Mission Accomplished!

Day 214 | $90,717 paid | $0 till freedom

On August 29th, 2011, seven months ago to the day, I went online to check the balance of my student debt. I graduated from Harvard Business School with my MBA and $101k of student debt in May 2009 and I had made 21 monthly loan payments of $1,057 since then. I was expecting to see a balance of around $80k or so.

I had failed to take interest into account; the balance actually stood at $90,717.

Feeling trapped, I challenged myself to pay off my student debt within ten months.

I had no idea how I was going to do it. I didn’t have a huge stockpile of cash, my 12-month salary after tax was less than the balance of my loans, and the ten-month timeline was completely arbitrary. I had a mortgage on my house and two cars and a motorcycle, and I had become accustomed to spending $1,300 per month on entertainment. I wouldn’t say I was living above my means, but I certainly wasn’t living below them, either. And other than maintaining a six-month Screw You Fund, contributing 10% of my paycheck to my 401k, and making sure I could pay off my monthly credit card balance, I wasn’t thinking much about my financial future.

So with no good ideas about how to proceed with the challenge, I put almost all of my life savings towards the $91k. It barely made a dent. Needing to do more, I decreased expenses and  increased revenue.

During the past seven months, I haven’t gone on a single dinner date or been to the movies. I took a flask with me every time I went out with friends, I stopped contributing to my 401k, I didn’t go home for Christmas, and I missed my friends’ bachelor parties and weddings. I got better at DIY and figured out things like how to use duct tape to repair my car and zip-ties to repair my house.

In the past seven months, I haven’t bought a single article of clothing or a single “must-have” gadget or gizmo. I’ve completely eschewed consumerism, and it actually felt pretty good.

To make extra money, I rented my spare bedrooms to strangers on Craigslist, I tried pedi-cabbing, and I started a landscaping business.

I sold my second car, my motorcycle, my roadbike, and a bunch of random junk on Craigslist. I got rid of things that I thought I could never live without, and it actually felt pretty good.

I’ll admit that I did feel a self-described (and self-induced) “funk” from time to time, and I became frustrated when my standard of living dipped a bit, but my cost of living dipped disproportionately more, and I ultimately found that life can still be beautiful without spending a lot of money.

On Day 17 of the challenge, I made the comment on this blog that the only other time I had ever felt this alive was when I was a student-athlete rowing on the crew team at the University of Michigan. 197 days later, that comment is as true today as it was then.

And today, on Day 214, I submitted a final payment to the Federal Student Aid website to pay down the last of my debt.

It Wasn’t Rocket Science
While flasking it up and skipping out on Christmas were effective ways to decrease expenses, those activities were merely the product of internal and external forces.

Internally, there were the standard ingredients like commitment, patience, and discipline.

Externally, I think the blog itself was actually quite effective in helping me achieve my goal. I can literally count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever flaked out on anything in my life, and while I complained from time to time about how uncomfortable it was to relive moments from especially difficult days by writing about them on my blog, I believe that making this challenge public was helpful to my follow-through. I’d say that the Hawthorne effect was probably alive and well throughout this challenge.

So I’ll take this opportunity now to thank those who commented on my blog. To have complete strangers in my corner right there along with my friends and family was incredible. At first, the attention and the rally cries and occasional criticisms posted in response to my write-ups were a little overwhelming and created a lot of unwanted pressure, but I eventually came to value the feedback, and the overall support was really just another important factor that ultimately helped me meet this challenge. So thank you very much for your encouragement and engagement! 

I’ll admit that luck also had a lot to do with it–I didn’t experience any major or even minor disasters over the past seven months. My car did get randomly towed and–unrelated–a couple of old moving violations came back to haunt me, but on the whole, unanticipated expenses were minimal. My house and all of its appliances behaved themselves, my car never needed a major repair, I stayed employed, and I didn’t get sick or injured which could have resulted in an expensive hospital bill. Life didn’t really throw me any serious curveballs. My mom says that God had a hand in all of it.

Finally, there were definitely some contextual factors at play here. My income was higher than the average household income of $50k and I lived in a city that has a relatively low cost of living. I was also single and childless, so the lifestyle changes I made were generally victimless.

Looking back, I’d say that I was in the perfect situation to pay down my loan at an accelerated rate, and while my achievement might seem remarkable at first blush, I’d say the recipe, while not necessarily easy to follow, is fairly straightforward and likely adaptable to many other people’s situations.

I’m Just Cash-Poor
So let’s take stock of my assets. While I’ve sold some of them off, I still have the ones that are important to me:

  •  As cliché as it sounds, I still have my health. Throughout this challenge, I made it to the gym an average of four and a half times a week. Nothing is worth the sacrifice of health.
  • Again, as cliché as it sounds, I still have my friends and family. Throughout my money-saving and money-generating ventures, I never did anything to lose the respect of anyone I cared about.
  • I have one (1) single vehicle and a couple of years paid down on my mortgage.
  • I have $1,469 in cash and $46k in my 401k.

A Shopping Spree Awaits! Or Not.
After I regain my cash cushion over the next few months, what comes next? I’ll have an extra $1,057 burning a hole in my pocket every month, so it’ll be time to finance a slightly used Porsche 911 or something, right? Let me answer that question in a round-about way.

It was quite coincidental–but I think perfectly appropriate–that the pay-off of my debt matched the seasonality of the calendar year that I experienced while growing up in the north. I started this blog in late August as the summer was coming to an end. It was time for me to put away my toys and stop spending money so frivolously.

In October, with $30k paid off, the smell of fall was in the air and everybody was getting excited for cooler temperatures, the changing colors of the leaves, and football. I was excited to pay off my student debt.

In December, with winter settling in and the cold becoming a harsh reality, it came time to put on some layers and hunker down. I was still paying down my debt at an accelerated rate, but the novelty had worn off a bit.

Now, spring has arrived and there’s a rebirth. The loan is paid off, the air is warm and alive with the sounds of chirping birds, and girls are wearing sundresses. Everything’s going to be okay.

Spring is a transformational time, and so was paying down my debt.

For the 15 months leading up to my NMHD challenge, I was spending an average of $7,754 per month, and that figure excludes my student loan payments. During the past seven months, the average has been $3,129.

During the past seven months, I’ve kept track of the various expenses I’ve deferred for the sake of paying my loan off early (e.g., new running shoes, a car phone charger, printer cartridge, etc.). Last week, looking ahead to when I’ll reinstate some purchasing power, I categorized the deferred expenses into four groups: things I need to buy immediately, things to buy within the next one to three months, things to buy in four months or later, and things I can probably do without for the rest of my life.

I know in two weeks I’ll get a paycheck, and  two weeks after that, I’ll get another one. And unless I really start sucking at my job, the economy goes belly-up, or the company falls apart, I’ll probably continue to get a steady stream of paychecks for awhile.

Nevertheless, I put most of those deferred expenses into the last two groups. I’m just not looking forward to buying stuff again. In other words, no, I don’t think it’s time for a 911.

But why not?

Based on the ten-month outlook and assuming I maintain my current course and speed, I’ll have almost $15k in savings by the end of June, which is month ten. What that means is that I never had to sell my second car or the motorcycle or a bunch of stuff on Craigslist in order to hit the month-ten goal.

