How My Student Loans Led to Love

We’re SO excited to have my debt-free journey be featured by CommonBond, the lending company I refinanced my student loans with.

Before Student Loans: Change Careers vs Change Employers

Net worth in 2011: $7,000 in savings, $3,000 in retirement accounts

I was 25, unhappy at my job as a junior web designer, and in the midst of a short-sale for a house I had never seen before. I needed change but wasn’t sure if I should change employers (this Forbes article estimates a 50% lower salary for employees who stay at companies longer than 2 years) or switch careers altogether (see my logic for pursuing higher education here).

Volunteering at CASL (Chinese American Service League), the largest social services agency in the midwest, introduced me to the physician assistant career. After a lot of research, I decided to pour my $7,000 savings into taking prerequisite coursework, and I made the jump from a career in design to a career in healthcare. Read more about my ROI here.

DIYtoWealth paid off $100k in student loans in less than 2 years.
Volunteering with the CASL Associate Board in Chicago’s Chinatown

Student Loans Accumulation: Master’s of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Program at Carroll University, Class of 2015

Net worth in 2013-15: -$85,000 in federal loans, -$15,000 in family loans

Switching careers from design to healthcare was the right decision for me, but it came with a hefty price tag: when I graduated with my master’s degree, I had over $100,000 in graduate school debt, which included $85,000 in federal loans and $15,000 in loans from my family.

DIYtoWealth paid off $100k in student loans in less than 2 years.

Student Loans Repayment: A New York State of Mind

NYC had never been on my radar for future cities to call home. After 8 years in Chicago and declining 2 job offers in the California’s Bay Area, I found myself in the Manhattan at the #3 Hospital in the US.

Soon after settling into the city, I met the love of my life, Big. On one of our first dates, he demonstrated how much money I’d be throwing away in interest payments if I continued making just the minimum payments each month, and I was floored. Big, a tech accountant with an MBA, was debt-free and is very supportive of me paying off my debt so we can focus on building a future together.

After Student Loans and On the Road to Financial Independence

I eliminated redundant expenses, stopped contributing to my 403b, and threw nearly all of my discretionary income towards my loans. In May 2016, I decided to refinance my federal loans, which ranged from 5.16% to 7.64% in interest, for a lower rate with CommonBond. I was approved quickly for a rate of 3.4% with Big as my cosigner and have paid off $100k of student loans in less than 2 years!

Sign up with our referral link to receive a $300 cash bonus towards your refinanced student loans!

DIYtoWealth paid off $100k in student loans in less than 2 years.
Top: Student loan trend
Bottom: Net worth trend – I often had $12 or less in my checking account each month during my loan repayment period

3 Ways to Reduce Liabilities

  1. Track your expenses – find a visual budget tracker like to know your cash flow trends and where to cut back
  2. Live frugally – meal prep, buy in bulk, DIY where you can
  3. Cohabitating – Big and I moved in together in the Fall of 2016, and splitting costs have helped a lot! Explore renting out your spare bedroom or Airbnb to cut down on mortgage/rental expenses – if you live in a rental, make sure this is ok with the management company first!

Use our Airbnb referral link to save $25 on your first booking!

DIYtoWealth paid off $100k in student loans in less than 2 years.

To view the full article on CommonBond’s website, click here.

Interested in refinancing your student loans? Click our referral link to receive a $300 cash bonus towards your principal if you refinance through CommonBond.

As always, feel free to check us out on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. We also have weekly updates of Hugo’s conversion on YouTube with a new episode launching every Friday – subscribe to our channel to stay tuned 🙂

What motivates you to pay off your loans? Leave your answers in the comments below!

Here’s to health and wealth,

Lil and Big -

21 Replies to “How My Student Loans Led to Love

  1. You and I seem to have a lot in common! A love of travel, finance, and DIY! We even looked into the Skoolie but decided with 3 kids it might be a tad to intimate. 🙂

    1. i couldn’t agree more! i’m glad we got connected in this blogosphere 🙂 skoolie life is possible (and quite possibly even better) with kids! looking forward to more of your travel and finance tips!

  2. I’ve been debt free for a couple years now, because like you I threw everything at it. Its such a relief when u achieve it, gives you a real sense of freedom! Great tips!

    1. congrats kirsti!! being debt-free is such a great feeling it honestly takes small sacrifices over time to result in huge rewards!

    1. I’m glad you found this helpful! I’m a physician assistant in cardiac surgery and have been working for a year and a half now (my undergrad degree was in fine arts). Health care management is so important – one of my colleagues just left for a management position after getting this degree! Good luck!

  3. I’m halfway through my degree and my fees already feel impossible to deal with! Thanks for the great tips, definitely will help me in the long run!!

    1. I know how you feel! Are you able to work part time at all? Big was able to TA during school, which helped pay for his tuition.
      Thanks so much for reading!

  4. Great piece, congrats on paying off such a huge amount in a short time! Thanks for sharing your tips on it, and I completely agree- tracking your expenses is major.

    1. Thanks so much for reading! I love for tracking expenses, but there are a few other ones out there that people recommend. What do you use?

      1. I am going to sound like a total weirdo, but I go about it the old fashioned way- keep track of them in an Excel spreadsheet and then generate charts to see how each category is doing. I’ve heard great things about Mint, but have never tried it, or any other similar app.

        1. That’s not weird at all! Big loves Excel and is able to make beautiful graphs with it – I’m still learning how to work the =sum functions haha 😛

  5. Hey these are some great tips! I’m slowly paying off my student loans (I think at $600/mo, I’ll have them paid off in a little under three years). Maybe I should consider renting a two bedroom apartment and seeing if the landlord is okay with making the rental an AirBnB type!



    1. Thanks so much for reading and for following along on IG 🙂 Feel free to DM us on IG if you have any questions!

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