Citi: $598.09. Discover: $4748.09. Chase: $5580.33. University loan: $385.65. Wells Fargo: $621.22. Sallie Mae: $12, 893.05.
Total credit debt: $10,917.42 Total student loan debt: $13,899.92 Seemingly smart people can do dumb things sometimes, especially when it comes to their finances. I got my Bachelor of Science in Astronomy, with minors in Physics and Mathematics. Sounds impressive, right? Looking at the above numbers, I have to show some humility. Believe it or not, I’ve come a long way. Some of those totals used to be two, three or even larger multiples of what they are now. I also have an American Express credit card that I’ve paid off, and from which I’m now reaping the rewards. What has worked for me in paying off my debt? I’ve always been a numbers guy. With that mindset, I go for the method that ends up being the least expensive in the long run. I pay minimum payments on most loans, and then I pay whatever extra I can on the loan with the highest APR. Once that particular loan is paid off, I will tackle the loan with the next highest APR in the same manner. That is what’s been working for me. There are also some smaller tricks along the way that have helped a lot. For a good while now, I’ve been tracking my expenses. I got really tired of overdraft fees, particularly at $25 a pop! Once I started tracking my finances, overdraft fees were a thing of the past. There are numerous ways this can be done, from the old school register in your checkbook (I know people who still do this!), to a bit more modern spreadsheet, to perhaps the most modern way, digital apps. I use one called PocketMoney. It’s done everything I’ve needed it to do, but there are plenty from which to choose. Select a method that works for you. Within the last few years, I’ve taken up cooking and making a lot of my own meals to help save on food costs. Every morning for breakfast I make a good, healthy three-egg omelet. It probably costs a few dollars once all the ingredients are accounted for. A meal of similar proportion would easily cost $8-$9 in a restaurant, and that’s not including tax and tip. An extra side benefit to taking up cooking? It’s helped me lose a significant amount of weight (about 30 pounds!). Remember that American Express card that I said I paid off a while ago? That credit card is one of their cards that allows a person to earn cash back, and at a pretty decent return rate at that. I earn cash back at accelerated rates on groceries, department store purchases, and gas, as well as a base 1% on all other purchases. Outside of my monthly rent, most of my money goes towards groceries. Once I paid off that card (and I have been paying it off in full every month!), I now get anywhere from $20 to $35 back each month depending on my spending. But remember, these kinds of rewards cards won’t be of any value if you carry a balance on them. The interest rates will far outdo any rewards rates that you could possibly earn. Believe me, I know!
Climbing out of debt is a long, arduous road. It takes a lot of persistence. But it certainly can be done if you’re ready and willing. Considering where I started, I’m more than half way through. There are some things that I’ve sacrificed along the way, but for me, it’s been more of a way to find some clever workarounds, which is how I’d prefer to do it. It’s not so much about giving things up, but it’s more about being smart with your money.