Debt free!

Wow, I never thought this day would actually come. The day where I make my final payment on my very expensive education. It saddens me that this is our reality right now and students, like myself, are graduating with such a heavy burden before they even begin to live in the “real world”.

This was a burden I have carried for nearly 6 years(and that is not a long time in the grand scheme of things). I’ve always had a full time job, in addition to that, I often worked before work, during lunch, after work, and on weekends at various time in my life, trying to earn anything extra to throw at my student loans. It wasn’t easy, but it is DOABLE.

I did not fully grasp to magnitude of my student loans until my, now, husband sat me down and was like “Erin, you have a lot a debt, this is not a burden you want to carry with you forever.” I was basically clueless on  how I should be paying these loans to get the maximal benefit. I also thought I was doing “well” because I was throwing random extra money a month. Wrong.

I am forever grateful for the reality check Blake gave me when he asked me to write down all my loans from largest interest rate to smallest, the minimum payment for each, and the grand total. Oh-em-gee, that’s a lot.

Blake created a website to help me get organized, not only with my loans, but also with a budget( eww a budget!). This site has you put in all your loan details, your job earnings, tax information, and budget and then spits out a “debt free” date. I followed this very regularly over the last few years. It became a bit of game to me…how much could I “beat” the payoff date by?

I recommend anyone trying to get organized give this website a try:
It’s free and a great way to stare to get organized about your debt/loans/budget/savings.

My simple advice:
1. Work hard while you are young and able. -You don’t want to live your entire life playing catch up.
2. Live WITHIN your means.– This is a big one. I NEVER bought something I that could not afford. I did not live off credit card debt. I did not borrow money, and when I  finally got serious about paying my loans I no longer carried a car payment(this helps! You do not need that “nice” car right now).
3. But DO live. -This goes both ways, I did not live in poverty either. I still went out to dinner and had the occasional nail appointment. Make a budget and figure out what “within your means” means for YOU.

The saying “work hard, play hard” may be a cliche, but it holds true. It sucks, it’s not “fair”, it’s hard, it’s exhausting, but it is POSSIBLE.


#workhardworks #dowork #goodbyestudentdebt


Loan secrets revealed!

So after my previous post about hitting a milestone in my loan repayments,  I had a lot of people message me asking me what the secret or trick is…well unfortunately, there is no secret to paying them off quickly, but I do have a several tips that may be helpful. If I can do it, you can too! Here we go.

STEP ONE: Make a budget and stick to it!

Sit down and take a look at all your monthly expenses:  minimum loan payments, car payments, gas, groceries, rent,  going out money, etc. Anything and everything that you typically spend every month.

Now, look at your checking/saving account…do you have at least 3 months safety net if something were to happen to you?
If the answer is NO…then don’t pay extra towards your loans until you have a solid safety net.

If the answer is YES…figure out if it’s more than 3 months or exactly three months. When I sat down and looked at my numbers, I realized that I had too much money just sitting in my checking account for no reason, doing nothing! I know, I know, what a problem to have, but it’s a stupid problem and will cause me to have to pay my loans off longer.  If you fall into this category take that extra chunk money that is beyond the safety net and put it towards your loans.

STEP TWO: Organize your loans!

Make a spreadsheet of ALL your loans listed from greatest interest rate to lowest interest rate. In the spreadsheet, also, put the minimum payments down so you have everything all in one list. See the loan at the top of the list? That is where ALL you focus will go when paying extra towards your loans. Do not deviate to another loan until the highest interest loan is gone.

STEP THREE: Where does this extra money come from?

Unfortunately, student loans are not proportional to the amount you get paid(unless you are on a special income-based repayment plan). Because of this, most of us aren’t just sitting on extra money to throw towards the loans each month. Hmm…so what to do??
GET ANOTHER JOB. We are young, we are resilient, we have more energy now than we will in ten or twenty years. Take advantage of that. I have one to two additional jobs beyond my full-time 40 hour work week. I work my butt off and I am always looking for more work to do.

Do I want to go home after work and eat dinner and go to bed? YES
Do I want to pay off my loans faster than the 25 years on minimal repayments? YES

Which one do you want more?

For me, paying off my loans is my NUMBER ONE financial goal. I am NOT a financial adviser and I do not claim to be an expert, but this simple three step equation is helping ME pay off this massive amount at a much faster rate…so something must be working 🙂

Every CENT that I make (after I make sure my safety net is intact each month) goes towards the loan at the top of my list. I do not eat out as much as I used to, I do not shop as much I used to. I shop smart. Also ask yourself…is this item something I NEED or could this money goes towards my loans instead? I ask myself these questions almost EVERYDAY when I want to buy something frivolous for myself.




