1 Million Dollars

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Paying Off My Husband's Grad Student Loans! How did we do it, and why did we have them?

My husband is within a month of the end of his grace period for his grad student loans and we are able to pay them all OFF!!!  A bill that would cost us $195 a month for 10 years will be gone with one click.  How did we do this?  Well, to learn that we have to go way back, to 2008.

DH and I were not married then but dating.  And we just started to talk money.  I found out he had $25,000 in credit card debt.  However, no student loan debt.  But, you know if you have to pick one, student loans can be better than credit card debt (at least the interest rate).  So we sat down and talked and came to a plan.  He decide to make some major cuts, and we changed much of our dating behavior.  He also increased the hours he worked.  Then, he called every credit card up and ask for a lower rate and for most of them, he got it!  But not all.  So next, he started looking a student loans.  I had just gotten a student loan for my last year of college, from discover.  They had no origination fees and because they were subsidized no interest for the year.  He jumped on it and moved $5500 of credit card debt into student loan debt.

Then, as he starting pay the debt down the 0% offers came rolling in.  He moved the rest of his debt to 0% offers (with 3% fees) and continued to pay the debt down.  Life went on.  We both applied to grad school and he got in but I did not.  He proposed and I agreed to go with him to buffalo.  At this time, the 10% tax credit for buying a house, up to $8000 was into effect. We started looking at rent, and house costs and realized we could buy a duplex and spend the same on the mortgage as we would for rent.  But with what down payment?  I had never spent the $5500 student loan I had, plus I had set aside $7000 in my traditional IRA for grad school so I could cover a small downpayment and lucky for us, duplexes in buffalo were going for $60,000-80,000.  We could afford a small one.

But, that was great and all but what about getting to buffalo.  That would cost $3000 plus renting while we were finding a place.  We had the summer to make this money up, plus we needed another $3000 for closing costs.

So we went to work.  We both picked up extra shifts at work plus he picked up a second job.  We cut the budget further and planned a tight budget for when we got to buffalo.  By the end of the summer, we had all the money we needed plus his debt was down to $5500 in student loans and a little less than $9000 in credit card debt.

We camped out as we drove across the country, living mostly out of food bought in the grocery store (which we stored in a cooler given to us by my mother).  We did get a couple treats but that was it.  We landed in buffalo, found a place to rent and off we went to find our new home.  It took the entire semester but we found a place that we bought for $60500 and closing was covered by the seller.  That meant our $3000 could be used as an EF.  And as soon as we closed DH moved the credit card debt to student loans ($8500), again being subsidized they charged no interest.

I was still trying to get into grad school, but having no success.  We started fixing up the duplex and I looked for a job.  I found a server job, making decent money ($20,000 for the year) that I used to pay for our wedding, and pay for the classes I was taking, to increase my chances of getting in the Master's program.  We finally found tenants and that money went into our Roth IRAs.  We got married as I kept beating my head into the wall of grad school admittance and finally got in.

However, beginning in a Master's program I received no aid and this was just when we found out that graduate students would lose subsidized loans.  So to cover me, DH took out another year of subsidized student loans ($8500), just in case.  However, I had enough from working that we were ok.  Then we found out I was pregnant.  Kind of scary, but we were not going to let it stop us.

We ended up using the rental money for daycare, plus we did get some tax aid.  But all through this, the $8500 sat with our $3000 EF in our high yield checking, growing and growing.    We kept the budget tight and soldered on.  Then something wonderful happened, I got into the PhD program and with that came a $25,000 annual salary.
We saved 15% of our income but the rest was split between daycare and debt pay-off.  Now, being in the program 11 months, we have enough to pay off both student loans, and yet still keep that $3000 EF.   We were lucky to get all of these breaks but we took advantage of them as they came along and work hard to get there.  And the reward is coming.  One less debt over our shoulders by the end of the month.