Along this same vein, one might say that at the end of September, instead of paying down $30k on my loan like I did, I could have invested the money in something as simple as a Dow Jones index, which had nowhere to go but up, and ridden the 21% gravy train from September 26th to March 23rd to net $6k. Doing so would have allowed me to keep some of the stuff I sold.

The thing is, I don’t actually regret selling any of that stuff.

I spent the first two months of the challenge trying to convince myself that my debt should be paid down organically, not by selling off assets, but in the end–and I don’t know exactly what happened inside my head–I decided to sell my second car and motorcycle. And when I made that decision, it felt like a burden was lifted from my shoulders, and I even went on to sell other stuff I didn’t need like my roadbike and other miscellaneous junk.

So do I look forward to getting more stuff or flashier stuff in my life? Am I on eBay Motors shopping for a Porsche? Not at all. Things like the ink cartridge and the new running shoes will replace my empty cartridge and worn out running shoes, so I’ll net out to having the same number of stuff in my life. For that reason, those things went into the second category, the things I’ll purchase in one to three months. The phone charger? I put that in the “never” category. I don’t think I drive enough to need it, so I can’t justify adding that clutter to my life.

I’ve learned to be content with the things I already have.

So What Does Await?
During the past seven months, I’ve gone from one guard rail to the other. While I don’t want to continue to be as frugal as I have been over the past seven months, I don’t want to go back to the way I had been living before that, either. I believe life becomes optimized somewhere between an extremely frugal state and a financially wreckless state; a happy medium exists somewhere between spending and saving money. But where exactly is that medium?

I used to spend my money and wonder, why not? As long as I maintain a six-month Screw You Fund, contribute to my 401k, and pay off my credit card every month, why not spend the money? I’ll keep working in this job–whether I like it or not–because it pays the bills and allows me to maintain a certain standard of living.

Now I’m thinking big-picture. Back-of-the-envelope, 15-second math using the most basic assumptions indicates that I’ll have $1M in savings by the time I’m 49. I can retire and live frugally off the interest and/or get a more meaningful job. That calculation doesn’t include the very material impacts of potential bonuses and cost-of-living and performance raises, investment decisions, and the mortgage pay-off; including those assumptions would only pull in the date that much more. Sure, there will be certain expenses like children and maybe a bigger house at some point that will offset some of those excluded gains, and one could always argue that $1M isn’t enough to retire on–especially with inflation–but I think that high-level, the key takeaway is clear: If I continue to live a somewhat frugal lifestyle, make the right decisions, and stay in Lady Luck’s good graces, I won’t have to work till I’m 65.

So every dollar I spend on non-essentials today is a trade-off that will bear itself out far into the future: the new car, the bigger house, the cruise, the 60″ 1080p LCD TV–those all equate to extra days I’ll have to work. And balancing the pros and cons of decisions like buying the car/house/vacation/toy versus retiring early is extremely difficult because of the timing of the gratification–humans naturally prioritize near-term experiences over long-term ones.

And early retirement might not be what I’m looking for–I’m not yet convinced that it is–maybe it’s starting a business or doing something humanitarian. Either way, trade-offs exist between what I really want to do with my life and the things that I might want to buy.

D.T. Suzuki wraps up his book Introduction to Zen Buddhism with a fairly ominous warning about Buddhist monks who put themselves to the test in the real world after having spent years living and studying at the monastery: “It is no longer imperative for [the monk] to remain in the Zendo; on the contrary, his intellectual attainments must be put on trial by coming into actual contact with the world…Many serpents and adders are waiting at the porch, and if one fails to trample them down effectively, they raise their heads again and the whole edifice of moral culture built up in vision may collapse even in a day.”

When I was living in the admittedly constrained world of NMHD, there was no paradox of choice. 9.9 times out of 10, the answer to the question of whether I could buy something was simply no. I had little anxiety about buying things because I simply couldn’t afford anything.

But now I’m opening up the door to the monastery and I’m venturing out into the real world with my new purchasing power and I have real decisions to make that affect not only my day-to-day life, but my future 20+ years from now. Truthfully, a part of me wants to cower inside the monastery and attack my mortgage next and avoid the serpents and adders, the really weighty financial decisions that threaten to collapse my newfound frugal nature.

But I know that the real world has more to offer than the monastery, and I’m excited to embrace it and to search for that happy medium.

To freedom!

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160 Comments

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160 responses to “Mission Accomplished!

  1. My back-of-envelope calculations with retirement calculators suggest that I’m on track to be able to fully retire at 50. I’m not necessarily sure that I want early retirement either, but having that flexibility is amazing. I’m maxing out my 401(k) and investing a total of 20% of my gross monthly income towards retirement NOW in my early 20s so that I have as many options as possible. If I don’t need the money now or in the next 5-10 years, it’s going to investments. With the size of my cash savings and my taxable investments, I could live at my current standard of living for over 2 years. Options are amazing. Of course, some of that is earmarked for a condo, so I once I do actually buy one, I wouldn’t be able to live off of my cash for over 2 years, but still.

    I think one of the hardest parts for me has been thinking about life first and finances second. Good luck with your student-loan-debt-free future!

  2. Heidi

    Congratulations! Your progress was followed by me and my kids, i think it’s absolutely fantastic what you’ve done. I wish you all the best for your future!

    Greetings from the Netherlands

  3. Congratulations! It seems to me you have gained way more out of this experience than just a debt-free financial status. :)

  4. Congratulations!! It’s been great to be able to follow along in your journey. Good luck as you find your new balance in life.

    Maybe take the $1057 and snowball it into your mortgage….

  5. Max

    Awesome! This blog has been truly inspiring, will you keep updating it now that you have reached your goal?

    • Thanks, Max! TBD…TBD. The posts take awhile to write and I’ll probably start focusing on other things, but we shall see. It has definitely been fun to write and read the comments, so I might pick it back up after a bit of a respite. I’m glad you found the blog inspiring.

  6. Cheryl

    This blog has been a huge inspiration to me! CONGRATS! Most welcome for the comments! I hope you keep blogging once in a while, beyond just the task at hand the evolution of your thinking has been interesting and inspirational as well.

  7. Congratulations!!! So impressed. So envious. So happy for you.

  8. wedschild

    Congrats! That’s absolutely wonderful.

  9. Amazing. It probably sounds weird for someone who is essentially a total stranger to say she’s proud of you, but I am. Through your blog, which I have been following since the beginning, you have demonstrated tremendous personal growth. I never doubted you would achieve your goal, since you were obviously very focused and determined, but some of your early posts make you sound kind of like (sorry!) a jerk. I don’t get that feeling from you anymore, and I think it’s wonderful that you were able to accomplish your goal, do it ahead of schedule, and also become a more mindful person.

    I think your continued goal of frugality when it comes to personal possessions makes a lot of sense for you, but for your sake I hope you loosen up your budget a little when it comes to entertainment. Research has shown that while possessions give us only temporary enjoyment, experiences and close friendships provide a lasting boost to happiness. Clearly, going out with friends has always been important to you, and while spending over $1000 a month on entertainment seems excessive, maybe you should add back a few hundred to that budget line, while continuing savings elsewhere. Live a little. (Besides, from what you’ve written, it seems you owe your friends a round or two!)

