Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Charlottesville, VA

December 13, 2019

How I Paid Off My Student Loans.

     One of my resolutions for the year 2019 was the finish paying off my remaining student loan debt. My initial goal was to have it paid by the end of the year, then that goal got moved up to before my birthday (early September)... but I ended up becoming debt free in mid-July 2019!! 

      Everyone's journey with paying off school looks very different- I have friends with 10x the amount of debt that I had, and friends whose parents paid for their entire education or who had full ride scholarships. Knowing that everyone's situation is super different, I still wanted to share my own story in hopes it might encourage someone! Even if you don't have school loan debt, maybe my story could still inspire you with another type of debt (like credit card debt or car payments).



{Photo originally from this post}

What My Debt Looked Like:
      I'm going to be 100% fully transparent about what it all looked like and what my situation was, because what would the point of this post be if I wasn't! I do want to give a disclaimer that I know my own debt was a lot lower than that of many of yours probably is. It's not something that I take for granted, and I am very thankful for that! But I still wanted to share my story anyways- even if reading this helps one person that's good enough for me!
     I am an only child, and my parents started saving for my college education when I was very young. I also worked hard in high school both academically and with other resume builders like team sports and community service, which I knew would help my chances with getting scholarship offers in college. My parents gave me the go-ahead to look at out-of-state schools, provided that I could receive at least a partial scholarship from them. I was very blessed that at Gardner-Webb (the college I went to my freshman year) I received a pretty good merit scholarship, and my parents paid the rest. When I transferred schools after freshman year (still out-of-state and at a private school), I also received a merit scholarship at the school I transferred to. Fun fact: it's actually pretty hard to find academic based scholarships as a transfer student. The fact that Queens University offered me one as a transferring sophomore is one of the main reasons I ended up there and not at other schools! Between my generous parents and these merit scholarships, I only ended up having to take out a loan to cover part of senior year, coming out to under $10k
      The majority of my debt came from my year of broadcasting school, which I did immediately following undergrad and stayed in Charlotte for. (Broadcasting school was a technical school program that's kinda like "grad school" for people that want to be on-air in radio or TV since there aren't traditional graduate programs for that at colleges.) Since my parents helped so much with undergrad, they encouraged me to do broadcasting school but they said that would be my financial responsibility (totally fair!). The full tuition for the year program was I think about $15k when I attended, and I had a merit scholarship there as well that covered I believe $2k or $3k, which brought my broadcasting school tuition to around $12k. So between what I owed from undergrad and from this, my total school related debt was near $20k

Paying it off- broadcasting school year (2016-17)
     For broadcasting school, since it was technical school program they didn't offer traditional publicly funded loans like most colleges do. Instead, there a payment program for tuition where you could borrow from the school directly and pay them directly back. Amazingly- if you made all the payments on time, there was no interest! (SUCH a blessing.) But payments started immediately after enrollment, not six month after graduation like my loan from undergrad did. During 2016-17 when I was in broadcasting school, I had $400 monthly payments due to my school every single month, which was pretty tough since I was not working full time yet! I had to start making loan payments on my undergrad loan in November 2016, but I put it in deferment for six months. I wouldn't ever recommend deferring a loan or debt if you're working full time, but since I was still a student only working part time and already struggling with my $400 dollar a month broadcasting school payments- I really couldn't imagine adding another one on top of that at that time! 
     For perspective, in addition to being a broadcasting school student I also had a part-time retail job for 20-30 hours a week, babysat about 10 hours each week, and also had a paid social media internship at my broadcasting school for another 10 hours a week. Plus I was monetizing my blog, so that took time too! I was working well over 40 hours a week but since these weren't full-time jobs (two of these things paid minimum wage), I still wasn't bringing in a lot of income. 
     I am very thankful that my parents did help me pay rent on my Charlotte apartment during that year! I feel like admitting that you accept help from your parents in post-grad life is kinda taboo, but to my credit I was working as much as I could at all of these part time jobs. It's definitely not like I only did school and didn't work at all, and expected them to pay for everything (couldn't be further from the case!) They helped with rent, and I was responsible for my share of the apartment utilities and my broadcasting school payments, which I am so thankful for looking back on!

Paying it off- first job year (2017-18)
     Almost one year after finishing undergrad, I moved to Vermont for my first full-time radio job! I still had more than half of my broadcasting school tuition left to pay, and I also knew it was time to take my undergrad loan out of deferment, since that was collecting a lot of interest. 
     During my year in Vermont, I still made the $400 a month broadcasting school payments every month, and I also started doing the minimum payment on my undergrad loan, which was $60 a month. Due to the very low salary at my first job, this was about all I could comfortably afford to pay during this year!

