Today, we’re unveiling the SALT blog’s latest contributor: Bridget Casey, from MoneyAfterGraduation.com! Bridget ended up deep in debt after college (or “postsecondary” as they say in her native Canada). Keep reading to find out what she’s doing about it.
My parents didn’t have anything saved for my sisters and I to attend postsecondary, so I was responsible for footing the bill for my university education.
Throughout my degree, I worked part time (full time during the summer months) and secured some scholarship money to minimize the financial burden of my education, but I didn’t escape unscathed.
Four years, forty classes, two research projects, and one Bachelor’s degree later, I owed $20,580 in student loans. That balance gets bigger every day, as interest accumulates on my debt.
It’s a little hard to watch.
TREATING STUDENT LOANS LIKE INCOME
When I first applied for financial aid in my third year of university, I found it difficult to keep the money in perspective. I paid my tuition, and then whatever was left over remained in my checking account, waiting to be spent—and I spent all of it, fast. It turns out that when money doesn’t take much effort to get, it doesn’t take much effort to go either.
I was somewhat responsible with my spending. I always paid my rent, I was never late with my cell phone bill, and there was food in the house most of the time. I even managed to invest $100 each month into mutual funds. From a distance, my past self looks like she managed money pretty well, perhaps even responsibly, but the reality is I didn’t live as frugally as I could have.
I went out with my friends whenever I felt like it. I bought coffee at school day after day even though I had a coffeemaker at home. I bought clothes that would stay in my closet with the tags still on. I even went ahead and purchased a $475 purse from a high-end department store. I think I was having a bad day and it seemed like a justified pick-me-up.
BEING FORCED TO LIVE LIKE A STUDENT WHEN YOU’RE NOT ONE
I find it ironic that bad spending behaviors during my college days are keeping me from enjoying my working income now. All of a sudden I find myself setting a budget, planning my spending, and looking for ways to earn more money to tackle my student loans.
I feel the weight of my debt often, and I am certain that is a feeling most graduates can relate to.
Right now my debt is keeping me from saving for a home, is holding me back from buying a car, and is the reason I don’t travel as much as I’d like to. It’s easy to feel stuck or hopeless when I make payments to my student loans and the balance hardly seems to budge.
But I don’t want to live in debt forever—I want a healthy, wealthy, happy life! So I’m in the process of eliminating my student loans as quickly as I can, investing for the long-term, and putting money away for those “big” purchases like my first home, all while trying to curb my inner shopaholic. It isn’t easy!
KEEPING IT IN PERSPECTIVE
I am happy to have received the university education I did, and grateful I had access to the financial aid I needed, but now it is time to pay up. Since graduating, I’ve managed to pay off approximately 25% of my student debt, and I’m ready to shed the remaining balance over the next year. It’s a daunting task, but my goal is financial independence, and the easiest way to get there is to become debt free as quickly as possible.