The Joyful Student Loan Repayment Strategy

You know that feeling when you see something and immediately think, “That is freaking GENIUS.”

That happened to me in the Smart Money Mamas Facebook group recently. This woman graduated less than a year ago and her idea was so good I just had to share it. Let’s cut to the tape!

Naming student loans for positive experiences

Megan is naming each of her student loan payments for something she gained from her college experience. Now, I’m a sucker for creative ways to pay off debt. The debt snowball and debt avalanche are great and all, but when you find something that speaks to your experience and keeps you motivated? That’s when you’ve struck gold.

The Joyful Student Loan Repayment Strategy

I asked Megan more about her method and whether I could share more about it here. She generously agreed.

Megan graduated in December 2017 from Salem State University with an English degree and concentration in professional writing. She’s working as a secretary for the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Pharmacy but is working to become a full-time writer and editor.

After putting some money towards her loan while still in school (could this woman get any smarter?!), she knew she wanted to get more aggressive now that she was out of school. Here’s what she told me:

With so many bills to pay, budgeting in one more was a little stressful, especially because the beginning of this year for me and my fiancé was rough, so we were working hard to catch up. I can justify paying for food, rent, phone, and Internet, so I figured I should be able to find good ways to justify my student loans other than what everybody kept saying, “You got the degree.”

So, I looked at what my total bill for my loans came out to and rounded up generously, then divided by $200, a little less than what my monthly payment was. I came up with 110 payments, which is what my loan details state on under Payment Plans. The website I pay my loans off on refers to that number, 110, in months, but I am trying to do $200 every two weeks. My goal is to have all my loans paid off by the end of 2020, sooner if possible.

I added 10 in case I needed to make any extra payments and from there, came up with 120 good things that came out of my going to college.

Quick pause. This level of planning is incredible for someone right out of school. The fact that Megan starting paying her debt while in school (& before interest was accruing) and already has a debt-free target date signals good things for her financial future. Megan’s mom is involved in financial independence communities, so maybe that gave her a leg up!

I had to know though, what was on this list? And what has she paid off so far?

Some of them are practical, while others are more social.

For example, some of the items I’ve already crossed off my list are “CARP,” a graphic design term meaning Contrast, Alignment, Repetition, and Proximity. That was something I felt very valuable to learn and I use it regularly in designing my department’s newsletter. I have also used it while helping Humanist Ceremonies develop promotional material.

Another item I’ve crossed off is “Red Skies Experience,” referring to my time as Editor-in-Chief for my college’s online magazine Red Skies. That was something I really enjoyed doing and was proud to add it to my resume.

However, some other things that I have yet to get to include “Not having to pay room and board my Junior year” due to the fact that I worked as an RA that year. “Working for Chad on stage design” in the theatre department my freshman year (Chad was the Set Director). And “I ran my first 5K and won 3rd in my age group for women.”

The final item on my list is, “I worked for, earned, and paid for my education,” meant to be crossed off when I have no more payments to make.

Goosebumps, ladies and gents! As a parent who has 529 Plans for her children, I’ve waffled about whether kids should have to have some skin in the game when it comes to college costs. And while I’m sure Megan would rather not have $20,000 in student loans, that feeling when she checks off the last item on her list will be epic.

Where Megan is Headed Next…

My last question for Megan (she had no idea what she got into with that quick Facebook post!) was where she was headed next. As a young person already doing so much financial planning, I thought everyone might like to hear what her goals were.

In terms of financial goals, my main focuses right now are paying off my loans and saving up for my wedding. Between me and my fiancé, we already have a little under $2,000 saved.

We haven’t decided if we want to get married next year or wait until 2020, but we really don’t want a wedding so much as we want a few witnesses there when we say our vows and then go on a nice camping honeymoon. We are in the process of budgeting everything out right now, so when we get married depends on how much we will have to save for our bare necessities.

In terms of career goals, I am trying to work my way into the publishing industry. I enjoy writing but I am more interested in a career as a Content Editor. I am currently waiting to hear back from a few leads.

Cheap wedding, awesome frugal honeymoon. I love it.

If anyone has some Content Editor connections for Megan, let me know! She’s going places.

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What Experiences Would Make the List for Your Student Loan Payments?

Megan’s system could be invaluable for those who struggle with resentment about their student loans. Doctors, like Dr. Jenn MD, might have to divide their experiences up into chunks bigger than $200 to keep their list manageable. But even small gratitudes can help keep you motivated, instead of depressed, about paying off debt.

My list would include meeting my good friend Marc, studying labor economics with my favorite microeconomics professor, taking an excellent moral philosophy course, three great seasons of hockey, and a rhetoric professor who expanded my love of writing. Plus so many more.

What would be on your list? Share in the comments!

A less stressful student loan repayment strategy

1 thought on “The Joyful Student Loan Repayment Strategy”

  1. This is brilliant!! As a financial literacy educator, I teach people how to get out, and stay out, of debt, and I have NEVER heard of a better idea than this for keeping people engaged through the repayment process.

    I’m with you in saying that Megan is going places. I’m only sorry that I don’t have any Content Editor connections to send her way. She is a catch for sure!

    Thanks so much for sharing this story. I am incorporating Megan’s approach in my teachings effective this instant!! Lovelovelove this piece.

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