2017 Debt Reflections

 

Excited to announce that I entered 2018 with approximately $8,761 of student debt to go. Debt Free Day is becoming R-E-A-L!

First, the numbers:

-Total Debt paid in 2017 : $18,706.  

-Extra Debt payments beyond monthly payments: $15,625.

-Monthly Debt payments Feb/March 2017 vs. January 2018: $228 DECREASE. $376 was required monthly payments after all loans came off of deferment between Feb. and March 2017. Now, heading into the new year monthly payments are down to $148.

-Average Debt paid per month: $1559 [for reference, that’s almost one biweekly paycheck, meaning about 50% of take home pay has gone towards Debt].

-Month with HIGHEST $$ Debt $$ paid: June $4111, followed closely by October $3941

-Weeks ‘til Debt free: Modest goal , 20 weeks. Stretch goal, 9 weeks. That large discrepancy due to unknown amount I’m getting back for taxes, plus annual review at work coming up in a few weeks. The stretch is a REAL stretch, but anything is possible!

Second, the reflection behind the numbers.

Numbers are great, but hey they don’t tell the whole story. In the last 10 months I have made some aggressive strides in improving my financial well-being. Although this was a peaks and valley kinda year (what year isn’t?!), I like to think the debt piece was a peak ;).

Blogging about debt pay off is rewarding and a great way for me to track progress, but I’m trying to catch myself from turning this into a ‘Highlight reel’. On that note, there were some “behind the scenes” expenses that deserve a shout out–

  • Moving (most costs were incurred at end of 2016, but some did linger into 2017, or at least that dent in the wallet lingered)
  • Weddings (3!) This was by FAR the biggest additional cost of the year, given that all were destinations. Looking towards 2018…only one is a definite. Love to see my friends in love, but ahh a sigh of relief :).
  • Household: Due to some unforeseen circumstances there were a few months particularly during the Fall where I shouldered additional household expenses including rent, food, and supplies (e.g. paper towels, detergents, etc).
  • Hurricane season: Irma (personal, only travel/supply costs) & Maria (family, monetary donations for recovery)

I mention these other expenses, as a way to demonstrate that it wasn’t always a smooth ride. I’m not special, I’m actually quite lucky and acknowledge the privilege I have to even attempt paying off this debt. But, I am proud of myself for not giving up. Before I committed to the debt free journey, one or 2 of these events would have completely derailed me. Now, I give myself grace as I fall down, brush myself off, and try try again ! Same approach for my spending tracking, and all other things personal finance related.

On the personal front, this was a big transition year in my career. I moved out of academia (as a former graduate student) and into the non-profit sector. Although I have been gifted LOTS more time since finishing my degree, I did not push as hard as I could have in getting a side hustle. I’ve unsuccessfully applied to freelance stuff on UpWork, but other than that did not make much of an effort. Thus, relying on my income alone to get to debt free is working just fine, but definitely makes the process a bit slower.

Finally, the Debt-free bug appears to have worn off on my fiancé ! He is documenting his spending daily (which he says works best for him). In addition, he has created spreadsheets that document projected expenditures and earnings for the upcoming year. It’s nice to feel like this is turning into more of a team effort and to have an accountability partner in the household.

2017 was my wake up call. It was the start of my debt free revolution! It was a year of creating goals, educating myself about personal finance, and dreaming about the future. There’s always more to grow in this new year, but actually visualizing the numbers and the progress I made feels pretty gratifying. However, I’m wise enough to know (see what I did there ;), that the feeling is fleeting. In 2018, I hope to better articulate how this debt free journey has helped me to live my best life going forward.