This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see the disclaimer policy here.
I had no debt before I went to law school. However, until very recently, I didn’t really have any concept of money (e.g. the effect of compound interest, investing, saving, and the impact of a professional bank loan that had an interest rate of 8.99%).
When I finished law school, I had $68,500 of student loan debt. Not bad, I thought, compared to some colleagues who had racked up over $100,000 – but at least their debt included a trip through Europe.
Shortly before I became a full-fledged lawyer, I “needed” to buy a new vehicle because the one I had stopped working – literally. I was driving home from work on a cold day, when I heard some racket coming from the engine and decided to pull over in a grocery store parking lot. The car never turned back on after that. I should add here that I did later sell that car for $300 on Kijiji.
Naturally, I went car shopping. The Honda that I saw was only $4,000 less than the used luxury vehicle, so it was a “no brainer” (sarcasm) that I buy it – wait, no, pay the bank to buy a vehicle I could not afford. I bought the luxury vehicle, and the expensive oil changes and parts that came with it. This was a big deal to me. I had never bought or had such a vehicle growing up and had always wanted one. For whatever reason (maybe society’s expectations), it was a way of showing to my friends, family, ex-boyfriends and the world that I had “made it” (note that I no longer hold this view).
I loved that vehicle though. I don’t regret buying it for the experiences I had, but I do regret buying it for all the dollar bills I literally threw out the window every time I drove it. What hurt the most was selling it a couple years later for less than half of what I had bought it for – ouch!
Those were the 2 big loans that I had, and I was determined to pay them off as fast as I could.
Here is what I did to pay off those loans (Part 2 of 2):
1. Used reward programs for groceries and other purchases.
I tried some grocery apps that would pay me money for buying certain items at the grocery store that I purchased.The app I like the best and would recommend is the Checkout app. Every year, we make a little over $20.00 and it’s not time consuming, like some other apps I have tried.We don’t make a ton of money from the Checkout app, but it’s free money that you get back on items that you purchased anyway from the grocery store.
Briefly, the way it works is that every Thursday there is a list of items that if you purchase and upload your receipt to the app, you will get a set dollar amount back on your purchase. Sometimes, you can earn $0.10 for watching an advertisement. Once you hit $20.00, Checkout will send you a cheque for that amount. Generally, I do not look at what the special items are for the week that will qualify for a rebate. Part of the reason is so that I don’t just buy the item because I know I will get a rebate but don’t actually need it.
2. Meal Planned and made some staple snacks weekly.
I meal plan every weekend for the upcoming week. I review the weekly grocery store flyer (now, I use the Flipp app and do an inventory of what I have in the fridge and pantry and come up with the lunch and dinner meals for the week. I try to pick meals around items that are on sale or that I already have in the house.I also make muffins weekly and sometimes make granola bars from scratch.
3. Tried to reduce some utility costs and cut cable (if you still have it)
Be conscious about the utilities you use.
Turn off lights that are not being used or where sunlight can give you sufficient light.
Unplug radios and lamps that are not being used on a daily basis or when you go on extended vacations.
Decrease the heat by 1 degree in your place and wear warmer clothes.
Cut cable. Instead, share or use a Netflix password with a family member or friend. There can be up to 4 users to an account. (I have always used Mr. OYP’s.)
To decrease water use in the bathroom:
- Don’t flush the toilet: “if it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” I implement this rule, but not for guests and not when we have guests over (obviously!).
- Don’t run the shower until you are ready to get in.
4. Read and learned from budgeting and finance resources (books and blogs).
To keep myself on track and moving towards my goal to be debt free, I challenged myself to find new ways of reducing my debt or ways to save money and implementing them into my life. I subscribed to 3 blogs around debt repayment, budgeting and frugal living.
Here were the 3 I followed back then and continue to follow:
- Natalie Bacon: an American lawyer turned certified financial planner to successful entrepreneur and life coach.
- Kalyn Brooke (previously Creative Savings): simple solutions to manage everyday life.
- Simply Frugal – a fellow Canadian working on helping people find deals and tips on the things you need so you can live the life you want.
For books, I am a huge fan of Gail Vaz-Oxlad because she had a huge influence on my debt repayment journey and “whips people into shape” (finance wise). I highly recommend her book as well as the Wealthy Barber Returns by David Chilton.
5. Got some personal finance / investing apps.
The personal finance app that I recommend and love is Mint. It allows you to create budgets and monitor your purchases and bank accounts all in one place. Even if you have different bank accounts and students loans or RRSPs with another institution, you can link them all and view them in one place on the app. For my American users, I’ve heard that the Personal Capital app is great at tracking your finances and your net worth.
I also use the Mylo app. It is a micro-investing app that links to your bank accounts / credit cards and rounds up each purchase you make to the nearest dollar and invests the difference. It’s a good way to get introduced to investing on a small scale. One caveat, however, is that they charge a $1.00 monthly fee for their service. So, for the first little while, you’ll be paying them more than you’ll make in interest per month, but that should balance out eventually.
If you are interested in the Mylo app, click here.
6. Would your landlord hold your rent in abeyance for a period of time so you can make larger payments on your high interest debt?
A totally out of the box idea is to consider whether your landlord would hold your rent in abeyance for a limited time period so you could make larger payments on your high interest debt.I did this for 8 months. My landlord (a family member) was agreeable to me not paying rent for 8 months so I could make larger payments on my higher interest debt. The deal was that I would make lump sum payments at months 9 and 10 to pay for the months that I was given the “temporary free ride”.
7. Rented books, DVDs, magazines, etc. from the local library.
Depending on where you live, libraries can have a wide selection of books, DVDs, magazines and CDs (even). Library memberships are generally free, and I find they have many new release books, DVDs and current magazines. Despite me starting to go to the library because everything about it was free, I continue to go to the library. I truly enjoy my library experience and find it somewhat therapeutic.
8. Used less, where I could.
Be intentional in how much you use. For example, do you need to use that much shampoo? Do you actually need to use tin foil or could the fries bake straight on the pan?
Actionable tip: Ask yourself, could I use less?
9. Limit your caffeine purchases.
I allowed myself to buy tea out once a week, and the rest of the time I had to make it while I was at home or at work. This one was really hard for me because I had to fight the voices in my head saying “you’ve earned it after working so hard” or “you’re going to need it to get through this afternoon”. There were days when I did listen to the voice in my head, but instead of buying a tea or coffee daily, I was buying it much less often and when I did buy one, it was a treat rather than a daily expectation.
Actionable tip: Consider drinking the free tea or coffee supplied at your office (if available).
Final Recap/Actionable Tips for you to take in your debt repayment journey:
- Use reward programs for groceries and other purchases.
- Meal Plan and make some staple snacks weekly.
- Try to reduce some utility costs and cut cable (if you still have it).
- Read and learn from budgeting and finance resources (books and blogs).
- Get yourself some personal finance / investing apps.
- Would your landlord hold your rent in abeyance for a time period so you could make larger payments on your high interest debt?
- Rent books, DVDs, magazines, etc. from your local library.
- Use less, if you can.
- Limit your caffeine purchases.
If you want to read more actionable debt repayment tips check out Part 1 of this post on How I paid off $98,500 in 3.5 years (Part 1 of 2).
To learn more about personal finance, check out these posts: