Lately I’ve found myself involved in several conversations about student loan debt, debt in general, and the difficulty of being young, fresh out of college, and making a living. These conversations have been fascinating because they have been so relevant. My husband and I are on a tight budget, and we’ve spent the few months we’ve been married looking for ways to make our money work for us and to start paying down some of our debt, the bulk of which is student loans. What budgeting has meant for us is that we’ve had to choose our priorities. For example, we both owe money on our cars but we have made having them a priority. That means we might have to delay other purchases. We’d love to replace all of our living room furniture, but that’s our motivation to pay off something else before we buy a new couch. Paying our rent, utilities, and making payments on our loans doesn’t leave room for a lot of extra, but we have to work with what we’ve got. It also means we have to keep working where we’re working for now, even if I’d rather quit my job and teach immigrants English for free, or something equally fulfilling and low-paying. All of these things give us incentive to work until we’re able to buy new furniture or work for something that makes us happy but pays poorly.
We are definitely not the only people who find themselves facing substantial debt. I’ve come across a myriad of articles lately that talk about people who are unable to make the minimum payments on their student loans, and I’ve heard friends complain about the difficulties. I’ll be the first to admit it’s not as much fun as living with my parents and not worrying about where their money was coming from as long as some of it came to me, but I also think there should be more of a presence of people who are actually making ends meet. What I’ve seen in the news is mostly people with obscure degrees who racked up thousands of dollars in debt and can’t find a job. What I don’t see is people with obscure degrees saying, “I found a job. It’s not what I want to do, but it pays the bills for now.” I’ve also not seen people saying, “I got a great job with my degree, and I’m paying off my debt!” I would love to hear more stories of people who have found themselves out of college, in debt, and learning to make it work. These people could share their advice, their successes, and their failures to encourage the rest of us to keep going and give us helpful advice on how to manage.
This morning I received an encouraging email from an organization called Zero Bound. They are currently in launch mode and looking for support, and this concept is amazing: “Zero Bound helps students and alumni reduce debt through sponsored volunteerism . . . pay it down by paying it forward.” What better way to get a jump on student loan payments than by helping someone else?! I’m very excited to see how this works, and I would encourage you to sign up if you have debt, and donate if you can. Instead of sad stories about debt, I would love to hear stories about people who accrued debt and found it worthwhile when they paid it off and started doing what they love.
Are you in student loan debt? How is the payoff going?