    • Haha! I know I came across as a jerk…I re-read some of my earlier posts and I was like, “Who is this guy??” I agree with you on the entertainment piece, and yes, the budget will be loosened there after I accumulate a cash cushion. Thank you for following along.

      • stef

        You can have your friends over for a summer bbq at your house, rather than go out to a bar! Your friends might appreciate saving money too. I enjoyed the SF bar scene downtown when I was in my 20′s. It was nice to go to the occassional house party, especially if there was actual food. For the price of a few rounds of drinks, you can have food (take out from a local restaurant is easy…or bbq’d yourself, more work…..etc) AND drinks. I’m enjoying your blog and ideas/mindset to apply to my 42 year old self, family of four.

      • So have you had your epic party with all the friends over? Sounds like when you do you will need to blog about the amazing experience of burning the student loans…….

  10. russblogs

    Wow! I just found your blog today. I poured through the content and am pumped to get rid of my school debt. I actually started a blog early this week without knowing of this one. Mine will document 2 years of paying of my 60k! Totally coincidental. I’m at studentloansmackdown.wordpress.com. Will you check it out and let me know what you think? Maybe a guest post?? Russ

  11. Hunter

    Congrats.

    Is this the end for NMHD? Or will it chronicle your life after no more Harvard debt?

    You know the best part that I can see? You can use the extra money on opportunities. Like starting a business or investing in something you believe in or even yourself. I think opportunity costs is the greatest obstacle I face with my student loans (and personal debt in general).

    P.S. get them to send a letter saying that you paid off your loan early. Frame that letter next to your diploma. Never forgot what you accomplished.

  12. Brotherbryan

    Mustache Man!!!!!!! Congratulations!

  13. Heidi

    Congratulations! It has been so fun following you since day 1. I have been waiting for this post and am very impressed with your commitment and dedication to pay down your debt. Good luck as you begin tackling your next financial goals.

  14. Big Congratulations to you! I have followed your blog from the start and have commented a few times before in the past. First off, I’d like to say thank you so much for being a huge inspiration and a fun writer to follow. While this has been entertainment for me, to read your weekly and monthly chronicles of your journey to slashing the student loan debt, you have also inspired me to continue my own journey in becoming (and staying) debt free and figuring out the level of lifestyle that I want to live and sustain as long as I can. I’m happy to announce that as of 3 months ago, I’ve completely become debt-free. I have ZERO debts. No mortgage, no car loan, no credit cards, no student debts. With that said, I think you should consider working towards the same goal — with your mortgage. I have no idea what the balance of your mortgage is, but what if you could slash that $1440/mo mortgage payment? That’s an EXTRA $1440 to your bottom line that you can use for better opportunities like becoming completely financially independent, starting up a new business, traveling. I tell ya brother, there’s nothing like being independent from the shackles of debt, monthly obligation payments, and all those little life-sucking things. Anyway, I do hope you decide to continue blogging at least – it’s a pleasure reading about you and following along your journey in life. Best of luck to you!

    • Another day 1 reader! Thank you! I totally hear you on the zero debt thing…not only is it another $1,440 to my bottom line, but it’s like, “I own this piece of land and this house and I’ll never have to worry about that ever again.” Pretty awesome. And yeah, to get rid of another huge life-sucking thing would be incredible. Good job to you for getting there. I hope you can stay there.

  15. tony sheng

    congrats! i’ve been reading this blog since you started and have told my wife and kids some of your crazy and fun stories. it’s been an amazing story of perseverance – really inspiring!! thanks again for bringing us all along.

  16. Congratulations from the great state of Maine.

    Your journey has been a pleasure to read. I appreciate how intelligently and thoughtfully you approached a really big challenge, and how giving up never occurred to you. I also felt privileged to get a glimpse of how a smart person tackles the really big questions: what kind of life do I want, how can I change, what’s really necessary, what do I value most in the world. It does seem like what began as a purely financial challenge became something much more profound for you.

    I hope you’ll continue to be thoughtful about those big questions, and, if you feel moved, to share them with us — you’ve been a great example to so many people.

  17. FIby50

    Congrats! You’ve done an amazing job that many people do not have the discipline to do. This was no small feat. I hope you continue to post more inspiring financial experiences.

  18. Brandy

    I was in Austin last weekend and I thought about contacting you to meetup, but I thought that was a little weird. I thought about you when I was riding in a pedi-cab and I told my colleagues about your journey and how impressed I was with all the measures you took to pay down your debt. You are an amazing writer and I hope you find something new to blog about soon! :)

  19. Aunt Pat

    Joe:

    I couldn’t be prouder of you! You always had the ability to do this, you just had to believe in yourself – so glad you did. You found out what really matters in life – and it isn’t possessions as many would think. Now you know you can do whatever you set your mind to. I believe you have inspired others to reach out of their comfort zones and go for their dreams. The best part for you – not only no school debt, but the knowledge you have only just begun a new phase of your life. So happy for you. Now, get home for next Christmas! We missed you.
    Love you,
    Aunt Pat

  20. Very happy for you mate.. been reading all along your journey over the past months.

    You’ve given us all a lot to think about and for that I thank you.

  21. Jim

    Congrats Joe! This is super impressive! Go you

  22. alexfreeburg

    Congratulations! And thank you. This blog is an inspiration to me to go after life (and debt) with a club. All the best in your next endeavors.

  23. A Mustachian

    Congratulations! I’ve been following your blog since September and it’s been an inspiration. I’m half way through getting my MBA at a top school while working at a fortune 500 company, and it’s been great reading about your experiences and attitudes. It’s definitely changed my perspective and my post-MBA goals are now oriented toward paying off debt ASAP, as opposed to buying flashy objects and living extravagantly.

    Again, congratulations – it is well deserved victory. Enjoy your new found freedom and best of luck with everything.

  24. Congratulations! Very impressive.

  25. julie

    I hope now you will contribute to your 401k again. Also, go to the eye doctor! And the regular doctor!

  26. Celina

    I’ve been reading your blog for about 4 months since you were mentioned on another blog (Budgetsaresexy.com I think). Anyway, it’s my first time commenting. I’m so excited for you and your accomplishment and you have definitely inspired me to follow in your footsteps. My fiance and I have about $100K in student loans between us. I’m still in school right now so I’ll have to wait until I graduate and get a real job. Then on top of that we have to pay for a wedding. It’s a little- no, a lot- daunting to think of all the expenses that we have coming up but I refuse to be a slave to student loan debt for the rest of my life.
    P.S. I live in Austin too. Maybe you’ve given me a ride in your pedicab!

    • Just remember that you don’t have to have a crazy huge expensive wedding. As an Austinite, you should keep in mind that we leave things like bottle service, exotic cars, and ridiculous weddings to our neighbors in Dallas and Houston :)

  27. I know I’m a bit late to the party, but congratulations being student loan free. (I’m a bit jealous since I have 7 more years at this rate) Best of luck in the future and hope to hear what your newfound financial freedom brings you in the future.

