- How My Husband And I Paid Off ,000 In Debt With Zero-Sum Budgeting | Bankrate.com
- How we used zero-sum budgeting to pay down debt
- Pairing our zero-sum budget with the debt snowball
- Becoming debt-free — and staying that way
- Lessons learned paying off ,000 in debt
- Learn more:
- Getting Debt Stories
- Rebounding From Bankruptcy
- Keeping a ‘Passion for Fashion’ on the Road to Repayment
- A Spender, a Saver and Dreams of a Family
- ‘Happiness Journey’ Fueled Payoff
- From ‘Extravagantly Broke’ to Comfortably Frugal
- Little Splurges on the Path to Freedom
- Small Wins Help Achieve a Big Dream
- Whipping Up a Payoff 'Tornado'
- 'I Just Pretended I Didn't Have Money'
- 'It Made Our Marriage So Strong'
- Redefining 'Best Life,' Scaling Back
- Kicking Frugality Into High Gear
- Side Jobs, Meal Planning and Faith
- Making the Most of a Gig Economy
- Holiday Bills Break a Couple’s Budget
- Thrifty Living and Side Gigs
- 'We Have Choices Again'
- Conquering College Credit Card Balances
- Changing Habits, Budgeting for a Baby
- Smart Solutions for ‘Stupidest Decision’
- ‘It Became a Game to Us’
- An Olympian’s Medal-Worthy Juggling Act
- Tenacious Focus on the Goal
- Becoming a Budget Obsessive
- Engineer Goes Old-School With Pen and Paper
- Setting Pride Aside and Asking for Help
- A Wish List Kept Her Going
- ‘Born Spender’ Goes on a Spending Fast
- New Parents Quit Credit Cards
- Grad Gives Gift to Her Future Self
- Financial Goals Are Family Goals
- No Sleep for New Parents Until Payoff
- Homemade Tracker Kept Her Cooking
- Newly Single, ‘I Knew I Had to Help Myself’
- Getting an Education in Student Loans
- Extra Payments Became Her Obsession
- Making Sense of Cents
- Money Under 30
- Lauren Greutman
- Money Peach
- Debt Discipline
- Cait Flanders
- Active Budgeting Pays Off
- My Shiny Nickels
- Smart Spending, Dedication
- The Family CEO
- 'Monster Payments'
- Penny Pinchin' Mom
- Queen of Free
- The Budgetnista
- Well Kept Wallet
- His and Her Money
- Debt Free Guys
- How to Pay Off ,000 in Student Loans
- 1. Refinance your student loans
- How much will you save if you refinance k?
- 2. Find a cosigner to refinance your ,000 loan
- 3. Explore your forgiveness options
- 4. Explore income-driven repayment plans
- 5. Use the debt avalanche method
How My Husband And I Paid Off $50,000 In Debt With Zero-Sum Budgeting | Bankrate.com
When my husband and I were in our late twenties, we got caught up in what we thought the American dream should be.
We took out expensive car loans for a new vehicle every few years, and made only the minimum payment on over $20,000 in student loans so we could fund our lifestyle.
We didn’t have much credit card debt — at least all at once — but we did manage to spend most of what we earned.
In fact, we lived paycheck to paycheck, although we were smart enough to save money in our workplace 401(k) retirement plans.
But something changed when we decided to have kids. All of a sudden we began worrying about more than what we wanted today. We started to think of our future and the type of future our kids might have if we didn’t change.
This awakening led us to take a closer look at how we were living. And, more importantly, how we were spending. We had good jobs. We were earning almost six figures combined. And we lived in a low cost-of-living area. Why weren’t we getting ahead?
The answer became clear after we analyzed a few months of our bank statements and credit card bills. To our surprise, we found we were spending up to $1,000 per month on food — for two people! Our hefty car payments were also taking up more than 20 percent of our take-home pay and we were wasting money on plenty of other splurge purchases, too. No wonder we weren’t saving anything.