Paying it off- second job year (2018-19)
     Just a few months after moving to Virginia and starting my new job, I finished paying off broadcasting school!! I never missed a month, and because of that I was able to pay back the school directly all of my tuition totally interest free, and in about two years from when I'd started. This was the higher amount of debt that I had, so it felt like a huge accomplishment- especially since the first year paying it back I didn't work full time, and the second year I did but I made a very low salary!
     In Spring 2018, after broadcasting school was paid off I jumped all in with finishing paying what was left on my undergrad loan, which was about $6,000 at that point. I continued making the monthly minimum payments of $60, but also started a separate savings account at my bank where I'd set aside money for extra payments. I set it up with my work's payroll that 10% of every paycheck went into this savings account automatically, and some weeks after getting paid I'd transfer in more money, making it 15% or 20% of that paycheck in the savings account. If I did a paid radio event or some commercial work that resulted in additional income, that immediately went into this savings account. When I received money for my birthday, at least half of everything went into the account. If I consigned clothing and made some extra cash, everything went in this account. You get the point! 
    Once the balance in this savings account would reach $500, I'd withdraw that amount and make a lump sum extra payment on the loan. As soon as that was paid, I'd start saving up to do it again. It took about 15 months of this routine of paying the minimum $60 per month and then doing a lump sum payment on top of that every 4-6 weeks... and then in July 2019 I made my LAST PAYMENT! I let the balance get to $1500, and I had $500 saved up from my separate account to pay on it, and I also pulled $1000 from another savings account so that it would be gone for good. 

     My tips from my experience:
  • Get a side hustle: My NUMBER ONE tip for paying off debt!!! Getting a second job of some sort, even if it's super part time, will allow you progress faster with debt repayment, or to still have some extra spending money for yourself while prioritizing your day job income to go towards payments. I was lucky in that by the time I began my first radio job, my blog was starting to generate regular income, so I didn't personally seek a more traditional second job like retail or restaurant work. But if I wasn't blogging, I probably would've done one of those! Even though I'm done paying off school loans now, I still generally try to use my blog income to fund personal shopping and travel, and save my day job income for necessary life expenses and savings. During the year I lived in Vermont, I also would baby-sit and house-sit for coworkers to earn an extra $100-200 each month- every bit counted! 
  • Separate bank account for paying off debt: My other huge tip! I am so glad that I made a separate savings account to focus on paying off my school debt. Once I started my job in Virginia and could automatically have money pulled from each paycheck and in this special account, it was so easy! It was also mentally easier since that money was never in my checking account to begin with- I just got used to never seeing it. I really like how I continued to make monthly minimum payments along with the larger lump sum payments every time my savings account reached a certain number- this worked well for me! 
  • Make financial sacrifices: If you are paying off debt you will need to be making some financial sacrifices! Here are a few of mine: I'm still driving my old and dingy first car from high school. I didn't even want to think about adding on a car payment while I still had debt! I still cook meals for myself at home almost every weeknight and have since graduating college- I don't eat out often and save the time I do for weekends or special dinners with friends. I also learned how to get good at making reasonable priced grocery lists and stick to a budget at the store each week. It'd been a longtime dream of mine for years to start coloring my hair, but I waited until I was done paying off my school debt to do that since hair color done at a good salon is a big financial investment. I also learned how to confidently say no to things I didn't have money for at the time- whether that was attending certain events, buying things I really didn't need, taking certain trips, etc! These are just a few examples- but I've been diligent about monitoring my spending since college, and I'm still that way now even though school is paid off. Thanks to having a side hustle with blogging, I was sometimes still able to treat myself to things like getting my nails done or small impulse buys from time to time. But I really tried for the past few years to make my day job income for necessary living expenses, savings, and of course for paying off school!

     One thing that I do want to be honest about and admit that I should've probably done differently is tithing. Tithing 10% of one's income back to their church and/or Christian ministries is a biblical commandment, yet want to be honest and admit I didn't do a very good job of this while I was paying off loans. Since July, I have tithed 10% of my income each and every month to my church, and I'm so thankful that is now a permanent habit. 


     Whew- this was a long and wordy post! As I said above, I know that everyone's debt journey and financial situation is different. My personal experience won't apply to everyone, but hopefully hearing more about my process and tips might still help you in some way! I'd love to hear your thoughts!


     God Bless,


      xoxo Annaliese 


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5 comments

  1. Bravo! No matter the amount this is definitely something to be proud of!

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  2. I’m new to your blog and wanted to tell you how much I’m enjoying your content. Paying off debt is a great accomplishment! Thank you for the reminder about the importance of tithing. Some seasons are easier to tithe than others but we should still give.
    On another note, have you done a post about your hair care and what it looked like before you colored it? I’d love to read it if so. I’ve never colored my hair but have been thinking about it.

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  3. Congrats on paying off your student loans! Those are great tips! Thanks for sharing!
    Ellibelle's Corner

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  4. I am so proud of you! These are such great tips too. I've been driving the same car since high school because it's paid off! That's the way to do it. We also try to cook in as much as possible.

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