I was never a big fan of being in debt. I always hated the idea of having to pay somebody back and feeling tied to that responsibility every single day. However, after I graduated from college, I got in a car accident in which ended up totaling my car – and to get a new car that wouldn’t fall apart immediately, I needed a loan. My family is a “Subaru” family, and after some light hassling and a lot of research, I settled on a used blue Subaru Forester.
After getting a loan and purchasing my very first car, I should have felt free (especially with a $10,000 down payment), but instead, I felt tied down. I didn’t really feel like it was my car and I knew the only way to make it feel like my own was to pay off my debt. I set my mind on paying back the loan as quickly as possible. In just a year, I paid back the $9,000 car loan and got myself out of car debt.
Paying off the loan in a year wasn’t easy, but it was possible. I had a $9,000 loan through the local credit union with a 6 percent interest rate, which is extremely high, so I wanted this loan paid off ASAP. I began to brainstorm strategies to save money and implemented new routines to my life that allowed me to put as much money as possible toward paying off the loan.
For starters, I began making a budget. Up until this point, I always just figured out my finances as I went along. However, I knew that without a system in writing, I wouldn’t be saving as much as I wanted to. Each month, I would sit down with a notebook and a calculator and figure out how much money I would be making and divide it among my expenses, which were rent, food, gas, spending, etc. Then, I added a category for my car loan. Each month, without fail, I paid back a set amount on my car loan.
I also decided to increase the amount of money I was bringing in by adding a few side hustle jobs. These are small jobs that weren’t my main focus, but that I could turn to when I wanted to make a little more cash. I drove for Uber during my spare time, which turned out to be a great job. Who doesn’t want to get paid for just driving around?
I even offered to babysit for my friends who have children and did other odd jobs around my neighborhood. These small jobs brought in just enough extra cash that I was able to pay off my loan that much quicker with an extra $50 or $100 here and there.
The most important change I made was cutting back in almost all areas of my spending. Once I committed to paying back my loan quickly, I found that I was spending money excessively. I stopped paying for name-brand coffee creamer when the store brand tasted exactly the same, and I learned to start couponing. I quit online shopping for clothes that I didn’t need. Instead of asking my friends to go out, I would invite them over for a game night.
All of these seemingly small changes really added up. I was saving hundreds of dollars every month that I put directly into paying back my car loan.
It may seem like paying off this car loan was a piece of cake, but it actually took a lot of hard work. I had to really hone my self-discipline, especially during the holidays because I like giving gifts… a lot. Sometimes, my friends were resentful that I said no to going out because I didn’t want to spend any money. They didn’t really understand that every dollar mattered to me.
What made this feat even more challenging was that I was also dealing with student loan payback. The average graduate has over $37,000 in school loans, and I was no exception. It was terrible to think that even though I was paying back my car loan, I still had another gigantic loan to deal with. As I said earlier, I hate being in debt. Luckily, I have transferred all of the strategies I used to pay off my car loan to paying off my student loans and am now working on that chunk of debt.
Paying back my car loan in only a year taught me a lot of valuable lessons about money and what really matters. I found that I don’t need the fanciest purse or the most expensive drink on the menu. I know that my life will be full of debts. I’ll have a mortgage one day, credit card debt and more. Being able to apply these techniques to my financial situation puts me at ease that I’ll be able to live comfortably while still paying off my debts.
Megan is the editor over at Your Wild Home. Find out more about her story by going to YourWildHome.com.