Normally, I hate headlines that make it sound like I am some super human when I am really just a nerd who sits behind a computer all day.
When my wife and I got engaged, we had accumulated $21,500 in subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans and we were both finishing up our last semester of school before we would drop out. We were each going to have to pay off half of a degree that would never be used.
I got married at 19, so when we got engaged we had about $200 between my wife and me. We were the definition of young, broke and in love.
Four months before our wedding date, I knew I had to buckle down because I didn’t want $21,500 of student loans hanging over our heads. I thought the pressure of student debt and being broke would cause a split in our marriage.
I was freaking out and worrying about $21,500 we had to pay off collectively, which is less debt than the average student graduates with.
My fear of debt and wanting my marriage to succeed drove me to pay off all of our student loans in just over four months or exactly one week after our wedding.
I will never forget the day I made that last payment and the joy I felt (almost more joy than my wedding). I made my student loan payment the day I got back from my honeymoon, which was one week.
Here are the four strategies I took to paying off my student loans in just over four months.
They work really well when combined, but be careful how much you take on. I was working close to 70 hours per week trying to pay off my loans.
Strategy #1: Let the Money Roll, Baby
Before my wife and I got married I was going to school full-time and had a part-time job as a day labourer for a construction company, meaning I was the young muscle because all of the older guys have bad backs from years of construction.
In the winters I would work shovelling snow and in the summers I would carry various tools and supplies like shingles, drywall, and plywood.
The five months before my wife and I got married, I was fortunate enough to be able to turn my part-time day labourer job into a full-time job and get a raise.
Being able to go to full-time was luck because they needed more men and had plenty of work.
But getting a raise was done strategically. Here are the steps I took to get a raise in roughly 30 days:
Step #1: Hustle for Mo’ Money
In the 30 days before asking for a raise, I hustled like I never did before. I broke my back (not literally – though it felt like it at times) and made myself look extremely valuable.
I jumped at any opportunity to work late, work hard, and take on new projects. I began working on projects rather than just hauling supplies like a mule.
My goal was to create more value for the company and make myself look extremely valuable so my boss did not want me to leave.
Step #2: Collect Your Negotiating Chips
While I was hustling I would go home every night and apply for new jobs. I would apply to other day laborer jobs or factory jobs that offered the same or more pay.
I did not want to leave my employer, but I needed negotiating power so that the only response my employer could give was, “Yes Alex. I will give you a raise.”
I interviewed at a couple places and was extended an offer at a manufacturing plant that would increase my hourly wage by 20 percent.
Now I had some bargaining chips and knew I was going to get at least a 20 percent raise.
I sat with my employer and asked for a raise. He told me, “The company cannot afford to at the moment”. So I told him as collectively and respectfully as possible that I had another opportunity that he would need to beat for me to stay.
I ended up getting a 30 percent raise.
Between becoming full-time and getting a raise, I was able to bring in an additional $1,500 monthly.
Strategy #2: Start a Side Hustle
I have always had an interest in owning my own business.
I did not have very many skills, but I spent some time as a janitor and cleaner when I was younger so I thought I would start a cleaning company.
With a low cost to start, I was up and running within a week. Since I started my cleaning company while still in college, I figured I would market to college students. This was hard and tricky because they did not like to pay you sometimes, but I managed.
I marketed to Frat and Sorority houses and specialized in “after party clean up”. I spent most of my Saturdays and Sundays cleaning houses, but it turned out to be pretty lucrative business idea.
I was able to generate an extra $500 per month before my wedding. In my effort to increase my income I was able to generate about $8,000 more than I was making.
Strategy #3: Keep Your Money in Your Pocket
All of the extra money I generated would have been useless if we spent it all.
Did I go out to eat a little more than I did when I was making less money? Sure.
But we kept our expenses to a minimum. My wife and I lived with our parents until after our wedding. We basically lived off of Ramen Noodles. I still shiver just thinking about that.
We slashed and questioned all of our expenses. Spending less money was not too hard for me because I was working 70+ hours a week so I did not really have time to spend it.
Strategy #4: Keep Things Simple and Cheap if Possible
The average cost of a wedding is $28,000. Most people say they would never spend that, but there are so many other people whose input matters, like your parents.
It is hard to have the wedding you want, especially if your parents are going to be the ones to foot the bill.
My wife and I got lucky by having a large network and a large family. Between my wife and I, we have 27 uncles and a lot of cousins. We were able to get the church, the venue, and catering all for free.
The only expenses we had were the clothes and the rings. Our total cost of our wedding was $3,645 and there were 212 people there that gave us a total of $14,000 in wedding gifts.
Defeating a mountain of student loan debt can feel impossible. It is possible to pay it all off and quickly, but it requires hard work and sacrifice.
I know most people are not willing to delay buying a home, are afraid to negotiate a raise, and spend time watching too much Netflix rather than starting a side business.
Anything remarkable is achieved because it takes effort. It’s not easy. By definition, to do something remarkable, it takes doing the things most people are unwilling to do.
If you want to pay your debt off faster than anyone else, then you have to work like no one else.