    Good to see you’ll be home for the holidays next year. Saving money is rough when your family is around. My family made fun for keeping my apartment a crisp 50 degrees in a midwestern winter during medical school.

    Next step, meet a nice girl who is semi-frugal. (Avoid country club memberships and girls who talk about what her daddy bought her.)

  28. Jason L.

    The other day I was talking about your blog and the path you are on to my friends at a local coffee shop. And now I just learn you are finished! Strangely, I feel sad knowing that you may not be updating the blog as often as before…BUT am ecstatic for you and your student loan free future! Congrats!!!

  29. Seema Ibrahim

    Great to be debt Free! Congrats ! proud of your accomplishments since high school man. Keep it up!

    Mrs. Ibrahim

  30. elliotrobinson

    You’re a huge inspiration to me. I hit a couple of financial snags the last few months (moved to Dallas for work opportunities, not working for 6 months, getting laid off from the next employer after 6 weeks, having my paycheck for half the month bounce, getting a $180 ticket on my way to a job interview out of sheer stupidity when I decided to drive around the block after I got there 45 minutes early, you get the idea..), but I am working again and getting back on the bandwagon to pay off my 3k credit cards, save 2k for my chunk of a downpayment on our townhouse and get the snowball rolling on the 42k of debt I have. It takes a lot of discipline to do get this stuff paid down, but seeing the numbers go down and eventually away is worth it.

    Seriously thinking of doing a blog similar to yours to share my story, my goals and my progress. It won’t be under a year, but 36 months is completely doable even on my income now.

    • Elliot, I wish you the best of luck. I don’t have any regrets about writing the blog–it helped me gather my thoughts and the support was huge–so I definitely encourage you to fire up your own. It feels good. Please drop me the URL when you start it.

      • It’s been about a year and 8 months since I left you this comment. At the time I had 45159.35 in debt mostly student loans. Today I’m down to 35,224 and earning over 50% more annually. I did all the work but just want to thank you again for encouraging me to keep at this and not just accept having this lingering loan debt as a life sentence.

  31. UofMGyrl

    Hi! I am truly inspired by the progress you made in such a short amount of time. I am also in the same bandwagon regarding student loans after graduating from the University of Michigan. My situation is much different than yours but I do always see a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how narrow it is. Thank you for sharing your journey as it gives anyone with student loan debt sincere encouragement.

    • First off, GO BLUE! What year did you graduate and what did you study? Best of luck with your loans–the Michigan degree was well worth it ;) (Did you pay out-of-state or in-state? Such a huge difference…)

  32. Argo Pondscum

    Hey buddy – I know it’s long over due but congratulations. You should be pretty proud of yourself (I know you are, but just reinforcing it). I don’t have anything else to say really except that you’ve proven a few things: (1) You relish the pursuit of big and seemingly unattainable goals (despite being such a whiner about them sometimes), (2) You can live a somewhat happy and fulfilled lifestyle on FAR less money than you ever thought and (3) you’re a hard ass worker and always will be (this is more from my personal experience but it definitely showed through in this challenge). So what do you do with this? Sure, save up your money – but take a RISK with it dude! Go help people or something. Go spend your money on something you want to do but don’t think you can before you have kids. You are so lucky to have a capacity to make tons of money, so don’t be afraid to lose it all on something you care about now.

    I’m not saying squander the freedom that you’ve been given, but rather take a very hard look at taking a big risk. If you don’t have anything you want to risk it on, then just save as much money as you can until something comes along. You’ve just proven that you can accomplish more than you think sooner than you thought – go be fucking bold and do it with confidence. You’ve earned it. Good work buddy.

    • First off, thank you. Sucks about your accident, but definitely glad it wasn’t more serious–so no big deal about the delayed congratulations ;) I hiope you finish up 1L as successfully as you would have without that obstacle.

      Second, thank you for giving me food for thought. I just need to get *some* money first, then I’ll figure it out. I haven’t really been thinking much along your wavelength, so it’s something new to consider.

      Third, out of all 1190 comments on this blog, yours is the first to contain the f-bomb. Aggressive, but, quite frankly, from you, expected :) Good talk; see ya out there. Ciao!!

  33. Nice work! Going through something like this isn’t just a one-time thing since it opens you up to new possibilities. As you keep going down that path and seeing what’s best for you, you might find the length of time that you need to work at the highest-paying job shrinking.

    Now it’s time for the fun part. It’s nice to get some more interest payments flowing back to you:)

  34. Congrats. My wife and undertook a similar project to pay down a debt (our mortgage) in 5 years. Like you, we finished comfortably ahead of schedule. I could not agree more that keeping yourself honest on a blog helps to contribute to the overall success of a project like this.

    Now, step back and savor the potential…

  35. Very well done, congratulations.

    I just can suggest stay without debts. You life will be much more pleasant…

  36. BKRDominos

    Are you kidding me? You’re proud of yourself for “dropping” your spending from 93k/year to 38k/year? Those are after-tax dollars. You went from extreme over-indulgence to minor over-indulgence. Most people get by on far far less than spending 38k/year and would love to even make 38k gross.

    You can thank your excellent education and excellent job for paying your debt off. Be proud of your accomplishment, but please, be cognizant of your good fortune as well. Good luck to you in planning for retirement!

    PS – The numbers are based on this paragraph “For the 15 months leading up to my NMHD challenge, I was spending an average of $7,754 per month, and that figure excludes my student loan payments. During the past seven months, the average has been $3,129.”

    • Brandy

      Oh come off it BKRDominos. Who cares what he is spending? How can you be so condescending to someone who has paid off an incredible amount of debt in a short time? Why should he not be proud that he beat his goal of paying off his student loan?

      • BKRDominos

        “Who cares what he is spending?”
        Spending and money management is probably the most important theme in this blog, so pretty much everyone reading it should care.
        Regarding your other rhetorical questions, read the second paragraph of my original response again. Yes, he should be proud. I was simply putting things in perspective. Paying off debt is a whole lot easier when you are making a large salary. Again, congrats to him with using his gifts and blessings to reach financial freedom.

  37. pachipres

    Hi there,
    Just read your last blog -got the link from MMM. I used to think I needed a cash cushion too but MMM changed this for me. A secured line of credit -we pay 4% on your home could be your emergency fund. If it were me, I would be dumping the money into a stach and onto my mortgage and forget this cash cushion.

  38. poetsandquants

    Congrats. I just stumbled across your blog yesterday and have read nearly every post in the past few hours. I have a website called PoetsandQuants.com that covers MBAs and business school education. Can you email me at Byrne332@gmail.com? I would very much like to do a story on your successful journey to rid yourself of debt. We’ve written a lot on this subject and I think your decision to wipe out this financial burden–and to do it so quickly by making great sacrifices–will be inspiring to others. Best, John A. Byrne

  39. I just want to tell you what a seriously amazing feat you accomplished. I read an article about your personal challenge on CNN Money. I, like yourself, have a tremendous amount of student loan debt. I am however still in school (getting paid for research), so now I don’t have much extra money to on luxuries. But between my undergrad and graduate years…I wasn’t quite that responsible.

