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23 Jun 2018

This Couple Paid off $70,478 in Student Loans in 18 Months

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by Shannon Marie

"My goal has always been to get out of student loan debt by my 40th birthday, and with our current plans we should easily make that goal."

Katie and Mark, of Salt Lake City, were married after their sophomore year in college. Back then, they were both sure that, one day, they’d be lawyers (and well-paid ones, at that).

But just a semester into law school, Katie realized that it wasn’t the right fit. And, when Mark graduated, he was greeted by what seemed to be an impossible job market. That’s when he decided to go after his MBA.

Flash forward, through what they fondly refer to as “The Black Hole,”—the years in which they struggled and hustled to figure out what to do for a living—and, now, Mark’s a procurement manager, and Katie has a stock photography business.

Their Post-Graduation Sticker Shock Was Real

Katie and Mark had been budgeting since they first got married. They were well aware that they’d borrowed a lot of money. It’s just that, at least in the beginning, they’d banked on beefier legal salaries and fewer professional detours. Now, with reasonable (if more modest) incomes secured, they were facing $342,568 in student loans. It all felt pretty daunting.

Luckily, in addition to being well-educated, the couple had some common sense and a sliver of hope. Mark said, “Once I was done with all of my education, we had to figure out a plan for getting all-the-way out of debt.”

So, They Turned to YNAB

Mark said, “YNAB served as a tool for helping us turn our hope into possibility. It gave us a concrete idea of what we could accomplish.”

Before YNAB, Katie and Mark had tracked things manually. Mark said, “Excel was easy when we only had a few expenses, but it quickly became cumbersome … YNAB made it easier for Katie and I to align on finances, mostly because it gave us greater visibility into where we were spending our money.”

And, Then, They Dove In!

Their first, and most important, budgeting goal was the student loans. Within just 18 months of laser-focus on repayment, Mark and Katie had paid off $70,478. Mark said, “We’re hopeful (and confident) that we’ll be able to have those loans fully paid off by the spring of 2020.”

But that’s not even close to all of their accomplishments …

Mark said, “We had several sub-goals, as well. Since we began budgeting with YNAB, about 2 1/2 years ago, we’ve saved more than $20,000 to buy a long-term, reliable car—outright—and more than $20,000 for the down payment on a modest home. It was amazing to us how quickly we were able to meet those goals with concerted effort.”

Next, they look forward to completely paying off the remaining $272,090 in student loans.

Mark said, “My goal has always been to get out of student loan debt by my 40th birthday, and with our current plans we should easily make that goal. After that, we’ll work on our home loan, then financial independence and early retirement, which, thanks in part to YNAB, looks not just possible, but likely!”

The Big Lesson

If you worry that you’re doomed to live the rest of your life with the crippling burden of student loan debt, as Katie and Mark once did, Mark has some advice and encouragement:

“People tend to avoid thoughts about money or budgeting because they’re afraid of what they’ll learn; whether that’s a restriction of freedom, or a sure knowledge of how bad their financial situation actually is, or whatever. The reality is, budgeting isn’t restricting, it’s empowering. By taking control of money in your life you are creating personal freedom.”

Mark knows what it’s like to subsist on lentils and rice, and to send out five to ten job applications a day, for an entire year, wondering if a decent job offer will ever arrive—it can be scary, but facing your finances is power!

Mark said, “Before budgeting, I had no path to financial freedom because I lacked knowledge about my true financial situation. [Now] I can make decisions, and the sum of those decisions forms my path to meeting my financial goals and eventual financial independence.”

Less debt looks pretty good on Katie and Mark’s family, don’t you think?

To read more about Kate and Mark’s story, check out their blog, Up To Our Eyeballs. To finally face your money (and start writing your own success story story!), give YNAB’s free, 34-day trial a spin.

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Your Next Step

Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)

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