This blog is about destroying debt by living below your means, so it probably seems strange that I would say that I’m grateful for my student loan debt. Obviously, there is a HUGE part of me that is not happy about my student loans.
If I didn’t have debt, my life would be drastically different.
My husband and I would own a home (instead of living with my parents), we would have a couple of pugs, we wouldn’t be driving 15 year old cars that are falling apart, and we would be thinking about starting a family.
I used to wish that I could go back in time to nine years ago when I signed that first application for student loans. I wouldn’t sign it this time. But at some point I realized that I can allow regret to haunt me for the next several years, or I can look at things with a new perspective.
What if I didn’t have student loans? What if my parents had been rich and had paid for my entire education? What would my life be like?
To answer that question, I need to give you some background on how I was raised.
I grew up in a large Midwestern suburb. My parents weren’t rich by any means, but we lived in a relatively expensive (for middle-class folks) area that is very close to a neighborhood with $800,000 houses. I went to high school with the kids of doctors, lawyers, and bankers. Girls wore Juicy Couture sweats and $100 jeans, carried designer purses, and acted as snobby as you would expect.
It was a public high school, so they weren’t exactly billionaires or anything, but they certainly had a lot more money than my family did. (The other high school in my hometown was in a MUCH poorer area, and needless to say, the atmosphere there was quite different).
All throughout my childhood/teen years, I saw middle-class friends and relatives who were stuck in the habit of “Keeping Up With the Joneses”. I didn’t realize at the time that many of them couldn’t actually afford it and were racking up debt to keep up the appearance that they were just as well off as those around them.
I was spoiled as a kid and I was always asking my parents for expensive gifts. I assumed they could afford it. When I was 16, I started my first job. It paid minimum wage, so I never felt like I had much of my own money. I hated spending my money, but I had no problem asking my parents for Coach purses or $300 salon visits for birthdays or holidays. I was so excited when I got my first Coach purse for my 21st birthday.
When I was in grad school, I landed a job that paid well, and I dropped $250 on Coach sunglasses (Not long after, I accidentally ran over the sunglasses with my car. Yes, that really happened).
The average starting salary for graduates from my master’s degree program was $70,000. I knew I would have debt, but I thought I would be making good money. I pictured living in my own home, buying a new car, and having nice things.
That wasn’t reality.
Two years after finishing grad school, I still don’t make anywhere close to $70k/year. I had zero HR experience after finishing grad school, which made it extremely difficult to find any job at all, let alone one that paid well. Even if I had been making $70k, it still wouldn’t have been enough.
When I completed my student loan exit counseling, I was told that I would need to make over $100k/year in order for my student loans to not be a financial “burden”. When I read that line, I had to laugh, because if I hadn’t, I would have cried. The debt felt unbearable to me then, but a couple years later, I realize that it has actually benefited my life in a few ways. Here are three reasons I’m grateful for my debt.
I’ve become less materialistic, and I have found the joy that comes from living a minimalist lifestyle.
I no longer value things like Coach purses, $300 salon visits, or $250 sunglasses. When my parents ask what I would like for Christmas, I ask for money that I can put toward my student loan debt. I was raised to believe that the accumulation of “stuff” and keeping up with the Joneses would make me happy.
I now realize how empty and unfulfilling a materialistic life is. I have adopted a minimalist lifestyle. I now believe that the best things in life – relationships, friendships, family, freedom, faith, love – don’t cost a thing.
I’ve learned my lesson about debt, and I will make better financial choices in the future.
I was raised to believe that debt was normal. Everyone I knew had credit cards, expensive mortgages, car payments, and student loans. I have learned how awful debt is, and I plan to NEVER have credit card debt. I will have a mortgage in the future, but I will be smart about the decisions I make with that (for example, not choosing the longest term possible).
I started this blog.
If it weren’t for my student loans, I probably never would’ve started this blog. This blog has been a wonderful outlet for me. I love sharing what I’ve learned about saving money, destroying debt, and living a minimalist lifestyle. I enjoy connecting with others and learning about the ways they save money and pay off debt amazingly quickly.
One last thought!
I am grateful for my student loans debt (in a way), but I certainly don’t recommend taking on student loan debt. If you are planning to take out student loans for college, please reconsider. Believe it or not, you do have other options.
If you are already buried in student loan debt, you may find yourself feeling anxious, depressed, and hopeless. Try looking at the situation with a different perspective.
What have you learned from your student loan debt? What positive things can you take away from your experience?
How can you make better financial choices in the future?
Other stuff you might like:
7 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started College
7 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Grad School
How to Pay Off Your Student Loans by Volunteering
Unpaid Internships: Learning Opportunities or a Legal Form of Slavery?
15 Part-Time Jobs that Pay Well