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At the time I created this original post I have $28,370 in total debt (Written May 2018). Of that amount, $22,500 is the remaining about of my student loans.

I graduated college in 2008 but interestingly enough have been collecting debt since 2004 when I first joined. It has been 14 years since debt became a part of my life and as a 32-year-old, that is about 45% of my life in debt. Talk about putting things in perspective.

My family and I were very excited that I was going to be the first person in my family to be going to college. Forget the fact that I had no concept of the real world, let alone have any idea of what I wanted to do for a living (fun fact: I still don’t really). But hey…COLLEGE!

How My Student Loans Debt’s Piled Up

My freshman year I took a $6,400 variable interest loan (co-signed with my grandfather) from a private lender. Then the following on my other years:

  • Sophomore: $17,112
  • Junior: $15,875
  • Senior: $17,500

Total amount, not including interest over the years in college, amounted $56,887. When I graduated college it swelled to over $63,000.  This was just over 4 years!

Now, most people, when they graduate from college, join a company that pays them a decent salary to be apart of a functioning society. By the time I finished college with a degree in marketing, I already realized I spent over $60K on a degree that I didn’t want.

Did I mention I graduated in 2008? Remember that thing called “The Great Recession”. Funny thing, that also happened at the same time.

I Gave Myself Two Choices

Upon graduation, I was a marketing intern that spent 2 hours a day commuting to work only to work 4 hours while making $10/hr. When the economy turned to crap, the reality of my debt kicked in. I was spending $600 a month (most of it interest) to pay back loans I had no interest in taking anyways.

I gave myself two choices:

  1. Spend all of my efforts updating my resume, try to find a position in marketing doing things that don’t interest me but will pay the bills and I can hopefully pay off my loans in 15 years.
  2. Follow my dreams, or at least try to make it on my own and I’ll figure it out (or hope to).

Back then just the thought of working for someone else irritated the hell out of me. I decided to choose option #2.

The debt that kept growing

To keep a long story short: Here are some of the professions/aspiring ventures I’ve partaken in college & over the years.

  • Professional Poker player
  • Aspiring actor
  • Comedian
  • Government contractor
  • E-commerce owner
  • Youtube Content creator
  • eBay/Amazon Arbitrage seller

From 2008 until the end of 2012 I wanted to see if I could do these things on my own. Some were more successful than others and other’s I couldn’t really do because it didn’t pay (mainly the entertainment-based items).

During this time frame, I kept putting my loans on forbearance. These ventures did pay enough for me to move to another state and live on my own for awhile, but that was because I kept requesting to defer my loans while the interest kept piling up.

My loans swelled up to over $75K.

Almost homeless…

I moved out of state to prove to myself that I can make it on my own. But I was never able to think straight knowing that every night when I go to bed and wake up, I would owe another $10 to my debt and that I haven’t paid any of it down over so many years.
In the Fall of 2010, I was sustaining enough money with poker to consider chipping away into my loans. But I also came to the realization that I was absolutely miserable playing poker as a full-time profession. I made the decision to quit and finally get a job in hopes figure out what I want to do.
I spent the next few months applying for jobs non-stop and wasn’t able to find anything. Based on my savings, I had enough money to survive until the end of January 2011. By early Jan I was frustrated with myself that I put myself in this situation and I would need to move back home in the midwest with my tail between my legs or move to a homeless shelter.
I honestly lost all hope.
Then fortune came my way. I asked my friend to be a reference on my resume and he recommended me to work with him at a small e-commerce company. He got me the interview the same day and they hired me at the end of the interview.
I didn’t care that if I was making above minimum wage, I was finally happy to have a baseline to climb out of debt.

The Grind Is Real

When you are out of money, looking failure in the face, and being rejected by hundreds of companies, you get humbled really fast.
Even getting paid slightly above minimum wage full time in 2011, I absolutely loathed the idea of working for a company.  So I spent all my free time learning new skills (coding, internet marketing, reading business books, understanding more about finance) and spend some time selling items on eBay for extra cash to get the sense of freedom.
Throughout 2011 my debt stayed around $75,000. I lived incredibly frugally ($80/month in food, limited social interaction, cheap rent) but it kept my debt from growing and stopping the bleeding helped dramatically. It kept me sane.
At that point, I started to turn my life into a game of getting out of debt. From negotiating a raise at the company I was working at to getting my first salary job without an ‘in’, I was able to start knocking down my debt. I even learned to life-hack my way into free airfare by winning a ‘luck’ content.

Almost homeless…again

Because I spent so much time learning and practicing what I’ve learned in internet marketing, I was seeing success for the companies I was being employed at.  So a few coworkers and I joined together to create a marketing agency.

It was a learning experience, we didn’t get paid much and during this time (although we did do great work) I moved in with my girlfriend as we thought we could move into a nicer part of town and that we were making decent money for several months.

But since I wasn’t making that much during this business venture, I started putting my bills on my credit card. My girlfriend got a new car for her job and I had to get another car because I couldn’t legally drive my car due to it not passing the smog test.

We had a lot of unexpected expenses that put us on the cusp of losing our apartment at the end of 2013 and having to live with my girlfriend’s parents. While it was an option, it was something that for me personally, would not accept having a losing mindset.

Going From Debt To Dough

I’ve spent many years in dreamland imagining life without debt. I wanted to live a life that I would make decisions based on own accord and not be influenced by money I owe, or debts that I have.

The truth is that every time I caught a whiff of mild success, I automatically wanted to improve my life standing assuming “it will figure itself out”. I would always ignore the reality and never planned accordingly.

In January 2014, I took a job with a salary that was about 15% lower than the previous company I worked at before I had my own business. My student loan debt was about $68,000 and I had $4,000 in credit card debt.

Even though I was making less than before, my girlfriend (and now wife) and I agreed that we need to be patient and do things right. We have learned a lot since 2014 and I have dedicated countless hours of testing methods, doing side hustles, and life-hacked our way into:

  • Cutting down student loan debt by 66%
  • Buying & affording a house
  • Affording a wedding
  • Traveling and taking up hobbies

Both the wife and I grew up incredibly poor. We didn’t know any better, and we managed to climb out of poverty and are finally living a life without fear of losing everything. We aren’t ballin or aren’t even well off (I still over 15K+ in student loans). But we’ve crawled our way out of the dirty basements and can start enjoying life.

So please, if you are new to finance, need direction, or are someone with no money and want to improve your financial situation, check out the site and follow my journey to getting out of debt completely.