months? That’s a huge amount to pay off so quickly for a single person.
I: My minimum payment for the Sallie Mae loan was $680 a month. Balancing New York City living expenses and having a loan payment that high was very challenging.
My greatest motivation was knowing that once I finished paying off that loan, I would have $680 available every month to use towards other life goals.
How Did You Do It?
MP: Yikes, $680 a month minimum…that’s just for one loan and this loan wasn’t your only debt! You had to get creative to live in NYC and pay even just the minimums on your loans.
But you clearly didn’t pay just the minimum amounts, so what did you do?
I: I worked three jobs. My full-time job was a night shift nursing position at a hospital in Brooklyn. I’d work 12.5 hours in a shift and was required to work 13 shifts in a month.
Although 13 shifts sounded like it opened up more free time, working night shift made it challenging. In order to make the most of my days off, I could only sleep a few hours and then was off to work my next job.
I worked part time for another hospital, but my shifts varied between 8-12 hours. My third job was part-time home care nursing, and it was the most flexible of the three.
Sticking with nursing jobs made the most sense for me and also allowed me to earn good hourly wages compared to working odd jobs.
Juggling multiple jobs takes a lot of strategizing and will come with sacrifices. However, it is doable and can be very well worth it in the end.
The Downside to Such Intensity and Strategizing to Minimize its Effects
MP: That sounds very physically and emotionally draining to work so many shifts without proper rest.
Describe your lowest point during your journey and what would you recommend to someone facing a similar circumstance?
I: In March of 2016, I had a disagreement with a family member, a patient I was close to passed away, and I had juggled my jobs in such a way that I literally worked for a few weeks non-stop.
At the end of March, I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained and had a complete breakdown.
I spoke to my best friend, took a day off to regroup and prayed that I would keep going.
There are many ways of paying off debt, and working multiple jobs is not always one of them. However, if it is, I think being keen on when you start to feel burnt out is important.
Instead of waiting until you breakdown or spazz out, planning strategic off days in-between working is vital.
Setbacks and Sacrifices
MP: Did you experience any financial setbacks during the 12-months?
I: To be honest, there were setbacks, but none that I took the time to turn into a memory. All in all, with every setback, I worked more hours, budgeted more consciously and kept pushing toward my goal.
MP: Great attitude! You had to sacrifice in many ways to get rid of your loan, describe the biggest sacrifice you made.
I: The biggest sacrifice for me was how I spent my time. My time was largely taken up by working.
When it comes to paying off debt, there are strategies, but really at the end of the day, the biggest truth remains the more income you generate, the more money you will have to apply to debt payments.
Knowing this, I chose to work the three jobs during 2016 to help me generate the income needed to pay off my loan.
Support From Family and Friends
MP: Spending all your time at work, describe the reaction you received from friends and family when you told them about your goal and how it would affect time spent with them.
I: I started a blog called The Kinetic Woman, to help chronicle my debt payoff journey as well as my experiences as a nurse in NYC. When I announced my blog and debt payoff plan on Facebook, my inbox was inundated by messages.
Many people offered advice regarding my plan and most simply commended me for taking the leap.
During the year my schedule was hectic, and it was well communicated to my family and friends that there would need to be adjustments in how often I saw/spoke with them.
It wasn’t always ideal, but my family and friends were understanding. Ultimately, they worked with my schedule, and I don’t believe that any relationship suffered as a result.
MP: What a blessing to have such supportive people in your life, not everyone will experience that during their own journey. It makes it easier to not deal with relationship stress at the same time you’re paying off debt.
Did you treat yourself along the way at certain milestones?
I: I rewarded milestones by taking advantage of off-work days. Catching up on my favorite show, talking to friends on FaceTime, or going to the hair salon were a few simple things that helped me to celebrate progress.
MP: For you, not working felt like a reward. I admire your strength and determination! You’re definitely an inspiration.
Tools That Help You Manage Your Money
MP: Tell us about any apps or software you use to track your budget and debt payoff progress!
I: I live by the Mint app. I have used it for close to 8 years, and during my debt payoff journey, it was extremely useful for keeping track of every penny spent.
What I love about the Mint app is that you can create budgets (i.e. groceries, auto expenses, restaurant purchases, and other bills) and it will track all purchases that fit within those categories specifically.
It then uses a battery bar visual to let me know when I am getting close to a budget limit (yellow) and when I have exceeded a budget (red).
Since all my accounts are linked to Mint (including my investment and savings accounts), I get a complete financial picture each time I open the app. That to me is extremely valuable and helps keep me informed about what is happening with my money every step of the way.
Changing Your Financial Future
MP: How has this journey forever changed your outlook on money and debt?
I: I consider all of my financial matters carefully before finalizing a purchase or money related decision. I have more hope now that I will one day own a home, be able to invest and be completely debt free.
MP: What do you plan to tackle next, financially?
I: In 2017, many of my closest friends are getting married. So, setting aside money to be a part of those bridal parties is a major priority.
I am also in the process of refinancing another high balance private loan. I’m excited to start chipping away at this other loan, and am hoping for another success story in the near future!
MP: You’ll get there if you keep making goals as you did for 2016! It will happen sooner than you think possible too.
MP: Do you have any final thoughts for us today?!
I: I describe debt as an overcast sky that blocks the sunshine. When debt is paid off, those clouds fade, and a lot more light enters your life.
After paying off $30k, I feel lighter, have more financial freedom and feel empowered that I can work to make my dreams a reality.
Related Story: Brianna’s $38,000 Student Loan Debt Payoff Story!
Thank you Idara for sharing your story with us today!
I’m always intrigued to see how people achieve a similar goal using different methods.
Idara chose to stick to the field she trained in, nursing, and pursue more shifts from multiple employers. She juggled shifts, sleep and personal time in a delicate balance.
With the love and support of her family and friends, she reached her goal and now feels hope that she can achieve her ultimate goal: Total Debt Freedom and home ownership.
I know she will make it. She’s determined, and she chooses to live with a positive attitude and a strong work ethic.
Did Idara inspire you today in your debt payoff journey?
Share your thoughts with me in the comments sections below! Let Idara and I know if she encouraged you today or inspired you to tackle your debts.
Until next time, xo!
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