Yes, you read that correctly. I paid off my student loans in a year. Bye, bye Mr. debt!

It feels like only a year ago, I was wondering what to do as it relates to finances and ensuring my dreams become a reality. Like many persons who are probably reading this, I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family. We had enough to put a roof over our heads, clothe us and feed us, but it wasn’t enough to cover a university tuition.

I consider my ability to pay off my student loans (SL) to be a blessing, and it remains one of my most powerful testimonies to this day. This brings me to the first step I took to pay off my student loans as soon as I finished my studies.

The First Step: I Had a Plan

I’ve always been big on doing thorough research before making decisions. Before I visited the Student Loan Bureau, I did my research on their interest rate, other borrowers experiences and payment options. After doing my research, I found out two things. I would be paying student loan debts for almost my entire life and I didn’t want to spend half my life paying for debts I placed myself in to become successful in my career. So, this was the plan. I would borrow student loan for my first year, and to fund the next two years I would get a scholarship and/or a job that pays enough to pay for my tuition.

I dived into the long process of applying for a SL, and sorting out papers so that my application would be successful. I also applied for many scholarships in hopes that I would be accepted for at least one. I was. I received the scholarship a few weeks after the Student Loan Bureau (SLB) sent the funds to the university to cover my freshman year tuition. The thing is, I never expected the scholarship process to be completed so quickly. Should I cancel the SL or leave it be because the scholarship was completed sooner than expected? I was perplexed and didn’t know what I was supposed to do. Every time I went to the office, the lines were extremely long, so I eventually decided to leave everything alone with the intention of going to the students’ office on campus during my sophomore year to rectify the situation. Yes, I know, that was careless, but I did it anyway.

On the very last day of my freshman year, I went to the office and thank God the money was still available, but, I had to go through a lot of paperwork to get permission from the scholarship donors so that I could use it. I eventually did, but the money wasn’t enough since my fees increased. This meant I had to come up with some of the cash on my own.

I began applying for jobs during my first semester of sophomore year, because the idea was to avoid borrowing more money from SLB, and I still needed money to finish the second semester. I was eventually called for two interviews after applying to a number of companies. I went to one of the two and was hired as a part-time employee the next day. Working and studying was exhausting, but I was able to save my senior year tuition fees in two months and had enough money to offset my outstanding balance from my sophomore year.

You see why I said this is a testimony now, don’t you? I got everything I prayed for and more. I could have paid part of the money owed to SLB and paid them off even faster if I had been more diligent with the funds I made.

Now let’s get into the rest of steps taken to ensure the loan was paid off in a year as planned.

Ensure or Try to Secure a Job Before Graduation

The job I ended up getting might not have been my dream job, but it allowed me to start paying off my student loan immediately after I was through with my studies. Each month I would deduct a sum of my salary to pay off my student loan. It was the first thing paid every month even when I wanted the money for other things. Speaking of other things, this brings me to the next step you must all be willing to take if you want to get rid of your student loan as soon as possible.

Be willing to make sacrifices

There were many months I had to put my loans before almost every single wants and needs. I avoided online shopping sites, made my own coffee at home as often as possible and one of the biggest sacrifices, I stopped spending thousands of dollars on lunch and started bringing lunch to work and splitted my lunch in half on days when I had to purchase at a food conglomerate or restaurant. Luckily I had a special food spot that would fill my lunch box making it enough for two days. I also bought a water bottle so that I could bring my own juice or water to work. I know, some of you are probably thinking this is excessive, but you’d be astonished at the total if you added up how much you spend on food and drink each month.

Find Side Hustles

You will never get rid of that loan quickly if you are lazy. Side hustles allowed me to add more to what I was already deducting from my salary. My side hustles also gave me a chance to spoil myself every once in a while and give back to the people around me. It also allows you to place cash in your savings so that you are not pouring everything into your student loans. One of my main side hustles was freelance writing. There are many options, all you have to do is find something you are really good at and advertise your skills. LinkedIn is a great medium for this.

Be Dedicated and Keep your Eyes on the Goal

Being committed to a specific goal is extremely difficult, especially when there are so many distractions. It may appear impossible, but if you keep your eyes on the prize, you will succeed. At one point, I looked forward to the end of the month every day, not just for the pay, but because I knew that at the end of every month, I crossed off more from my debt, and the more I crossed off, the closer I got to being debt-free. I’d save all of my receipts and go through them every now and then to see how far I’d gotten. I was determined to pay off my SL debt, no matter how many sacrifices I had to make. I didn’t want it to be a stumbling block in my plans.

Having student loans is like having stones in your shoes. If you don’t stop to take them out, they will continue to make you uncomfortable and this will only slow you down.

Pay off Capitalized Interest

Capitalized interest is the interest that is accrued while you’re still studying and during your grace period. This interest capitalizes when repayment begins, which means your balance grows and you’ll pay interest on larger amount. To avoid it getting to this large amount, I would suggest you start making monthly payments while it’s accruing to avoid capitalization, or make a lump-sum interest payment before your grace period or postponement ends. This is exacting what I did. This didn’t immediately speed up the payoff process, but it ensured a smaller balance to get rid of. To do this you could try joining a partner or consider a side hustle.

Paying off your student loans can be very frustrating, and because of this a lot of people either ignore it or do what’s easy, they pay it in small amounts for the rest of their lives. I don’t believe anyone should live their entire life in debt because it prevents us from enjoying our lives and causes us to regret not having the things we could achieve had it not been for a debt. I get it, not everyone will have the same opportunities I had, but with hard work and dedication it is possible, even if its not the same story. What matters at the end of the day is the fact that you worked hard, prayed hard and you got rid of the annoying stone from your shoe.

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