*Also, it is important to give credit where credit is due. Blake helped me organize and prioritize my loans. I would probably still be throwing my “extra money” all willy-nilly to the “lucky loan” that I randomly chose each month. In this case, don’t try to spread the wealth like I did. Reason #501 why I am grateful this wonderful man came into my life.




This is a very exciting post for me. To many people, this won’t seem like an accomplishment, but I am very proud of myself.

Quick  Review!

I graduated May 12, 2012 with my doctorate degree with $200,000 in student loans. I had never felt so depressed about graduating as I did the day I opened my “debt envelopment” and read that massive number. Despite my best intentions to start paying off my loans immediately upon graduation, instead of waiting out my my “grace period” …I did not do this. (Word to the wise, if you CAN, do it! The sooner you start paying..the sooner it will be paid off…simple right?). I think about how much further along I would be had I not wasted those first 6 or so months. Ah well, you live, you learn, and you pass it on. I started paying the moment  I “had” to start paying…which was November and December 2012.

Here I am almost exactly 4 years to the date of graduation and 3.5 years since I started paying off my loans… and I am excited to report that I have dipped UNDER 100 grand!!! Wooo!

As I have explained in previous blogs, I did not pay my loans in an organized and sensical fashion the first, about, 3 years. The last 10 months, I have been paying off loans, or putting extra towards the loans with the highest interest rate and, slowly, working my way down the list. Yes, $99,394 is still A LOT of money…but it is also A LOT of progress in such a short amount of time.

According to my calculations, I have just over two years left of these pesky loans and then this huge burden will be lifted and I can start paying for other things I want, haha.





BUT, I have been forced to learn SO much about loans, money borrowing, budgets, interest rates, monthly payments…and you can’t put a price on that 😉


I can buy stuff without money? Cool!

Let’s chat about credit cards for a minute. Since my blog discusses a lot about loans and how to get out of debt, I feel it is importance to touch briefly upon credit cards.

There are a plethora of benefits and really cool thinthgs about credit cards. For starters, it helps you build your credit. Just getting out of high school or college, kids, typically, do not have any credit yet.

Lucky for me I have SO MANY student loans to help build my credit, but for those of you that don’t…this is an option.

Another cool thing is most credit cards have some sort of reward system. I fly quite a bit, so I have one of the airline credit cards, and that is the ONLY credit card I use. With this card, you earn miles with all your purchases. To me, that is super valuable.

Obviously, there are tons of different cards with didn’t rewards that will fit what is important to you.

Okay, why am I talking about credit cards….am I getting commission? Haha no. I wanted to talk about the pros so that I could also talk about the CONS.


thX7ULSRAYIt is not a way to live outside your means. I cannot stress this enough. Credit card debt is such a big problem in SO many peoples lives. Yes, I sit under a pile of debt, but it is from my education. I joked about having a shopping problem, but I never spent what I did not have.

I use my credit card for almost every purchase, solely to get my air miles. I pay off my credit card every month.

Credit card debt can’t quick turn into crippling debt because of the insanely high interest rates. Most credit cards have somewhere between 15-25% interest rate. I think the card I have has 24%. Crazy!

I can buy stuff without money? Cool!

So maybe think twice before swiping the credit card next time. If you cannot pay off your credit card bill every  month, then you might be living outside your means. It might be time for the B word.




More on that later…




Okay so, what’s going on with those loans?

By December 2014, I had been a traveling physical therapist for 2 years, had a car loan for a little over a year, and was paying, randomly, extra money every month towards my loans.

In January 2015, I started working a second job in my “spare” time. This will be the first time in my career life that I am working two jobs. My loans were fed a lot in January!! $$$

By February, I had decided to move to a Caribbean island, stop traveling physical therapy, and take about a 50% pay cut. I was okay with the decreased pay because I was very excited about this new adventure. I didn’t quite think about how this was going to affect the progress of my loans.Palm-Tree

Remember how I was paying max payments, while on the 10 year plan? Well I switched all the loans to minimum payments on a more long-term plan. Whomp Whomp…That light at the end of the tunnel was getting further and further away.

I moved to t62251672-640he island, dropped around $8,000 on an “island car” and started pinching pennies wherever possible. Which, let me tell you, is not as easy on an island as it is in the states. What happened to that brand new Prius I bought? Oh, I will continue to pay on that for months until it sells, while it sits through its first winter in the Northeast.


So grand total for loans around March 2015?
Student: around 150K
Car: 17K
Total: 167K

Progress? For sure. Where I should be? No.

Reminder: DON’T BUY THE CAR.


Don’t worry… I will eventually be on the right track…stay tuned for how 🙂

Do I really need this?

