My Debt Payoff Story: How Ogechi Paid Off $26,000 Student Loan Debt in 3 Years
My Debt Payoff story is a OneSavvyDollar series where we interview people who have successfully paid off any major debt i.e. student loans, car loans, credit cards.
The aim is to inspire, encourage and motivate you to take hold of your personal finance because “financial fitness is not a pipe dream or a state of mind. It is a reality if you’re willing to pursue it and embrace it.” – Will Robinson
Can you tell us a bit about you?
My name is Ogechi. I’m a certified financial educator, real estate investor, money expert, and the founder of OneSavvyDollar a personal finance platform that empowers people to save more, destroy their debt, increase their income and build wealth.
What and when was your “sick and tired” of debt moment?
My sick and tired of student loan debt moment built up over time. I was turning 31 and started really thinking of my future self. I asked her how my younger self could take care of her now.
We all remember being kids and having no bills to pay. This means as we grow older, we get more responsibilities and responsibilities cost money.
I didn’t want to be in my 40’s still paying on a student loan I took out in my 20’s. Something about that didn’t sit right with me.
How did you acquire the debt and do you regret doing so?
I acquired my student loan debt while pursuing my Bachelor’s (Communications) and Master’s (Accounting) degrees. You know, when I connect the dots of my life, I don’t regret it. It sounds cliche but it all led me to where I am today.
By the time I was ready to pursue my Masters, I was determined to find a company that offered tuition reimbursement. Tuition reimbursement benefit was the priority for me- not 401(k), medical, or dental benefits.
I had to do some digging around back then but I got employed by a company that paid $5,250 annually or close to $20,000 for over three and half years towards tuition. So the $26,000 I graduated with really could have been a whole lot more.
My experience also led me to create a platform that helps anyone seeking formal education to find companies that offer tuition reimbursement so you can graduate with reduced to no student loans. You can sign up here
How much debt did you pay off in total? How much money in interest and time did you save in total?
I was placed on a 10-year standard repayment plan upon graduation. My loans had a combined average interest rate of 6.5%. I paid off $26,000 student loan debt in three years (2017) and saved over $6,000 in future interest. (A standard repayment plan is equal monthly payments for 10 years or 120 months)
Can you describe the specific choices you had to make to pay off your debt?
I started making payments after my grace period was over in 2014. My initial gut feeling was to keep dodging my servicer’s email notification reminders (LOL!) But for how long?
First off, I’ll say this: there is no debt payoff story without some sacrifice. Also, finally getting into the habit of saving my money changed my life and whole mindset.
I had to take a hard look at my budget; meaning, my income in comparison to my expenses and realized I could do this one of two ways; through the:
1. Major saving strategy
2. Minor saving strategy.
Major saving strategy is where you reduce big-ticket items within your budget like your housing, car, or commute expense. It is aggressive but you’ll save a lot in a short amount of time.
Minor saving strategy is where you reduce small ticket items within your budget like getting your hair and nails done all the time, subscriptions, eating out, etc. It is not as aggressive as the major saving strategy but we know these seemingly small expenses do add up.
I decided to use the major saving strategy to save quickly.
I didn’t move to a bigger apartment or get a new car even though I really wanted to stunt on my haters and all the people who thought I’d never graduate (LOL!). I drove the ’99 Camry I purchased in my last year of college and paid $5,000 in cash for. I’d say not having a car payment was my biggest saving.
If you can go through your first 10 years of adulthood without buying a new car, you will get ahead financially.
How did you feel after making that last payment?
I paid it off on my birthday when I realized I had saved enough over the years to pay it off in a lump sum. Some people pay extra here and there through their journey and that’s OK as well.
It hurt so bad seeing all that money leave my account at once; after two weeks, life continued as usual. I don’t miss the monthly student loan payments though.
Was there any time during your journey where your friends and or family challenged your plans to pay off your debt?
Yes, I was discouraged a few times. You see, I didn’t have the option of moving back home with my parents and living in New York was (and still is) expensive.
Some friends also told me I deserved to be driving a better/ newer car maybe cause they were or that was just their expectation of me. Seeing fancy car ads on holidays like Memorial, Independence, and Labor Day didn’t make it easier. Honestly, I almost got got! :(. There were times I wanted to ditch my car and come back home in something beautiful and new because YOLO!
I had to remind myself of my strategy and the money goals I set for my (future)self. Beyond that, my Camry was very reliable. I wanted a new car but didn’t need a new car.
Were any resources such as blogs, books, podcasts particularly helpful to you in staying on track? Or where did you find your inspiration to stay on track through your journey?
There weren’t any blogs, books, or podcasts that were particularly helpful at the time. However, I met someone in a Facebook group who casually mentioned in the comment section that she paid off her $88,000 student loan debt before I began my own journey and I was motivated.
She said you have to choose how you want to suffer. You could either suffer now or later; either way you decide. Her words stayed with me for a long time.
What steps are you taking to ensure that you stay debt-free now?
Since my student loan is history aka gone aka dead and buried, I will not be digging that hole again. I avoid debt and only use it when necessary and the only time it’s necessary is when acquiring profitable real estate.
For a long time, we were hoodwinked into believing student loans were good debt. The only good debt is one that puts (more) money into your pocket.
If you could go back in time and advise your 18-year-old self, what financial advice would you give her?
All that monies borrowed does add up! $3,000 here another $5,500 there, another $3,500 there, and before you know it, you have a figure loan. Don’t underestimate the amount of mental energy it takes to pay off a debt. When you keep this in mind, you will be more mindful of borrowing.
What advice would you give anyone who has debt and seeking encouragement?
You need to set a GPS – a Goal, Purpose, and Strategy to be successful.
Your goal is stating what you want. I like to call goals a declaration. Think of it as an announcement to yourself – and to others if you share them.
Next stop is your why (purpose) -which has to be something you really really really desire so that you’re more willing to give up anything that gets in the way of achieving your goal.
Finally, you’ll need a strategy to keep you accountable through your journey. You can read more on this here
Also, you’re in control of your personal finance. You get to decide when the madness stops.
How can our readers keep in touch with you?
You can follow the @onesavvydollar community on Instagram. I post a lot of tips to empower and encourage you to take charge of your money so you can live life on your own terms.
Have you paid off your student loan debt or any major debt? Would you like to be featured? The quickest way to contact us is via Instagram DM. We will be sure to get back to you as soon as possible.