Debt: It's the four-letter word that can wreak havoc on your finances. In our Debt Confessions series, real people share how they tackled debt - from credit card bills to student loans to everything in between - and how it felt to reach their zero-balance goals.
Here, a young couple shares how they were able to pay off $40,000 of student loan debt in less than two years.
When Bobby Hoyt put his mind to erasing his student loan debt of $40,000 on a high school band director’s $53,000 a year salary, he knew that cutting back wasn’t going to be easy.
Adding to the challenge was urgency: The grace period of Hoyt’s loan ended six months after his college graduation, and he had to begin payments. “Most people don’t understand how the grace period works,’’ Hoyt says. “People don’t realize that the interest racks up over the six months, which is what happened to me. You graduate and then all of a sudden your student loan bill is $1,000 higher than you thought it was going to be.”
Because he wanted to pay off the loan fast, Hoyt and his fiancée Coral made a huge sacrifice many might avoid: They moved in with her parents in 2011. He and Coral, an elementary school teacher, paid her parents $500 a month for the room while also helping care for her father, who passed away last year.
“It’s not fun,’’ Hoyt, now 29, admits. “There’s no easy way to cut back on your living expenses without being uncomfortable, whether that’s having to live with your parents or not having privacy with roommates. But if you can be uncomfortable for a little bit, it’s easier to pay off the debt quickly.”
The Hoyts cut back drastically, paying $1,300 twice a month against the loan from Bobby’s $3,400 monthly income. “We didn’t let our lifestyle inflate at all,’’ he says. “I drove my little crappy truck with roll-up windows, and I didn’t buy clothes or shoes or anything except for a few things I needed for work.”
Thankfully, Coral was willing to go along with the lifestyle changes, including delaying their wedding date by three years. “She saved up so she could pay cash for our wedding while I was paying off the student loan debt,” says Hoyt. “We had to talk about it, for sure, because it held up a lot of our life together. I didn’t want to get married until I got rid of the debt because I didn’t want to bring that into the relationship.”
“If you can be uncomfortable for a little bit, it’s easy to pay off the debt quickly.”
After paying off his loans, Hoyt started a blog about finance, Millennial Money Man, which has since become his fulltime job. The site earns revenue from ads and affiliate links, which means if someone makes a purchase through a link on the site, Hoyt gets a cut.
One thing Hoyt learned from working on his site, which started as a side gig, is that side hustles can be powerful tools for bringing in extra income. Two he has seen succeed for others? Flipping furniture — which involves fixing up furniture others have put out on the curb and reselling it on the Facebook Marketplace — and teaching English on sites like VIPKID, an education portal where college graduates can earn money teaching children in other countries.
Hoyt says the lessons he learned during the 18 months of paying off his debt have had lasting effects. “My wife and I had to deal with paying off debt so early on that we don’t ever fight about money,’’ he says. “We know how to work together.”