Hi my name is Erin and I am a shopaholic.

I wasn’t always like this. I could probably count on two hands the number of times I actually went shopping while in college. Once I was out of college and I had the cash flow, I went nuts.

I bought stuff I didn’t remotely need and, sometimes, even want. Something about the high of im-not-a-shopaholic-im-helping-the-economy-2the purchase gave me such satisfaction. Maybe it was the fact that after many years of being a poor college student, I could finally buy whatever I wanted. Who knows what it was.

There was about a two year period in my life where I didn’t even look at price tags. This is embarrassing to even admit because, well, it is a really stupid way to live, regardless of whether you have money or not.

I was THE girl you wanted at your sales parties because I was definitely going to buy something, and it would most likely be expensive.price-tag-images

I was still continuing this crazy habit when I moved to the island. Granted, we do not have as many stores here, but guess what? Turns out, I get just as much satisfaction out of clicking “confirm order” online, as I do swiping a credit card at the store.

I think when I moved, I bought something like ten bathing suits within my first month. I justified every single purchase. After all, when you live on an island, a bathing suit is everyday wear, right?

Stopping the Shopping

I wouldn’t say I don’t shop anymore, but I definitely think twice when making a purchase. It helps to try to put things into perspective.

  1. How many gallons of gas will it cost?
  2. How many hours at work will it take to pay off?
  3. Do I want it?
  4. Do I need it?
  5. Will this help/hurt/effect my financial situation?
  6. Wouldn’t putting that money towards my loans be more satisfying in the long run?

Sounds like common sense right? It is, but it helps. I usually think about what I want and don’t buy it immediately. If I am still thinking about in a few weeks, then usually I get it. Many a times, I have completely forgotten about the item.

You know what else? I get even MORE satisfaction every time I see another loan paid off, and that is worth way more than a new bathing suit.

The struggle is real.






STOP! Don’t buy the car!

One of the main things we were told when preparing for graduation and the real world was to NOT buy a new car.

Makes perfect sense right? We were just handed big, fat envelopes of debt…why would you add tens of thousands more to that already high number? There is no good reason.

Ask yourself these questions when you feel like you may cave:

  1. Does your current car run? (Yes)
  2. Do you have student loans? (Yes!)
    – and if your answer is no, then I’m jealous and maybe you can buy the car.
  3. Is buying a new car going to help your financial situation? (NO!)

In college, I bought a 2006 Hyundai Elantra. By graduation it was completely paid off, there were no major issues with it, not even cosmetic ones. A perfect car to start my adult life on the road to paying off student debt.

While in South Carolina, two of my friends bought new cars (not brand new, but new to them) and from there I had the itch…

I drove myself to the Toyota delearship, alone, to test drive a mint green, used Toyota Prius.

BACK UP… Picture this for a moment… A young girl, walks into a car delearship…alone… wishing to purchase a car. How do you think I was treated? Not well. I was treated very poorly and not taken seriously (which has been an ongoing struggle in my adult life).

But hey, dodged a bullet right? Didn’t buy the car, got that out of my system.WRONG!

The dealership called me a few days later asking about my experience and I was honest. They promised me a better experience and convinced me to return with a different salesperson.

Well jokes on everyone. Remember that used Prius? For $12,000? It didn’t have cruise control (deal breaker). Solution? Buy a brand new Prius.

imageI failed at the number one rule and added $22,000 on top of my mound of debt. Not the smartest move in eliminating my student loans.

Let’s do some math: I was on the 10 year plan ($2000 a month plus whatever extra) making max payments. Down about 30K… Let’s add 22K on top.
New grand total: $192,000
By end of 2013, I was a year down and barely made any progress.



“The real world”

I think I need to start with my life post college and pre St. Croix to paint the picture that ultimately brought me to where I am.

I am not one of those people that will say “college was the best days of my life”. I remember being in college thinking “this can’t be as good as it’s going to get.” Don’t get me wrong, I had fun, made some great friends and have some great memories, but I could not wait to be an “adult” and to be in the “real world”.

My first taste of the “real world” is a memory that I don’t think I will ever forget…

Sitting in class just days before being our doctoral hooding, the financial aid office shows up with big fat envelopes for every student. The envelope contained the grand total amount of student loans we had accrued over the last 6 years and the reminder that we had a short 6 month grace period before we had to start paying back this unfathomable amount of money.


My grand total was about $200,000.00. Yes, there is the proper amount of decimals and commas in there. (I will be going into much greater details about my loans…stayed tuned)

I didn’t know how I was going to pay this off.. But I knew where I was going to start.

Travel Physical Therapy.

I have so much to say about traveling PT, it warrants its own post.