Today I paid off my student loans. The amount owing was originally $38,000 CDN but I’ve probably paid an additional $5,000-$6, 000 in interest over the past four years. When I first started paying the loans off I was spending over $6 a day in interest. Several years ago I worked as a high school teacher in Canada and had a hard time paying off the interest and principal. Making anything more than the minimum payment was a real stretch and I remember feeling like paying off the loans would be impossible.
Try and make as much money as you can in your current occupation: be aggressive.
As I worked as a high school teacher, I thought it would be a good idea to move to Asia and start using my Masters in Education degree as a university instructor. A higher paying job I wanted that was not available in Canada. In addition, I’d heard that frugal hard working teachers in Asia were able to save between $10,000- $20,000 a year which is true. While this might seem like a clear choice it is hard to just give up your job, home, and culture to embark on a professional adventure. The first year in Taiwan was a very hard adjustment and many people thought I was crazy to have left my settled former life behind.
Work a part time-job in addition to your full-time gig: if you need to make money you have to take every opportunity you can to do so. Work in the evening and on weekends when you have spare time. To budget, I would live off my part-time income and save the majority of my full time income.
Live below your means: while this is an obvious piece of advice it is something few people follow in our consumer society. The apartment we live in is not fancy but it only costs $450 a month. I walk and take the subway instead of using a car. This does not mean I don’t splurge but it is within reason and usually on sale.
Pay for everything in cash: it is a lot simpler, less hassle, and you don’t have to worry about credit card debt.
Anticipate unexpected expenses: understand there might be that unexpected $500 expense, tax return that doesn’t come through, or expensive travel bills. Accept that unexpected expenses are a part of life and be ready for them.
Develop yourself professionally: go to school and continue your education, gain new marketable skills, attend conferences, network, and volunteer. Often your employer will pay for part of your tuition or conference expenses. If you go back to school you could get a scholarship that brings in more funds. Attending conferences are a great way to network for graduate school or meet contacts for a new position in your field.
Stick to your guns: this piece of advice is a lot easier said than done as it takes real discipline to stick to a budget. In our society we are conditioned to brag about how much we’ve spent not how much we’re saving. Many people have shown disrespect towards me for choosing to go to an international conference over spending money on a vacation in Asia, working on Saturday mornings, not owning a car, and living below my means. “I could never live like that” is something I’ve heard often enough. Just ignore it and keep making those deposits in the bank. As your income grows, increase your monthly deposits and start paying off the smaller chunks of your debt until it’s gone.
It feels amazing to be debt free!!!