Once we realized that we were the culprit of our money woes, we sat down to figure out what’s next. Fortunately, my husband Greg and I stumbled on a type of budgeting that helped us fix our overspending problems for good — zero-sum budgeting.
And slowly, over time, we used this type of budgeting to change our financial fortune and our lives.
How we used zero-sum budgeting to pay down debt
While we didn’t know what zero-sum budgeting was when we started, we naturally gravitated to this dynamic debt repayment strategy. The purpose of a zero-sum budget is simple.
It requires you to track your full monthly income and give every single dollar you earn some sort of purpose.
Once you list your monthly income and your monthly expenses, you assign each dollar to a specific bill or need.
For example, we had fairly standard bills when we started — monthly bills our mortgage, car payments, car insurance, cable television and phones. We made room for each of those payments in our zero-sum budget, then we estimated how much we would spend on fluctuating categories food and entertainment.
In order to make our budget work, we had to make some big cuts right away. For starters, we limited ourselves to spending only $500 per month on food at first. To cut our food bill in half we stopped going out to eat. We also cut our cable television subscription and went on a spending freeze that limited our consumption in a drastic way.
Once we made those changes, we had money left in our budget each month — at least on paper. In the spirit of zero-sum budgeting, we allocated every extra dollar we earned to debt repayment and savings.
Pairing our zero-sum budget with the debt snowball
We allocated every dollar to some aspect of our lives. And I mean every dollar. We covered our bills first. But we also tried to find a way to make the most of the extra money we freed up from cutting our expenses.
When it came to debt repayment, we ultimately opted to use our zero-sum budget in conjunction with the debt snowball. This meant allocating as much as we could each month toward our highest interest debt — a small credit card balance — and making minimum payments on everything else.
Over several months, we paid off several small debts. Then we turned all our attention to our car loans — first mine, a $10,000 loan on a 2007 Dodge Caravan. We kept making minimum payments on my husband’s Toyota Prius during that time as well as our student loans.
After we aggressively snowballed our payments toward my minivan, the loan eventually disappeared. What a huge relief. Then we focused on our Prius car loan until that was paid off. After that, only our student loans were left.
Becoming debt-free — and staying that way
It’s amazing what can happen when you slowly eliminate various debts one by one. With no car payments to make and no other debts to service, our student loans didn’t stand a chance.
Greg and I paid those off within just a few years of starting the process. I remember making the final payment toward our student loans online and barely believing how far we’d come. Other than our house, we were suddenly debt-free. The euphoria we felt that day was something I’ll never forget.
It’s been years since the day we paid off all our consumer debt, but we didn’t stop our debt-free dreams there. With no car loans, no student loans and lower monthly expenses than ever, we paid off our primary residence in 2018.
You know what’s funny though? We haven’t changed our lifestyle that much.
We still drive the same 2009 Toyota Prius we worked so hard to pay off. In fact, it’s our only car. We share it because we both work at home.
We also stick to the same $500 to $600 monthly food budget, and we still don’t have cable TV. We barely buy clothes or splurge on anything other than family vacations. We always look for ways to save where we could easily spend. It’s just how we are now, and I’m okay with that.
Lessons learned paying off $50,000 in debt
Becoming debt-free hasn’t necessarily changed us, but it has changed the way we live. Looking back, I can’t figure out why we so willingly spent every dollar we made — or why we didn’t do anything about it. I mostly chalk it up to the fact that we were young and still learning what we wanted in life.
But now we know exactly what we want — the life we have. We want to wake up each day knowing we don’t owe anyone a single cent. We want to save a large percentage of our income for our children and our future, which is what we focus most of our efforts on today.
We want a life where anything is possible.
We want the financial cushion to pursue our dreams.
We want something money can’t buy — the freedom to live life on our own terms.
And now that we have it, we’ll never give it up.
Getting Debt Stories
Refinancing students loans was the beginning of the payoff journey for Neal and Laura Fogarty. Then they went on the hunt for expenses to trim so they could put every extra dollar toward ditching debt, clearing $36,600 in eight years.