    I’m now following the Dave Ramsey idea of spending only cash and a strict budget. I’ve been straying from it a little bit lately….but reading that article gave me some motivation and inspiration to get back to it. I’m hoping that once I get a job after graduation, I can achieve something like you did.

  40. Nik

    This whole blog is some kind of joke/publicity stunt:

    “I graduated from Harvard Business School

    I had failed to take interest into account”

    yeah…

  41. Pingback: Why this blog – addendum | Me an' Olly

  42. Claudia

    Just found your blog..That was a great plan. I think you should publish the blog and make some money giving advice to all the people out there who complain about their 25K in debt to school loans. For the most part they don’t want to live frugally and give up their lifestyle.

    My husband and I both paid off our loans in record time tool

  43. Congratulations brah. If you want to stay happy and debt-free, don’t ever get married….

  44. luke

    Good blog,

    I just paid 20,000 dollars of student debt in 7 months on 65K a year. You beat me, but it is a great feeling to be debt free.

    I think frugality is a great decision. Money is power, and using that power to create a more meaningful change in society is very rewarding. Whether you help the poor, invest money in companies that are changing our society for the better, or become an entrepreneur, these options seem far superior to buying pointless crap you don’t need. This leads to a far more fulfilling life.

    Congragulations

  45. Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment!

    Like many other commenters I found your blog because of the CNNMoney article. I’ve become happily debt-free too by doing a spending fast. It took me 15 months to pay off $24k and it is such an amazing feeling to be on this side of the process- the debt-free side.

  46. Franchua Sevein

    I have spent the last two days at the office (At the Domain BTW) reading every blog post from day one. I’m amazed at such a tremendous effort to be rid of the “American Dream” which translates to being in debt for 30 years… I congratulate you and sincerely thank you for inspiring so many people. I enjoyed reading the Pedi-Cab Chronicles more than an anything, it had me laughing out loud in the office. Anyway, I wish you the best in your future endeavors. I say after you fund your “Screw-You” Fund, travel the world. You will gain a new perspective on life! I lived abroad for 15 years of my life and because of my student loans and other financial obligations, I can no longer travel like I used to… but you’ve inspired me to do the same and live debt free. Once again I wish you a life full of blessings, happiness, and love. —-

  47. Congratulations Joe!

    I salute your decision to not live an extravagant life any more. Also, I fully support you (just a moral support though!) and your decision to either start a business or pursue humanitarian deeds. They are the best decisions you have made after you have regained the financial freedom!

    My best of luck for your success in those endeavors!

    (PS: I was truly inspired by your story.)

  48. I just saw your Youtube video. It struck a cord with me, and I appreciate how you kicked it into overdrive to get it done! That is a lot of debt in a little time! And I thought my $23K in 5 months on $43K was busting it!
    Anyway, reading through your entire post and scanning most of the comments, I too am impressed with the discipline that you’ve shown to be the weird one (no offense!) who chooses to live differently. I know the social pressure to cave in the small decisions! I like how you remind everyone that grass grows one day at a time! And much green lay ahead with your kind of discipline! Keep it up.

    You may have head of Dave Ramsey. He inspired me to kick it into gear and we are huge fans. You mentioned several times your desire to build up cash and how no emergencies came up in your 7 months. His baby steps are amazing because life certainly happens! Every step factors in the others! And he is hilarious if you’ve listened to his daily radio show!

    Dave always talks about becoming rich by doing rich-people stuff! Makes sense to me! Check out his 7 baby steps. Here is the quick version: 1) Baby emergency fund 2) debt snowball 3) fully funded emergency fund (3-6 months living exp) 4) 15% into retirement 5) children’s college 6) pay off home mortgage early and 7) build wealth and give!

    I just thought you’d enjoy exploring his plan. I appreciate you sharing this journey…I will probably be pointing some college students I work with to look at your story!

  49. Kate

    I finally finished reading your blog. This was the last one I needed to read. It was truly inspirational. When I graduated with my Masters degree I had 25k in loans to repay (clearly, not in the same league as your debt, but debt all the same). I had a 15 year pay off and paid them off in 6.5 years. I, too, did not have kids, but I did have a MUCH lower paying job than what you apparently have, and I had a mortgage and all the fun expenses that go along with owning an older home. I busted my butt to get those loans paid off and it meant so much to me to get rid of that debt (and earlier than term). It was freeing to me because the debt was gone but the knowledge from my degree and the life lessons learned from dealing with all of the debt and the “adult world” stay with me to this day. My husband and I just built a new house and took out a 30-year loan. We are planning on paying the loan off in 15 years using the same frugal strategies you employed. It is interesting to me how many people think they *need* x, y, and z because they are not able to separate needs from wants.

    I think you have a lot of interesting lessons to offer. Have you considered taking your thoughts an expanding on them to publish them with a writing house?

    Congratulations. I know this is going to sound ironic, but go buy some small trinket to celebrate (even if it is only an ice cream cone).

  50. Unbelievable dude! That’s an incredible accomplishment!

  51. Esteban

    This ought to be required reading for the Occupy people who spend their days protesting about their student loans, and for every college kid contemplating going into substantial debt in order to pay for an education. Discipline, commitment, personal responsibility and sacrifice actually make a difference. Who knew? Congratulations. Buy yourself a present. You’ve earned it.

  52. Rahul

    Very inspired by your story and accomplishment and started to save for my house purchase downpayment. Congratulations!

  53. Kathleen

    I also found you today from CNN / Fortune. Congratulations on your accomplishment. The wisdom to have done this usually only comes with age. I am compelled to respond to the “key takeaway is clear: If I continue to live a somewhat frugal lifestyle, make the right decisions, and stay in Lady Luck’s good graces, I won’t have to work till I’m 65.” Being young, you totally forget that you may not physically be able to work until you are 65. You certainly will not be able to work at the same pace, such as two jobs. I am 52 and struggling physically and mentally, and family-free, so I am struggling financially. With humor I tell “young” people, “You don’t stop partying when you get older because you get boring. You stop partying because it hurts more.” So know now, everything hurts more as you get older. Even if you are in good shape. You simply can’t do as much, physically as you did in your prime. That alone is reason enough to not want to work as much when you are older. Being able to do what you want to do is the brass ring. I wish you many blessings and good fortune. :-)

  54. Bob Soptic

    From an old Croatian American in Kansas City , you have taught others by your example and also showed them how the immigrants from other countries must have lived to be a part of this beautiful country.

  55. Congrats on a huge accomplishment! My husband and I are embarking on a similar goal to pay off his loans as well, it will take us a while longer since he went to med school and has a LOT more than $90k, but hopefully we’ll be able to focus as much as you have and get them knocked out by the time our oldest heads off to college!

  56. Abbey

    This is Awesome! I went to school to be a pilot and came out with close to 70K in debt. I graduated in december 2009 and got a job (not aviation related) paying a mere 30K. With a few raises and a job move I now make 35K. I work as a waitress which helps pay my loans off faster and now my student loan bill is at 25K. I had planned to be student loan debt free by this fall; however, we have started a house account and now my student loan completion date is moved to May of 2013 with 20K down for a house by 1/1/2013. It has been so hard as we live in a small apartment, but I strongly believe that we are responsible for the debt we take out and it will feel so good when I am free from my student loans! Thank you for sharing and good luck in your future.

