I Paid Off $28K of Debt in 2016

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When 2016 started I had two goals in mind I wanted to work on for the year:  pay off as much debt as possible and focus on contentment, and if I’m going to base 2016 on the progress of those two things, I have to say I accomplished what I set out to do.  However, my journey is not over and will continue into 2017.

Debt recap

When January 2016 started I had just completed paying off the remaining $8,299.75 balance of my SUV.  It took me six months.  January 1, 2016 I started my new journey of paying off my student loans. I wanted to pay a minimum of $1,600 a month on my student loans making my end date July 2017 – January I hit that goal.  February came and I picked up a side hustle, I started working 6 days a week and I pushed myself harder than I ever thought was possible – that month I paid a little over $2,200.  March came with more determination and focus than ever.  I was able to pay $2,500 towards my student loans that month…

…Every month last year I was able to pay at least the minimum goal I set for myself of $1,600 and, with the exception of last January, I have constantly paid $2,000+ towards my student loans every single month.  I was able to push my final payoff date from July 2017 to April 2017 to March 2017 to February 2017.

I made a student loan payment with every paycheck check I received last year, sometimes I even made extra payments in the month.  I kept track of every payment I made, which you can see below.  (And if you love numbers like I do, you can also look at my monthly progress and loans in my “the debt” tab.)

Date Paid

Amount Paid

1/16/2016 $886.67
1/30/2016 $794.24
2/16/2016 $757.37
2/29/2016 $1,476.00
3/8/2016 $650.00
3/15/2016 $812.25
3/31/2016 $1,124.58
4/2/2016 $117.11
4/15/2016 $1,060.28
4/30/2016 $922.00
5/13/2016 $1,131.00
5/31/2016 $881.94
6/6/2016 $130.00
6/15/2016 $1,108.87
6/26/2016 $368.00
6/30/2016 $746.50
7/9/2016 $482.00
7/15/2016 $1,137.62
7/29/2016 $914.43
8/2/2016 $150.00
8/15/2016 $1,259.58
8/31/2016 $824.20
9/15/2016 $1,224.90
9/30/2016 $859.00
10/14/2016 $1,096.00
10/31/2016 $1,012.51
11/15/2016 $1,038.31
11/30/2016 $1,050.07
12/15/2016 $1,500.00
12/30/2016 $2,778.00

This past December I made my largest single payment/overall monthly payments to date, paying $4,278.00 in student loans!  I wanted to finish 2016 out strong.

I also paid off my 12th student loan and now have only ONE more to go! My new SL balance is $3,501.00.

Contentment

I was recently talking to jmr about what I wanted my new word for 2017 to be.  I want it to be powerful and driving, like I felt contentment was for 2016, but I also wanted it to be a focus word for my goals in 2017. I still haven’t figured out what I want my word to be. However, while contemplating my word for 2017, I was thinking about contentment and told jmr “I don’t think I did that well with finding contentment last year.”

He asked me what my definition of contentment was.  I simply wanted to take time to live in the moment and to appreciate the small, nameless moments in my day that otherwise would have gone unnoticed, and above all I wanted to focus on my SL goal without letting it be all consuming and an obsession in my daily life.

He said “well, if that was your definition, than you absolutely accomplished contentment.”  He went on to explain how each month he watched me slowly become more at peace and confident with this process.  How I could easily turn off my “on-the-go hustle mind frame” and be 100% in the moment when it was important, like when I went to Chicago with my Papa or to Michigan in July, and more than ever I slowed down and was fully present when it came it the holidays.

When he explained it like that, I guess I really have learned how to be content.  I know that contentment is a fleeting moment and it will always be a work in progress, but this last year more than ever I thought it was SO important to focus on.

2016 highlights

  1. Getting engaged! (2016 will be a year a will never forget for many reasons, but this was my #1 highlight);
  2. Long weekend in Chicago with my Papa;
  3. Week vacation in Michigan with jmr’s family;
  4. Weekend trip to Nashville to visit my best friend;
  5. My Dad getting married;
  6. Starting this blog and finally…
  7. All the progress I have made with my debt.

2017 dreams

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions and I read somewhere that 80% of Americans fail to make it happen after they make said resolutions, but I do like planning out my dreams for the year.  I also think it’s really important to dream with your spouse or significant other on what you want your year to look like.  Look ahead!  Whether it’s taking more vacations, planning more date nights or buckling down on your finances, I think it’s important to have some type of driving force for your year that both of you can work on and be purposeful together, not only with your time, but with your money.

My dreams for 2017 look a little like this:

First, I think it goes without saying my number one dream in 2017 to make my final student loan payment.  I hoping to make my final payment on February 15th, BUT in order to make it happen I’m going to have to find an extra $200 in my budget (my normally scheduled payment will leave me $200 short of that 0 balance).  Otherwise, I will carry that $200 balance for 2 weeks and make my final payment on February 28th.  I’m hoping I can find something to sell in my home. I feel a purge coming on.

Second, I want to build an emergency fund consisting of at least $5,000 and also I need to figure out what I want to do for my retirement savings.  I currently have an IRA with a small amount of money in it and I was recently added to my firm’s profit sharing program last year.  I’m going to start contributing to my retirement, I’m just not sure how much money and which account I will focus on yet.

Third, save for all the money we need to pay for our wedding which will be April 21, 2018. I am confident this will be extremely doable. We are already planning way head of the date and figuring out what things cost so we can save appropriately to pay for everything in cash and finally…

…jmr decided he wants to go back to school starting in this summer or fall for a Masters in Accounting to become a CPA!  (He has a major in Finance and minor in accounting and currently works as an Accountant.  We’re a number loving couple. How cute!) He is already debt free and we want to pay for all his classes this year in fullNo loans! I am also not concerned with paying for this because classes will be spread out in 2017 and 2018. We don’t have to have all the money for the program paid at once.  We’re going to pay per class.

Woah!

Those are some big money dreams, BUT I know I can do it.  I just spent one whole year paying off $28,293.43 in student loans and I have learned so much in the last couple of years*, especially this year.  Paying off debt has really become a way of life. And honestly right now I’m on autopilot and have been for quite some time.  After I pay off all my debt, the money I would normally put towards my SL payments will go solely into a savings or retirement fund.  I have completely changed my lifestyle and mind frame regarding money and it will not only benefit me in my future, but it will hopefully be something that I will teach my future children.

I’ve said more than once paying off debt is more than money, it’s about your mind frame and attitude.  I want to try to inspire, encourage and help those find the answers they need to live and love a more financially sound lifestyle.  It’s about enjoying the quality of life with a more focused mind and the people you love helping you along the way to achieve your dreams.

There’s no better time to start than today, so for 2017 I made you guys an excel spreadsheet that will help you track your spending for the year (see below). Hopefully you find this spreadsheet helpful.  It not only tracks each category per month, but it will also give you a yearly total for that category.  You can play around with it and add or subtract things that apply to your life.  Let me know what you think!

Now is now friends.

expense-tracker-2017

Until next time…

Current Progress:  12 loans paid off, debt balance $3,501.00

*I started my debt freedom journey in July 2015, since then I have paid off $36,593.18 in debt (my SLs plus the car I paid off in 2015.)

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