Rebounding From Bankruptcy
Rashad and Nirvanna Muhammad carried student debt and financial struggles as they married and built a family. After experiencing a bankruptcy, they narrowed their focus and made the sacrifices necessary to pay off $179,000 in just under four years. Read more
Keeping a ‘Passion for Fashion’ on the Road to Repayment
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Little Splurges on the Path to Freedom
Brian and Lindsey Baldwin wiped out $130,000 in student loans in just under four years — and still managed some treats for the family along the way.
Small Wins Help Achieve a Big Dream
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Whipping Up a Payoff 'Tornado'
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'I Just Pretended I Didn't Have Money'
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'It Made Our Marriage So Strong'
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Ray and Bailey Robertson paid off over $33,000 in 18 months thanks to an aggressive strategy, lean lifestyle, tight partnership and plenty of planning. Read more
Redefining 'Best Life,' Scaling Back
Sonia Sears ended up deep in the red while pursuing her “best life” in college and beyond. But she conquered her mountain of debt by working more, traveling less and moving back home. She paid off $79,000 in just over two years.
Kicking Frugality Into High Gear
Ben and Melissa Panter were always frugal, but when they faced a large mortgage and growing student loan balances, they knew they had to kick frugality into high gear. The Panters paid off $127,000 in nearly four years.
Side Jobs, Meal Planning and Faith
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As teachers, Jamie and Jenna Griffin were overwhelmed with student loans. They used budgeting and hard work to pay off more than $100,000 in five and a half years. Read more
Making the Most of a Gig Economy
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Holiday Bills Break a Couple’s Budget
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Thrifty Living and Side Gigs
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'We Have Choices Again'
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Conquering College Credit Card Balances
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Changing Habits, Budgeting for a Baby
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Smart Solutions for ‘Stupidest Decision’
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‘It Became a Game to Us’
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An Olympian’s Medal-Worthy Juggling Act
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Tenacious Focus on the Goal
New college graduate Samantha Ealy paid off more than $70,000 in a little under three years — working multiple jobs and at times even neglecting her health.
Becoming a Budget Obsessive
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Engineer Goes Old-School With Pen and Paper
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Setting Pride Aside and Asking for Help
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A Wish List Kept Her Going
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‘Born Spender’ Goes on a Spending Fast
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New Parents Quit Credit Cards
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Grad Gives Gift to Her Future Self
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Financial Goals Are Family Goals
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No Sleep for New Parents Until Payoff
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Homemade Tracker Kept Her Cooking
Chef and food writer Stephanie Stiavetti racked up debt to pursue her culinary dream. But she knew that if she didn’t adjust her lifestyle, she’d be saddled with $64,000 in debt for decades.
Newly Single, ‘I Knew I Had to Help Myself’
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Getting an Education in Student Loans
After college, Kara Stevens found herself with student loans and credit card debt. Once she educated herself on debt, Stevens decided to tackle it head-on, paying off $65,000 in six years.
Extra Payments Became Her Obsession
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Making Sense of Cents
By age 23, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner had earned three college degrees, gotten married and bought a house. She graduated with $38,000 in student debt and decided she would pay it off as fast as she could.
Money Under 30
David Weliver didn't tackle his $80,000 debt until he faced a painful choice: pay rent or a credit card bill. He consolidated debts, reduced his cost of living and worked a second job to pay it off in three years.
Lauren, a spender, was ashamed to let her husband, Mark, a saver, know how badly she’d managed their family finances. Once she owned up and changed her spending habits, they paid off $40,000 in two years.
Chris Peach and his wife Andrea hit rock-bottom when they maxed out their credit cards and couldn’t pay for groceries. Peach, a firefighter by training, applied a step-by-step approach to pay off $52,000 in seven months.
Brian Brandow had his debt epiphany when the father of three had to tell his family there’d be no vacation that year. The Brandows had maxed out their credit cards. They used a debt management plan to pay off $109,000 in four years.
