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Live, Laugh, (but payoff your) Loans

Money Talk
Article Date

By Ashley O'Bruba, GA Niner Finances

Most undergraduate students do not think about paying off their student loans while still in school. They think about making “big money,” buying things they want, and living independently. After graduating undergrad in Spring of 2019, I was worried about two main things: finding a job and getting the heck out of my parent's house. In case you’re not familiar with the cost of a single-bedroom or studio apartment in Charlotte, let me enlighten you. At the time, I was looking at ~ $1,300 per month, not including utilities, taxes, and other additional fees (remember this number for later on). 

I had to think about all of my expenses when it came to my income, bills, and now, student loan payments. My experiences growing up left me very conscious of money, and my dad always taught me to save. If I had the ability to pay for a monthly subscription for the entire year to save money, I would do it. As soon as I turned 15, I got my first job and have worked ever since. Throughout undergrad, I worked. The math was not “mathing”. 

To give a little background about myself, If I can avoid giving the government any more of my hard-earned money ( legally, of course), then by all means! According to CNBC, they “found that the average student loan borrower [with an average of $30,030 of loans] on a standard 10-year repayment plan will pay $5,994.07 in interest alone over the course of 10 years”(2023). Now, this depends on what type of loans you have, whether they are federal or private, and your interest rate. The higher the interest rate, the more you’ll have to pay back. I was a first-generation college student who was at the cutoff line for Pell Grants and hadn’t earned any scholarships, so I got the lovely gift of loans (which I am very grateful for). I was on my own to pay back over $31,000, and I didn’t want to give the government any more money outside of my taxes.

So, what did I do? I paid off every cent of that balance roughly nine months after graduating to avoid paying more than I borrowed.

I know what you’re thinking, “Ashley, how did you save thousands of dollars, and how can I do that?!” 

I lived with my parents…and prioritized paying my loans off.

Hear me out. It doesn’t sound like the most appealing or feasible option for some, and I want to acknowledge that I have the privilege of having a good, healthy, and SAFE relationship with my family. I am not a provider and don’t have children, etc. My parents didn’t charge me rent as long as I helped them around the house and prioritized my loan payments. Luckily, my car was paid off, my bills were manageable, and my salary was pretty good, especially considering that I now didn't have to pay rent for the time being. I had to take advantage of this opportunity that I was very fortunate to have. 

Remember that number for the cost of a one-bedroom/ studio apartment from earlier? Imagine taking what I would pay in hypothetical rent and putting that towards my loans. ~$1,300 a month for 12 months comes to almost half the total of my loans. Just that idea, in general, made me elated! I essentially only needed to live with my parents for two years, and then I’m completely debt-free.

Living with my parents was “temporary” in my mind when I first graduated, but I had to swallow my pride to set myself up for financial success...little did I know that it would be more than just that.

In September of 2019, my Stepmom was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic Breast Cancer, and living at home became a silver lining, allowing me to help my family out even more. Then 2020 hit. If you think I lucked out by not jumping to get an apartment right away, that’s an understatement.  I was very fortunate that I was able to work from home during the COVID lockdown. Student loans were on pause, along with most of the world at that point. 

My loans weren’t accruing interest, I didn’t have the ability to go out with friends (which costs money), I didn’t have to pay for gas since I worked from home, and  I was living rent-free. My job always had opportunities for overtime, and with part of my pay consisting of commission, I took advantage of every extra hour I could handle. 

Now, I am not saying that you should work yourself to the bone for the sake of saving some money. Your well-being is worth more than that, but I encourage you to do what you can handle while maintaining your physical and mental health if this is one of your priorities.

In roughly nine months, I could tackle my loans and build savings ( you know, in case we have another “panorama” or just in case I have an emergency in general). I was able to make payments big enough to pay off the loans with the highest interest first and start stowing away part of my paycheck into a high-yield savings account for emergencies - these are savings accounts with higher interest rates than what the regular run-of-the-mill banks offer.

I ended 2020 with a $0.00 balance on all my undergraduate loans, $10,000 in my savings account, contributions in my Roth IRA, and a credit score of over 780.

Okay, so you read this article and know it’s possible not to have your student loans loom over you for years on end. I aim for you to take what resonates with you and leave what doesn’t from my story. Here are some quick money-saving tips that will help pay off your loans faster ( aka. Save you money).

  • Do you have a family you feel safe with whom you can have this conversation?  If you do, even if you were to contribute the cost of some rent, it should be far less than the cost of living by yourself, and use what you would have to pay in rent to put toward your loans.
  • If you don’t have family or need to move, consider roommates.  This is not a forever thing, but a way to get yourself to a financially healthy spot. $1,800 for a two-bedroom in Charlotte divided between 2 people is far more manageable, depending on your income, than a single-bedroom/studio apartment. If you have two or more friends, consider renting a house and splitting the costs. 
  • Reevaluate habits with spending.  Do you go out drinking or to restaurants every weekend? Start cutting back or find alternatives like weekend dinners at a friend's place instead of going out all the time; small steps, no need to stop everything you enjoy. Quitting cold turkey won’t allow you to adjust and sustain that habit long-term.
  • Think before you spend. Is it a Need or Want and how will you feel after spending money on it? You might just talk yourself out of buying another pair of Crocs you don’t need since you have 17 pairs in your closet. 

Bonus: if you are a UNC Charlotte student, Employee, or Alumni (within the last three years of graduating), you have FREE access to financial coaching through Niner Finances, whether you want to work on a budget, credit, learn about investing, retirement, etc. Niner Finances is an invaluable resource that I recommend anyone to utilize while you can. Companies can charge a pretty penny for financial guidance, so take advantage of it. 

Now, I am not saying stop everything you’re doing to focus only on paying off loans; it’s a small sacrifice now to save money where you can to save you money and pain in the long run; just don’t discount the person that still lives in their parent’s basement, they could be prioritizing paying off their loans! 

Disclaimer: Make sure that you are setting aside money for emergencies and some money for yourself; something my boss, Dr.Y, says during his workshops is, “Pay yourself first.” You deserve to enjoy some of the money you worked hard for, and don’t forget to…

 Live, Laugh, and (pay off your) Loans


Gravier, E. (2023, August 28). You could end up paying $160,000-plus in interest alone over your lifetime. CNBC.,92%25%20of%20all%20student%20loans.