Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Steven, but I am better known on my blog as Even Steven Money. I am your everyday Joe Steven who lives and works in corporate America, staring at a cubicle wall at my 9-5 office job. My website revolves around working to pay back all of my debt, becoming Even Steven, and reaching financial independence in order to retire early.
How did you acquire $100,000 in debt? What did that debt consist of?
At one point my debt had ballooned to over $100,000. I don’t think I ever wrote down the exact number or entered it into a spreadsheet out of shame and guilt, but I know looking back that my student loans were somewhere in the neighborhood of just below $60,000.
What did it feel like to have that much debt?
For a while I really had no idea; I thought it was just part of going to college and getting to that next step in life. When I realized that was not the case and didn’t get the job I “deserved” straight out of college, I felt like I failed. I felt ashamed to look at all my debt, I expected bigger and better things from myself than starting out with six figures of personal debt.
How long did it take you to pay it all off?
The big granddaddy of them all, my student loans, actually took me almost 10 years to pay off, but when I got my finances straight, made goals, and followed through it took me 2 years and 3 months to pay off the final $46,500.
What resources did you use to help you through this process?
Some of the best resources for me included the following:
- Excel Budget, which I call my Rock Bottom Budget™
- Mint and Personal Capital
- Blogging on my Even Steven Money and reading other success stories along the way
- Listening to Dave Ramsey every morning on my way to work
- Reading different books about personal finance, motivation, and travel
Did you face any challenges along the way?
The biggest challenge I faced paying off my student loan debt over the last 2 years was changing my lifestyle to match my goals of repaying my debt. It was not a simple change that happened overnight. I got rid of my iPhone, cut cable, brought my lunch to work, and worked my tail off to make extra money. Every single dollar went towards my debt: raises, promotions, overtime, bonuses, side hustle money, tax returns. I made a decision that I cared more about paying off my student loans than about buying some of life’s luxuries.
How did this affect your marriage?
Mrs. Even Steven Money has been 100% supportive through each and every step of the way. She knew how much paying off my student loans meant to me and she kept me on the right path whenever I wanted to take a detour. Having someone there to listen to your crazy plans and ideas kept me down to earth. Sometimes I get a little crazy and think I should invest everything in Beanie Babies or Lehman Brothers stock, but luckily the wife keeps me balanced and advises against this!
What were you doing for a living while you were paying off the debt?
Fishing off an island in Nicaragua collecting paychecks. Oh wait, I see: not what I want to be doing – a man can dream right? I was working the typical 9-5 job in corporate America, I could be sitting next to you in a cubicle on Monday. Work didn’t stop there, though. I also run a side hustle on eBay to bring in extra cash and that helped me to pay off the debt sooner. If you are not hustling, you are not trying hard enough.
How did it feel once you paid it all off?
Paying off my student loans felt like I had just won a major award: I was ready to go up on stage and give my speech thanking everyone who had helped along the way. It felt great and at the same time I had the feeling that I could accomplish anything with hard work, dedication, and a plan.
What practical tips do you have for people looking to pay off their debt?
One of the best things I did over the last 2 years was to create incredibly big goals. I didn’t say “I want to pay off my student loans in 10 years.” Instead, I said “I’m paying off $25,000 in 10 months and I’m going to put together a plan to do it.” The best thing about having big goals is that even if you come up short and don’t reach your goal, you are in a much better place than you could have ever imagined.
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To learn more about Even Steven and his plan for early retirement, you can find him blogging over at evenstevenmoney.com.