  57. Melissa

    Just stumbled upon your story and wanted to offer a congratulations! Its awesome for you to figure out the big picture at such a young age and the service you’ve done for your future family; if you go that route ;-) Our country would be a little better off if we could all live within our means and take resposibility for our debts. Well done!

  58. Vonnie

    i came across the yahoo news post on your paying down a 90k student loan in less than a year and I had to read it. Then I had to read some of the comments. Some were very smart and appropriate to such an accomplishment but unfortunately some were stupid and showed what I believe to be a big problem in this country today…an unwillingness to make the hard choices to live free. It seems few people understand that debt is a very harsh task master and if you are in debt you are enslaved to it! In your case the federal government student loan program had dibs on every dime you made after school UNTIL such time you paid off what was owed. KUDOS to you for decided to pay it off as quickly as possible what ever it took!

    At 29, you have your whole life before you, and it sounds like it is debt free. My hope for you is that is STAYS that way. You don’t need a good credit score because you don’t need credit. Make a new plan to pay that house off! Get out from under that debt too! Save and pay cash for vehicles. Pay cash for vacations. LIVE FREE! Blessings to you in the future! You are the kind of guy I hope my daughter finds. She drives a car for which she paid cash. She has only about 8k in student loan debt but she is just starting her master’s program. She works two jobs and shares expenses with a roommate on a two bedroom place. I think she has only one credit card which she pays off monthly. I guess she has learned something from her mom over the years! Again, best to you.

  59. moron

    So why did you waste 90k to pay off a low interest loan that is tax deductible? You’re not in a low income bracket anymore……

    Why would you stop a 401k match that was more than im guessing about twice the interest?

    Do you understand what inflation is and how low the rates are? Are you sure you went to school?

    • Melissa

      Low interest or not it is debt, and some people don’t want to be enslaved to paying 40k in interest. What does it matter to you?

    • He may not have been able to deduct student loan interest. Payment of student loan interest is only deductible if your modified adjusted gross income is less than a specified amount which is set annually. So, to use myself as an example, not a penny of the approximately $12k in student loan interest that I paid in 2011 was deductible because of my AGI.

    • Danielle

      Moron, the price of freedom is to live like no one else so later you can live like no one else. This guy did it! Loosing the match for less than a year isn’t going to kill him especially since he saved $40k in interest on the student loan. It’s not like he will never contribute to it again!

  60. B-Rock

    Love it. I’ve lived abroad off and on for about 7 years total which has required me to pretty much sell most of my stuff every time I move. At first I was hesitant to get rid of everything so kept a bunch of stuff in storage thinking I might need it later. Nope. Living abroad simplified my life so much. I loved not owning a car and having only five choices of cereal to choose from, rather than 55. Now that I’m attempting to settle back in the U.S. I take those lessons with me. I still don’t own a car, a TV, or a microwave. Life is just better when it’s simpler, isn’t it?

  61. Justin

    Did your credit score take a hit when you finished paying off your loans? I had a teacher mention something like that to me

  62. olgav100

    “So every dollar I spend on non-essentials today is a trade-off that will bear itself out far into the future…those all equate to extra days I’ll have to work.”
    Priceless.

  63. That’s amazing! We’ve got a LOT of student loan debt left too and this is definitely inspiring!

  64. Congratulations! I am so impressed! It’s amazing how one can still have a happy and meaningful life without tons of money. Yes, we all need enough to cover emergencies, especially health emergencies — but I, too have found there are so many things I can give up, do without and still love life. Not having ANY debt is a wonderful gift of freedom. Having a savings plan is something we all need. I don’t understand why Harvard is charging any students, anything. I thought they had/have a huge endowment fund? What gives, Harvard? Why can’t you give more students a free education. I’d really like to know.

  65. Great job. What you set out to do was no easy task. There are far too many people in the world, especially in our country that are slaves to consumerism. There is a reason why so many Americans are under water in debt. We as a nation are living in a false reality and by a false equation believing that buying things equals happiness. It sounds like, “If I just had a little more money then I would buy that thing and move to that place and then I would be happier.” We are climbing a never ending latter, but where are we going? What are we living for anyway? The American Dream is a smoke screen and it’s time we get off the hamster wheel. The economy will always go up and down, this cannot be where our hope lies. Loving others and our relationships with people is what has true value. You can take everything else and light it on fire. Let us remember that when our lives come to an end we can’t take any physical possessions with us. When I go back into the ground from which I came, I want the thing that marks my life to be that I learned how to love well. I pray that also for our self centered generation of entitlement. The world is dying for people that know how to love authentically.

  66. Emily

    Congratulations, and thank you! I think I was meant to read your story today and visit your blog for the first time. I’m in a similar situation; over $170K in loans the day I graduated and have paid it down to $89K in two years and 9 days. Reading your story helped get my mind-set back where it needs to be. Again, thanks.

  67. vat

    It’s very clear that any feedback here that is not “positive” has been edited. Read the feedback on Yahoo under the lead article. Come on…who couldn’t pay off a $90,000 loan with a six-figure income. What a pansy.

  68. lala

    THATS IT!!!! IF YOU CAN DO IT I CAN DO IT TOO!! You are so inspirational! Thats my goal now! Im going to do it within the year. FTW!

  69. Congratulations for your achievement. I just found this blog minutes ago and so I am reading your finale. I must say that god has directed me to this blog of yours to show me that nothing is impossible and what you put your heart and mind into is achievable. I am teaching myself to be debt-free, too, and I will return to this blog again to find some steps you’ve taken and try to apply what’s appropriate. thank you for the inspiration and I am grateful to God for this.

  70. deboraescalona

    I came across your blog and had to read it, and I must say, I’m glad I did. For a long time I have lived paycheck to paycheck, increasing my debt along the way. Any extra money I had I would put to use on things I didn’t need, but wanted. I wanted a certain standard of living, even though i couldn’t afford it. Hey, I’m human, right? Still not an excuse, except I only realized that within that past year or so. I have student loans as well, only I never finished school because I couldn’t afford it. So now I’m stuck paying loans for an education I never fully received. I didn’t look at the fact that i’d have to pay it off whether I fully received the education or not. Not my smartest move, don’t judge me. I finally decided a couple years ago I wanted to do something different with my life. At the time, I was a nanny and although I love working with children and making a difference in their lives, I wanted to do something even more meaningful. I joined the Army and I started making small payments here and there, but not enough to make a dent anywhere. I had no idea where to start or how to even go about wiping my debt. Eventually, I just added more to it through thoughtless decisions. 10 1/2 months ago I deployed. I have been away from everything I know and living day to day with only the basic essentials. It’s sad when it takes being in another country, one where people live with nothing to their name, yet are satisfied with their lifestyle because that’s all they know, for me to realize what you did without having to see the things I do. I realize now that I never needed the things that I sacrificed my financial freedom for. I have buckled down and paid off a big chunk of what I owe as well as started a savings account that I contribute to twice monthly. I’m also back in school trying to obtain my BA in Early Childhood Education and have a little over a year left before I graduate. In a little over a month I will be back in the States, and only 8 months after that I will be out of the Army and “on my own again.” My goal is to be completely debt free by the then and still have a decent savings account so that I can continue to go to school and get my MA, maybe in Business Administration and eventually open up my own school. Before, I didn’t even have a goal so this step for me is life-changing. (As cheesy as that may sound to some) I’m glad I read your blog because it re-affirms the simple fact that anything is possible. (Again cheesy, but true) I am confident in my new goal and I now have 9 1/2 months to make it happen.

