Student loan debt, the new epidemic, can be absolutely crippling. These loans can completely take over your life and keep you trapped in debt for what feels like forever.
Depending on the amount of debt you have, the income you make and the number of expenses you have (single? Married? Growing family?) you could be looking at a 5-10 year journey to become debt free.
Now you may be familiar with Dave Ramsey if you have looked into debt payoff at all. Dave doesn’t really promote debt payoff plans that take 10 years. He is all about “gazelle intensity” to pay off debt as fast as humanly possible so that the 10-year plan becomes the 3-5 year plan.
I completely agree with the idea to get out of debt as fast as humanly possible, but I have found that for some, 5-10 years may be the fastest they can accomplish their freedom from debt.
When you are looking at YEARS of your life dedicated to debt payoff it seems so defeating. How do you keep the motivation going for years? How do you keep up the intensity and the major sacrifices to live below your means for so long?
As someone who has had to stare $320,000 of debt square in the face, I can tell you it is not an easy thing. I have found out a few things along my debt free journey that I wish I had known sooner and implemented sooner.
How do you dig in for the long haul when your student loan debt payoff will take 5-10 years?
Step 1. Forgive yourself.
This is the single most important thing you will do to set yourself up for success moving forward. You have to forgive yourself for getting into debt in the first place. If you feel guilty, blame yourself and wallow in self-pity, you will fall off the wagon and never get out of debt.
As someone who obtained $270,000 of debt, I can tell you I know what guilt feels like. I saddled my family with this awful burden for YEARS. I punished all of us because I was selfish and wanted the degree that I wanted.
But, here’s the thing. You have to forgive yourself for taking out massive student loan debt. To obtain a degree, you are obviously an intelligent person. You just did a dumb thing by taking out student loans. So, dust yourself off and move forward. This will not define you.
Don’t let your student loan debt payoff timeline (or projected timeline) steal your hope. You have to own that you made a dumb decision, but it is not who you are. Your student loan debt is not going to define your whole life.
The chains of these loans are going to be broken and you will find financial freedom on the other side. You are still an intelligent person, you just did an unintelligent thing, and it won’t determine what the rest of your life looks like.
Forgive yourself. Move forward and move beyond this.
Step 2. Obtain a new focus to become debt free.
Once you have forgiven yourself, you can move forward and resolve to become debt free. No matter how long this takes, you will become debt free. You will not give up. You WILL pay off your student loan debt.
This is the new venture you are doing. This is your new mission and your new goal. Your focus will now be shifted from self-pity to self-empowerment. No matter how many years the debt payoff plan tells you it will take to become debt free, you are going to crush it!
Make a decision to become debt free. Every decision you are going to make from this point forward will be a decision to support your new focus. Every life choice will be a reflection of your goal to become debt free.
Once you do this, people are going to think you are super weird. That is exactly why you then need to do Step 3.
Step 3. Set up a support system.
Find yourself some amazing cheerleaders! This is a huge part of what will keep you on track when you are facing a long-term commitment to student loan debt payoff.
You are going to get made fun of, face opposition and have friends and family pressure you into doing things that don’t align with your goals. People will have good intentions, but they won’t understand what you are doing so they will inadvertently sabotage you.
Find YOUR people. Think about the people you know will support you no matter what. Sit down and talk to them about what you plan to do and what that is going to look like over the next 5-10 years. Be honest and let them decide if they can take on the role of encourager and cheerleader during that time.
You need the right people for this, so be very upfront with them, and get positive people in your corner.
Step 4. Implement your student loan debt payoff plan.
A debt payoff plan is not challenging to set up. It just takes a little bit of time and some 3rd-grade math.
- First, organize your finances so you can then,
- Set up a budget. Once your budget is set up then you can start finding money to pay off debt.
- Then you can determine your debt payoff plan
Related posts to help you get started!
Debt Payoff Plan:
Find Money to Throw at Your Debt:
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Once you are implementing your student loan debt payoff plan, then it is time to buckle down for the long haul.
Step 5. Stay accountable.
When you are working on student loan debt payoff that takes years, you will run into hard times, guaranteed. You will have emergencies and unexpected things that come up and ruin your plan.
You will have weak times where you just want to be “normal” for a bit and have some fun. You will have doubts about what you are doing and want to just throw in the towel.
Debt payoff over a period of years is absolutely draining; this is where your accountability partner will come into play. This person may be your spouse, the same person you chose for your cheerleader or just the most honest person you know.
This person’s responsibility is to check in with you every month to find out how your progress is going. This person will be the one asking you the tough questions you may not want to answer. This person will be absolute gold to you. They are going to keep you on track when you don’t want to do it anymore.
Debt payoff is hard, no doubt about it. If you are saddled with a huge student loan burden, there is hope for you to pay it off. If your student loan debt payoff plan is going to be 5-10 years, put these steps into place for success. All of this will start with forgiveness, getting the right people around you, setting up a payoff plan and being held responsible for sticking to your plan long-term.
The road may be long, but you won’t be alone and there is hope at the end! You can do this!
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