This blog post originally appeared on Dream Beyond Debt in January 2016.
To pay off debt, you want to throw as much money at the balance as possible. When I started to aggressively pay off my student loan, I knew that I needed to make “monster” payments if I was ever going to reduce the principle AND the interest. I was advised by my servicer to make payments once a month. Mid-cycle payments would go straight to interest, and if I wanted to attack the principle, then I had to let interest accrue. I also, in the beginning, wanted to see the balance shrink quickly. I needed that jolt of inspiration.
I had 30 days to gather the money to make a “monster” payment. By “monster,” I mean over $2,000 a pop. In the years before I started my rapid debt repayment, I didn’t always make $2,000 a month. When I finally did make the decision to rid myself of the suffocating debt, I sent a message to the universe that I was ready to make more money. But, sending the message and making the money were only two components of collecting the cash to make a monster student loan payment. There were other parts to the puzzle, as well.
Keep an open mind
After I made my very first monster student loan payment, I thought, “Oh, man. Now what?” I wasn’t certain I could repeat that success. But, I kept my head high, my mind open, and I sought every opportunity for extra work. A few of them worked out, a few of them didn’t. I shook off any attachment I created to an outcome. I didn’t always know how much the next payment would be, but I learned to live with that uncertainty, and it was life-changing. Sometimes, I managed to pull together a lot, and sometimes, I didn’t. I kept my mind open and I kept going.
Take an inventory
Before I started my rapid debt repayment, I took a personal and professional inventory. I listed all the resources I had to work with. I knew exactly who I had in my network, what skills I could offer as a freelancer, and all the ways I could save money.
Keep your expenses low
I saved money by keeping my expenses low: rent, transportation, food, etc. I live with a roommate, drive an older car that was paid off a few years ago, and do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi’s. My expenses very rarely top $1,300 a month. Every dollar more could go toward my monster payment.
Not one monster payment would have been possible without the support of a robust cheering section. Although my friends and family were optimistic, no one had ever embarked upon a similar journey. I initially created a blog to keep myself accountable, but I didn’t truly understand what that meant until I had a community of readers who offered guidance, celebrated my victories, and made me feel like I had something at stake.
At first, I worked a lot. Like, a lot. I sought a lot of extra work, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was working. I filled out surveys, applied to be in focus groups, and sent resumes for part-time opportunities. All the hustle paid off. I made more for the year than I’d made in any other year of my working life.
Small amounts add up to big amounts. If I made $40 from a focus group, it went into the pot. If I made $800 from teaching a couple of classes, it went into the pot. If I rolled $25 in coins, they went into the pot. Any and all extra cash went into the month’s total. Thirty bucks here and twenty bucks there start to build a significant pile of cash.
Trust the experiment
Every monster student loan payment was an experiment, as is the entire debt payoff journey. One way to detach yourself from the outcome is to simply practice trusting that it will all work out if you keep moving forward.
In 12 months, I made nine “monster payments.” Paying off 96% of my $48,000 balance wouldn’t have been possible without them. A lot happens to your perspective when you simultaneously let things transpire AND work to make them happen within the same time frame.
If you’re ready to make serious progress on your debt, then I highly recommend making “monster payments.” It works quickly – on the debt and on you.
Amanda is a college professor, writer and debt fighter working to pay off more than $48,000 in student loans that she’s carried for 15 years. By making a decision to attack her student loan debt and log her journey on her Dream Beyond Debt blog, Amanda has successfully repaid over 95% of her total debt. Follow Amanda on Twitter and Pinterest to gather learn more about how she is able to pay off debt and pursue her dreams!