  71. Maureen McKinnon

    Awesome Feat !! Brute Force Persistence. I am @ the end of my career and still in the throughs of consumer addiction. Been paying down for 5 years and now am challenged to mere months!! Thanks for the inspiration ( You look good on Yahoo, I foresee a bright future: a wife ,two kids and a dog, at the least)

  72. Mrs. Taylor

    Amazing but I think if I was younger I may try to find you. That is how I would do things. In fact that is how I do things. I am a true follower of Dave Ramsey and really there should not be any debt but Americans are always getting suckered in to buying what they can’t afford or when they can’t afford it. Dave Ramsey says take the time to save up the money and buy only what you can afford. The only debt a person should have is their house. Well, I am teaching my children that and hope they take heed and do what you did. Only, for the moment I am trying to foot the bill for their education and complete my doctorate which without adding more to my 100,000 dollar student loan debt most of which is interest and penalties. I married prior to completing school and my husband refused to pay any of my debt to my education. He was extremely controlling and selfish. Therefore when I wasn’t making much and relying on his income my loans were in forbearance and growing. By the time I became gainfully employed we began having children and things were already spiraled out of control. lesson learned right. Well enough that I can help my children not make same mistake. I am blessed in that this incident did not ruin my marriage but my husband has learned the error of his ways, so he is helping me teach our children to avoid this pitfall. Thanks so much for your story.

    Sincerely,
    lesson learned

  73. Tudor

    While I commend your lateral thinking and objectivity in making the deduction of the trade off between days worked before retirement and the purchase of consumer desirables, I also feel like spontaneous unnecessary purchases do potentially serve their own merit.

    I agree with your evaluation of consumerism and the mindset of consumer entrapment. You buy an iPhone, a new one is released, you upgrade to that, again and again. However, I also feel like your evaluation looks solely at cost.

    Using your Porsche 911 example, you essentially undertook a cost-benefit analysis but disregarded the less quantifiable aspects of such a purchase. For example, it may cost $1000 P/M to own a 911, but the personal benefits that you derive from such a purchase/continued ownership may be significantly higher. However, this relates to a more personal level and is hard to draw a comparison between cost and emotional benefit. In short, owning a 911 may make you feel so amazing that it’s cost can be established as worthwhile and so, worth the extra days before retirement.

    I’m kind of playing devil’s advocate here, but I just wanted to get you thinking about motivation. After all, the pursuit of consumerism is what drives most people to work and earn in the first place (unless you really love your job, in which case it is a mere side-effect). I think it will be very hard to stay motivated for essentially 25-30 years based upon the sole promise of retirement. Even if you do manage it, you may ask yourself once you do retire: ‘Yes I succeeded, but what was it all for?’

  74. Sandy

    I am so sorry that I am just now finding this blog! I have 100k in student loan debt myself, make half as much as you do and live in NYC where the cost of living is outrageous! I truly believe there must be a way to pay this off and realize my dream of owning a home, but honestly, I don’t even know where to begin. This is really encouraging and I hope you keep the blog going even though your challenge is up. Thank you for sharing!

  75. Brittany

    This is truly an inspiring story. I have created a 3 year payment plan for my student loans, but I could never have imagined paying them off in less than a year (and mine was only a third of yours)! Financial aid was one of my biggest worries starting school only because you read all of these articles about how everyone our age is drowning in it. This blog proves that not only can it be paid off, but how no one should jeopardize their education and future over the fear of needing the extra financial help.

  76. Veronica

    As a single frugal mom I actually think this lifestyle promotes all the values you would want your child to have. Love it, inspirational!

  77. Danielle

    Bravo! I’m a new mom and a wife. I lost my job last October and my unemployment just ran out. Thankfully my husband has a good job earning a respectable pay. We have been paying down our debts over the past several years, but at the rate we should. We are down to our last two credit cards, owing around $9k between the two. Our goal is for me to be a stay at home mom and have more babies! Reading your blog has rejuvenated my spirit to continue to pay off the rest of our debt! Thank you for this!

  78. G.L. Ewe

    Why not put some of that extra money you now have laying around toward scholarship opportunities for students at risk of high debt? As one of those students at your undergrad alma mater, I know I’m not alone and others could use help too.

  79. stacy

    Good for you for publicly sharing two lessons that I, too, have been learning lately: being “content with the things I already have” and that freedom is much more valuable than the tangible things. Not sure how that effects our consumer-driven economy but still think our world would be a better place if we all would take these lessons to heart. Congrats on your freedom!

  80. George

    Although $100K is boat-load of student loan debt, having a Harvard MBA to show for it seems far more reasonable than many other examples that come to mind. In addition to the lessons you taught yourself, your story is tremendous example of taking responsibility and making intelligent choices. I’ve seen flippant comments elsewhere pointing to your higher than average salary, as if this is something to be ashamed of. If one is going to take on a six figure student loan debt, then they better have a six figure job to show for it.

    You are well on your way to an early retirement, if you so choose. Although you’ll need more than $1M to retire in your 40s, this won’t be a problem, because I suspect you’ll be far better off than that. My wife and I were both able to graduate from college and grad school without ANY student loan debt, live well within our means, and retire from our “careers” in our early 40s. We ride that middle ground between frugality and excess; a nice, but not extravagant house (paid for), a couple of newer Toyotas in the garage (paid for), and we’re able to take our school-age kids on couple of vacation trips each year. Find a spouse with similar talents and outlook, and it’s not just doable, it really beats having to slog to work every day to pay off accumulated debt. Best of luck to you!

    • Sheri

      Ditto….from George’s other half —his spouse with similar talents and outlook.

      I found myself cheering you on…you are doing it all right! Stay the course. You are an inspiration for others your age (and some much older!)

      Best wishes.

  81. Cindy

    What an amazing accomplishment, and hats off to you! I loved the fact that you took girls out on hiking dates and things like that, You are a handsome hottie and I hope you find girl that falls madly in love with “YOU” and your heart, and not your bank account. Good luck and success in all you do!

