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Student Debt Survivor: Fighting my student debt demons

by KK, Dimespring 30 (@studebtsurvivor)

As early as I can remember, I’ve always had a desire to succeed academically, attend a prestigious university, snag the perfect job and make my parents proud. A consummate overachiever, my high school days were spent studying, participating in student government, and running on the track team (these things look good on college applications, you know).

I took the SAT and SAT II subject tests, collected glowing references from my teachers and wrote a pretty good 1,000-word, “pick me” piece for a novice essayist. I applied to my top choice colleges and eagerly awaited the mailman’s appearance each day.

READ: Student loan bubble looks ready to burst

The day that I got that first acceptance letter in the mail I was overjoyed with excitement  excitement that would last well into my college career. What I didn’t fully understand at the time, was that academic achievement isn’t always correlated with career success, and a fancy liberal arts degree comes at a large price.

When I finished my undergraduate studies, the economy was pretty bad. I didn’t get that, “dream job” I had imagined, so I volunteered for a year before deciding to go back to graduate school.

“No big deal,” I told myself. Just add the grad school bill to my collegiate tab.

Because I couldn’t work much during graduate school, most of my tuition, books, and rent were, “paid for” with student loans. I wasn’t an extravagant spender by any stretch of the imagination, but school expenses added up fast. By the time I completed my graduate program, the total amount I owed for both undergrad and grad school was more than $30,000.

For several months I paid the minimum payments on my student loans and went about my day-to-day life. “Everyone has student loans, how else could they afford college?” I told myself.

READ: Generation Broke: Life in a debt culture

But when I finally came to my senses, I was terrified. I owed $30,000 in non-defaultable debt and I didn’t even have a job. I was angry at myself for borrowing such large amount of debt and I wanted out as fast as possible.

The day I accepted my first post-master’s job, I vowed to myself that I would pay off my student debt in less than three years. I aggressively attacked my debt, picked up side jobs and lived on a bare-bones budget.

I was willing to do make those sacrifices because I refused to let my debt get me down. I was determined to be a Student Debt Survivor.

Two years later, I paid my last student loan payment and permanently cut ties with debt.

Today, I live a mostly  debt-free life (I have a mortgage). I don’t borrow money or carry a credit card balance, and if I don’t have the money to pay for something I don’t buy it.

I’ve learned from my student loan mistake and I blog to offer information, support and encouragement to friends and peers who are in the same situation I was in. With dedication and sacrifice, you can be a student debt (or any debt) survivor, too.

KK is the blogger behind Student Debt Survivor. She's a 30-year-old non-profit professional who chronicles her journey paying off more than $30k in student loan debt, then saving for a financially secure future. KK lives with her boyfriend and their lovable rescue pup in the greater NYC area. She enjoys volunteer work, guacamole, and inexpensive travel. Her personal finance motto is: Survive then succeed! KK is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and perspectives on personal finance.