My student loans made my choices for me until I paid them off
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- When I had to leave New York because I couldn’t afford rent and student loans, I was crushed.
- Even living modestly across the United States didn’t make a difference – I had to do more.
- Unable to cut expenses any further, I increased my income and reduced my loans for the first time.
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About a month or so after I graduated from New York University with my Masters in Performance Studies, I enrolled in a popular program. budgeting app. At that time, I still had $ 68,000 in student loans despite minimum payments for five years already. Seeing how much my debt was growing freaked me out, and soon after, I deleted my account.
As I write in my book, “Dear debt, “I went for months trying not to think about the financial burden of loans, enjoying the grace period and trying to figure out my job situation and my life.
But when my grace period ended in December 2011 and saw that my minimum payment was $ 900, I realized I just couldn’t balance it financially. What I was earning at the time teaching theater part-time could not cover the rent and student loans.
The move made things even worse
I reluctantly decided to move to Portland, Oregon. I had personal reasons for moving there because my then partner was there, but I wasn’t ready to leave New York yet. I felt that I still had so much to do, so much to live on, and it was getting short because of my debt.
I moved to Portland in early 2012 and thought things would be different. But the economy was not great, especially for jobs in the arts. I found a temporary job making $ 10 to $ 12 an hour and was on food stamps for several months. It wasn’t at all how I thought my life was going to turn out, and I was miserable.
To make matters worse, I didn’t like Portland either. Being in this situation made me realize how important it is not to go into debt and to have a solid financial foundation. I felt that my choices were no longer mine. I have a very low tolerance for debt and owing money makes me very anxious. So I decided that I had to find a way to settle my debt.
I wasn’t earning a lot, but I wasn’t spending a lot either. My half the rent for a shared studio was $ 400, and I went without health, cable, or car insurance. My frugality ceiling was pretty low, so I quickly hit a plateau. There was no other way to cut back. After review the numbers and my situation, it became clear that I only had one option, and that was to earn more.
I was finally motivated to make a real change
During this time, I was making $ 12 an hour as a study abroad advisor for high school students. Nights and weekends, I found concerts on Craigslist, TaskRabbit, marketing agencies, and people I knew.
I helped a woman move out at the end of the month. I helped another woman organize her husband’s 40th birthday party. I worked for a family three years in a row, only on Halloween, as a locker room manager and waiter.
I once worked a rave night and sold bottled water. I was stroking sitting for colleagues who were out of town. I have worked as a brand ambassador and promoted products for companies in stores, festivals, concerts and on the streets. I worked as a mother’s helper.
I helped a guy clean his house and put the wrong soap in the dishwasher and almost flooded his living room (the not-so-fun part of the side scramble). I was also an event assistant in a Jewish congregation. Not being Jewish myself, the congregation was happy that I could work vacation without conflict. In other words, I did almost everything I could do to earn money on the side and it became a quest for me. What gig could I get next to earn more?
Working for me made all the difference
In January 2013, I launched my blog, Dear Debt, to stay motivated on my debt repayment journey. After almost a year of blogging, I realized that others were leveraging their blogs to create money making opportunities online. Since all of my side activities were very active and in person, I was intrigued and wanted so much to work online.
I was able to leverage my blogging skills writing for other blogs and financial companies. I have helped with social media, branding campaigns, and publishing.
It all led to self-employment in July 2014. That year I doubled my income and earned $ 60,000. I have kept my lifestyle the same. Earning so much more was the key ingredient in paying down debt, aside from the low cost of living. It was because of this that I was able to pay off my debt in December 2015, move to Los Angeles and start living the life I really wanted to live.
Melanie Lockert is the author of the book, “Dear debt,And founder of the blog of the same name, where she tells about her journey of $ 81,000 in student debt.