    Cindy

  82. I can only imagine the relief you have to be done with that kind of debt. What a great accomplishment! I also appreciate that you acknowledged the reality of your ability to make your goal possible. You’re in the best circumstances!!! One year of sacrificing your usual spending & activities will seem like nothing when you have many many years forward not worrying about sacrifice. To be honest, I’d be psyched to move on to another challenge like the mortgage haha What’s another few more months to be even more debt free, right? I know as a single mom there are a lot of things I sacrifice just to give my kids a decent life and stay out of the ghetto. To me it’s worth it to simply live within my means. If I don’t need it, I don’t get it or if I do then I just wait it out until I can save for it to buy it. I still have debt of course but I won’t put my family through poverty just to cover some debt. I may not have given my kids the best of everything or been able to give them all the usual childhood opportunities/experiences but they can appreciate the stability and strength in the end. It’s slow progress for people like me but it’s still progress ;) Congrats to you and your newfound frugal living…you sure did grow in this experience :)

  83. Thank you so much for posting this. I think it’s something that will give me motivation for my own debt. I think “Hollywood” has a big influence on how people should be living, and it’s just not a reality at all….I realize that I’m not a Kim Kardashian, or a Jennifer Lopez. I’m a Laurie DiMartini and I’m happy with that. :) God Bless you 0:)

  84. Valerie

    Hello:
    I have made this blog my home page. I have a tendency to forget that I have a huge bundle of debt, which needs to be paid off. Been out of work for several years, which is my only excuse! What you have done with this blog is a great thing. That “piece of paper” you mention in the video turned out to be (in the scheme of things) quite important to a great many people. Thanx.

  85. Wow, I’m so glad I’m not the only 20-something that’s like this!! I’m 24, graduated last June from nursing school, single and have no kids. Granted I don’t make as much and didn’t have as much debt, I paid it off December 17, 2011 and just paid cash for 2008 Mazda 6 to replace my 93 Honda Accord with 234k miles that I had been driving since I was 16. Most people thought I was nuts for wanting to pay cash for it instead of just getting a loan (what I always heard was, “You can get a really great deal on a loan at 0.9% interest.” My response, “What was the point of paying off all my debt just to accumulate more debt? And why have a car payment when I don’t need one?!) because the Honda was a legitimate safety issue. But I figured if people are starting to think I’m crazy, I must be doing something right. And it’s an amazing feeling to actually OWN it and not be like everyone else in America with a car payment! SO refreshing to know that there are other people out there like me, and congrats on being student loan free!

    • olgav100

      Jackie, you’re awesome! Stories like this make me believe things are not that bad in the world:) People get inspired and you’re one of those who provides it!

      • Aw thanks so much! It was tough to stay disciplined but 10 months is just a drop in the bucket when you look at the big picture. It’s such a freeing feeling. I was even able to take my sister to Vegas with me when one of my friends got married. Felt amazing to be able to pay cash for the whole thing and I’m excited to do more things like it in the future without having to rely on debt! Things don’t stay bad forever once you change your focus in life!

  86. Katherine

    Congratulations on your accomplishment! My husband and I are going scorched earth to pay down $90,000 of a J.D. and M.B.A. ourselves. We don’t have much to sell, but so far we have paid $26,000 of principal in 6 months by budgeting, cash-flowing, and parting with as much savings as we could (we kept some because we have a child and another on the way). I can’t wait until we are in your shoes. The negative comments on the blog are unfortunate but not surprising. We’ve even gotten some in person based on what we are doing! Getting your finances in order really irks some people for some reason. I can’t wait to trade the risk of carrying debt for more financial freedom. Best of luck to you in the future.

  87. Coupon Queen

    I started my blog because of you and I hope you don’t mind your picture on it.
    http://iowenomore.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/ive-been-inspired-by-a-college-kid/
    You have definitely inspired me to get my life in financial order. I’m kicking ass and forgetting the names!
    (I’m old, I forget easily). :)

  88. Mark

    Almost done catching up. I started reading this a week or so ago (and have left a few comments). With the phone charger, try buying on ebay from China. Usually $1-$3 if you really need it.

    I’m early 20′s (just graduated college a few months ago). I noticed immediately after starting working my spending habits went up. By March (2 months on the job), I decided this needed to change. I have cut my spending to $1800/month, and hope to cut it down to the $1500 range at some point. While this is obviously quite a lot less than your budgeting during this process, I still respect your decision to cut spending modestly and pay off the debt! Congratulations!

  89. Wow, this is amazing! I’ve been reading up on your story and I was obviously impressed by many things, but then I read in your blog that you used to row! So pretty much you’re the perfect man. Congrats on that, oh and the debt thing!

  90. Mihalic, I can only reiterate what so many have already said, “A job well done!” I’m presently going through a MA program, paying for it myself, and not by choice, however, look forward to the PhD program as well as the loans that go with it. I do know that, getting a job and trying to pay back school loans is an antiquated idea and one has to think more outside the box, not just to pay back a loan, but to approach life. With that, you are an inspiration. My wife refuses to take out a loan so I read her your article as a reference point. Good luck, Mihalic!

  91. Pingback: Paying off $90,000 in Harvard student loan debt in 7 months | Personal Finance Success

  92. Pingback: Student Debt Success Story « The Money Bar

  93. Luke

    Congrats! My only caveat to this whole thing is that if the cost of interest on your student loans is lower than the revenue you could generate by investing (e.g., in multi-family residential real estate) all the money you saved by lowering your standard of living, it may have made more sense to from an efficiency standpoint to invest that money rather than pay off your loans with it. Likewise, if your interest rate was higher on your mortgage (or any other debt) than on your student loans, that should have been paid off first. Finally, one kind of mean snub: why would an MBA from Harvard fail to account for interest in calculating the expected balance on a loan? All that aside, the lesson of reducing unnecessary spending and being more thoughtful about our finances is one we can all learn from.

  94. David

    Mr. Mihalic,

    Congratulations! You did it! I am 30 (unmarried, male) and in my third year of diagnostic/surgical-interventional radiology residency. Luckily, I had no undergraduate debt as I want to a (good) public university and my parents were able to afford it. Medical school got me into 200K+ as I was not accepted into my only state school. As a radiology resident, I have clinical moonlighting gigs that bring my income to 100K+. I plan to pay off the debt before Christmas. I cut back on many things like you but allowed myself a few luxuries: opera at the Met in NYC (I’m an amateur musician), etc.

    CONGRATS!

  95. Pingback: American Debt Project » Blog Archive » June 2012 Debt Update: This Is Really Happening!! » American Debt Project

  96. Pingback: Higher Ed Morning » Blog Archive He paid off $90K in student loans – how?!

  97. Pingback: 10 Months to Freedom: Joe Mihalic on How to Pay Off Insane Amounts of Debt in Ridiculously Short Amounts of Time | The Change Anything Blog

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  99. Reblogged this on boontide and commented:
    This is awesome! We’ve got crap to sell, I could try once again to get a job (the last few attempts have been far from fruitful, but if at first…), and flasks are cool!

  100. Chris

    Now that you have extra income, do you think you might start giving to charity? Maybe even surprise random strangers with crazy gifts. Like that family that wants to adopt, or that college kid…well, you know about that one ;)
    Thanks for posting!

  101. Zo

    Question: what kind of job allows for 7k+ per month spending, and how do I apply?

  102. Pingback: 21 Personal Stories That Will Make You Want to Start Attacking Your Debt Today | Adam Hagerman, AFC® – Financial Coach

  103. Pingback: Moving from College Student to 9-5 Worker | LazyEarlyRetirement

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