My nursing school debt journey

March 1, 2019

A complete post about how I am paying off my nursing school debt

When I started blogging back in 2016, I never imagined what it would become today. My little space in the world sees over 10,000 views a month and more than 12.3 of you follow along with me on Instagram. Since the very beginning, I have strived to be honest and transparent on here. There was a lot more I wanted to share with you all but was not sure how to do that while keeping information private. Now I want to open up more...more about nursing and more about my personal life.



One thing that is constantly on my mind and stresses me out is money. Nothing frustrates me more than when someone finds out I am a nurse and they go "Oh you must make nice money". Or when they assume because you are a nurse, that you have accomplished big financial goals.

Well for me, all of that is wrong.

One of my biggest stressors of going to nursing school was how am I going to afford this? And now that I want to go back for my masters in nursing education, I am right back in the same boat. Graduating high school was a stressful time for me. Up until then, I had sort of been protected from the real stressors of the world. Sure, I had a part-time job and had money to spend, but I did not understand the financial burden my mother was in. My parents got divorced when I was in elementary school and my father quickly left the picture. My mom worked what seemed like endless hours supporting my two sisters and me. There were times in my childhood that my family received food from a food bank at a local church or my mother stood in line at a social security office to have someone pay for our bills. I have never been very open about this, but my mother and my younger sister and I all shared a small one bedroom for most of my high school experience.

I saw the big price tag that it would cost me to go to college, but I knew that I wanted to do something great with my life. I also knew that I wanted to have the financial security that I did not have growing up. During your junior and senior year of high school, the schools have you meet with financial counselors who go over the FAFSA process, they offer tours of nearby community colleges, and they have you start working on your personal statements. I had a lot of local options that I could apply to for nursing school. But like now, it is heavily impacted and I did not think I could afford to spend more than four years on my bachelors. I choose the college I attended for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest selling points was that I knew I could graduate on time. And that meant I could support my family quicker (and thank goodness I did).

My FAFSA determined that my family's estimated financial contribution was 0. When I saw this, I was ecstatic and thought all my worries about how I was going to afford college was going to go away. Nonetheless, my mother and I had spent much of my senior year of high school applying to countless scholarships and looking for any way we could pay for my education. Well, that efc number does not really matter when you are going to a private university. Sure I received a few grants and scholarships and worked a job throughout school, but I still ended up financing over 51K in student loan debt. But considering it costs 40,000-50,000/year for this school, I figured I had actually done pretty well.

When you graduate from college, you have a grace period before you have to start paying back your loans. The tricky thing is, that some are 6 months and others maybe 9 months, but pay close attention to if you accrue interest during this time. Some of my loans did and others did not. It probably was not wise for me, but I did not start paying back my loans until my grace period ended. My loans are on a standard repayment plan and from the last month of 2016 to all of 2018 I simply just wrote a check for my standard payment, about $600. If I could go back now, I would have started early to throw any extra money at my debt.

As I made a huge life-changing decision to move to Oregon, it also ignited this strong-willed determination to make a smart debt repayment plan. I had been seeing some posts pop up on Pinterest about Dave Ramsey's budget and starting looking into the snowball and avalanche methods for paying off debt. For those of you who do not know, the snowball method is that essentially you pay any leftover money you have to the lowest debt balance that you have. This allows you to pay off small debts and then contribute that amount to your larger ones. The snowball method is great if you need to visualize progress faster. On the other hand, the avalanche method has you also add any extra money you have to your debt payments but to the one with the highest interest rate first. In the long run, you pay less money to interest rates and you can pay off debt quicker. I chose to go with the Avalanche method and saw that I would be paying almost $1,000 less in interest amounts.

How does my debt repayment plan look like?

As I mentioned, I really only began to become serious about my money at the beginning of 2019. The first step was to evaluate how I was spending my money. I sat down with my mother (whom I financially provide for) and laid out every bill and purchase that we have been making. We also discussed what upcoming items we needed to save for (car registrations, yearly subscriptions renewals, renewing my nursing licenses/certificates, etc.). I knew that I wanted to pay my debt off quicker than the standard 10 years, but I also wanted to ensure that I had money in case of emergencies or savings for the future. Together we developed a budget and have been sticking to it. 

I created a budget based on a monthly overview after reviewing my spending habits. I keep track of what bills are due when and make sure my paycheck will cover it. After that, I use the leftover money to cover expenses such as gas, food, eating out, household items, and savings. To help keep myself on a budget, I have begun to adopt the cash envelope method. Learning to stick to a budget has been challenging, but it is also satisfying to challenge yourself.

After only starting this in January, I have been able to pay off 2 credit cards (each with less than $300) and make an additional $200 dollars on one of my loan payments. I know this sounds crazy, but really I simply am starting using my money smarter! Based on my budget, I may be able to "snowball" an extra $200/month at my debt payments. And once you pay off a debt, that money simply goes towards the next.

As of February, I have just my student loan payments and one car payment as debt. I will have one out of nine student loans paid off in May and will be able to use that money to pay off another debt. By April 2023 I should be officially free of student loan debt! (But it may be a little quicker if I am able to find more money to put towards it--think tax returns) In the meantime, I am also saving a small amount of money each month to use for emergencies, unexpected bills, or my future.

I am really excited about this!


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