Ramblings of a Runner: Student Loans

Welcome to the first installment of Ramblings of a Runner! I figured I would start this section to capture ALL the things that go through my brain on a run. Okay, maybe not ALL, but if you’re a runner you know that 80% of your run is spent solving all your problems, the world’s problems, your dog’s cousins best friends problems, and that other 20% is spent staring at your watch calculating if you’re hitting your paces and PB’ing on a training run.
Let’s just jump right in. Student loans. I could 100% do a whole blog dedicated to color-coded budgets and the relaxing feelings a well-organized and highly functional Excel document brings me, but some of you would fall asleep, so let’s skip that for now.
When I graduated college, I had a collection of student loans. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always fun, but I managed. I distinctly remember sitting in an airport 2 months before I graduated college reviewing the budget I had made with a fine tooth comb to make sure I knew exactly how much rent I could afford when I moved to New York and my loan repayment would start.
I also remember scouring every corner of the internet looking for “tips and tricks” and all the insightful information I could find on how to pay off the loans as quickly as possible. I would read stories about Bob paying off some insane amount in 3 years by living in his parents’ basement, working 2 side hustles, selling all his possessions, and skipping to work filled with the invigorating feeling of paying off his student loans. Go, Bob, go.
Then I would feel defeated having read this great story about Bob. Texas and New York…pretty far apart. It would have been a tough daily commute. Plus, basements in the Gulf Coast…nope…but fun fact…I did live in a basement in New York. I also didn’t have the option of walking to work unless I wanted to try hitchhiking on a New York highway on a snowy day. I’m not a Yeti, thank you. Oh, and a side hustle? I was home for about 7-8 hours a night after my 3 hour round trip commute on a train and braving the elements for 2 miles a day walking through the city. Side note, that actually wasn’t bad at all. I prefer trains over driving myself ANY day and the chance to get a brisk walk in was just a bonus! I would have had to dish out even more money for a monthly subway pass, so walking always won out.
Back to Bob. Your tips and tricks were great, I just couldn’t use most of them.
Start your budget before you graduate.

I didn’t have a budget in college, at least not one on paper that I followed. In my brain, I knew how much I made each week at work and what my bills were. But before I graduated, I knew I needed to calculate all my expected expenses, and then some. I didn’t have exact numbers but I did some research on rent in the areas I wanted to live, doubled most of my estimates from what I was spending on food, internet, etc. I knew New York would be expensive so I built a budget from the highest estimates I had and burned those numbers in my brain so I knew what was going to actually be affordable and what was completely a “one-day” dream. I also built-in my 401k contributions and learned all about tax brackets. Which then led me to learn all about New York state income tax. Umm…what?! Make sure you build in EVERYTHING you can think of. If you have never paid state income tax before, you’ll be trucking along without properly accounting for it in your budget. NOT COOL, BRO.
Educate yourself.

Congratulations! You’re graduated and done with school and you can choose what to read and when to read it. Wait. Stop. Read/listen to anything and everything you can to educate yourself on student loans, repayment options, and have a plan before you even start paying them. You should honestly start educating yourself while you’re still in school (did anyone actually listen during the loan exit interviews?) However, I will assume you’re too busy studying to graduate and don’t have time to do the research. Or you’re playing video games and eating Cheetos. Who knows. The articles won’t be that interesting to everybody, but if you don’t understand the fine print and all that goes into the loans you could/will miss key information.
Make a comprehensive list of your student loans, the interest rates, monthly payment, due date, and the servicer’s phone number.

This will help you visually see what you owe, which loans have the highest interest rates, understand where your payments are going (if you have multiple loans and/or multiple servicers) and keep those phone numbers handy. Trust me, you will need to call them at some point and it never fails that there are 4 different numbers for various servicers and the keypad for talking to a representative is buried deep in the center of the Earth under a path of molten lava. Just wait until they sell your loan to a new servicer. Spend a Friday night on hold with Sallie. Riveting.
If you aren’t a keeper of a calendar, get one. Fill it out. It will keep you focused on the goal.

First of all, how do you manage your life without a calendar? I don’t understand those people. I live, breathe, eat, sleep, and generally exist solely functioning off what my calendar tells me I’m doing and when. Why is a calendar so important when your loans are set on autopay? Let’s revisit the first statement. Your budget. Graduating college is great – you get to do the adulting thing! Guess what else happens when you’re adulting? Everyone you know starts getting married, having babies, traveling to see those college besties etc. A calendar of all your upcoming social events (even happy hours and dinners out in the city) will help you prioritize, plan, and save for those events you don’t want to miss. You may still have to turn invites down because paying down your loans IS the priority, but it can definitely help you know when you can say yes! I had to turn down multiple trips to see friends, wedding invites, fancy dinners, etc. Shout out to everyone that came to visit me when I couldn’t go to see them!
Always aim to pay more than the minimum payments. Read that statement twice. Maybe three times. Okay, four. 

Even if you can’t do this from the start, or you can only do a bit more each month. DO IT. Look at your expected payoff date…mhmm…I see your eyes widening. How many years?! Anytime you can spare the extra payment towards your loans, pay those suckers down. Got a bonus? Got a raise? Did you get a tax refund? Put them towards your loans. I once (stupidly) put a bonus towards 2 of my loans. Just split the amount in half and said you go here and you go here. I was just so excited about paying them down by that total amount that I didn’t think it all the way through. I could have easily paid one almost completely off but lesson learned and I did not make that mistake again. 
You can definitely go to “extreme” measures on how you cut back on your expenses and earn extra income but I think having a solid grasp of the 5 points above will help you figure out what works best for you. So, maybe we can’t all be Bob and our sacrifices might look a bit different from person to person, but ALWAYS set your sights on the long-term goal and pay those loans off!
You won’t be perfect. You’ll splurge on stuff that you know isn’t helping you in the long run. You don’t ACTUALLY need 3 new pairs of shoes that basically all look the same to your husband but are completely different in your eyes and serve 3 separate purposes. But, it will happen. Just don’t let it snowball into a repetitive action. Speaking of snowball, if you haven’t learned about the snowball effect of paying off loans, go, learn. It’s a great motivator!
Pay them off so you can put that money towards cooler things. Like a dog run. A half marathon in random states you haven’t been to. Or doggie daycare because really, you only work to give your dogs their best life. You do you.

Thanks for stopping by!
Taryn

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