In her early 20s, Flanders racked up debt totaling nearly $30,000 by saying “yes” to everything. By monitoring expenses and cutting down on unnecessary purchases, she paid it off in two years. Read more
Active Budgeting Pays Off
As newlyweds and recent graduates with $20,000 in debt, Johnny and Joanna Galbraith were determined to create an attack plan and get the red. They paid it off in 1.5 years.
My Shiny Nickels
Laura Dobbins and her family lived in an upscale home with all the trappings of wealth, but they were nearly $40,000 in debt. They downsized their lifestyle and began saving, and in less than two years, they were debt-free.
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The Family CEO
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His and Her Money
As newlyweds, Talaat and Tai McNeely had opposite money habits and around $30,000 of debt. They lived on one income and used the other to pay off their debts within a year. Read more
Debt Free Guys
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How to Pay Off $50,000 in Student Loans
Our goal is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Although we receive compensation from our partner lenders, whom we will always identify, all opinions are our own. Credible Operations, Inc. NMLS # 1681276, is referred to here as “Credible.”
Paying off $50,000 in student loans can feel a heavy burden. However, there are alternatives to the standard repayment plan that might help you pay off your debt more easily.
Here are five ways to make paying off $50,000 in student loans more manageable:
1. Refinance your student loans
- Borrowers with high interest rates
- Borrowers with multiple loans they’d to combine
- Borrowers with good to excellent credit
If you refinance your student loans, your old loans are paid off with a new one. Refinancing might get you a lower interest rate, which could reduce the overall cost of your loan.
Or you could choose to extend your repayment term to lower your monthly payment — though this means you’ll ly pay more in interest over time.
If you decide to refinance, it’s a good idea to consider how much the new loan will cost you over time — and how much you might save. Use our calculator below to see how much you can save by refinancing your student loans.
Learn More: Private Student Loan Consolidation
How much will you save if you refinance $50k?
With $50,000 in student loan debt, your monthly payments could be quite expensive. Depending on how much debt you have and your interest rate, your payments will ly be about $500 per month or more.
|Monthly payments based off the assumption that the loans have a fixed interest rate of 7% and that the borrower is on a 10-year repayment plan.|
Your potential savings from refinancing will vary your loan terms. For example, say you have a $50,000 loan balance with a 6.22% interest rate — the average student loan interest rate for graduate students. On the standard 10-year repayment plan, you’d pay $561 per month and $17,277 in interest over time.
But if you refinanced to a new loan at 5% interest with the same 10-year repayment term, you’d pay $530 per month and $13,639 in interest — meaning you’d save $3,638 over the life of your loan.
Tip: If refinance and shorten your repayment term, you might save even more — though you’d also end up with a higher monthly payment.
Check Out: Graduated Repayment Plan
2. Find a cosigner to refinance your $50,000 loan
- Borrowers with high interest rates
- Borrowers struggling with monthly payments
Generally, a credit score of 670 or higher is considered good. If you have a lower credit score, you might not qualify for refinancing on your own. And if you do manage to get approved, you ly won’t get the best interest rates.
However, you might be able to qualify for refinancing if you add a cosigner to your application.
Having a cosigner reduces the lender’s risk, so they’re more ly to give you a loan. Plus, Credible makes it easy to add a cosigner to your loan application — you can even compare multiple cosigners to see which one gets you the best loan terms and a lower interest rate.
Find Out: How to Pay off Student Loans in 5 Years
3. Explore your forgiveness options
- Borrowers who have federal student loans
- Employees of government or nonprofit organizations
There are several student loan forgiveness programs available to borrowers with federal student loans. Many of these programs are geared toward certain professions — such as teachers, nurses, and lawyers.
If you decide to refinance your student loans, be sure to consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for you. Credible makes this easy — you can compare your prequalified rates from multiple lenders in two minutes.
4. Explore income-driven repayment plans
- Borrowers with federal student loans
- Borrowers struggling to keep up with monthly payments
How long will it take to pay off $50k: Depending on the IDR plan you choose, you could have the remaining balance of your federal student loans forgiven after 20 to 25 years of on-time payments.
If you can’t keep up with your federal student loan payments, switching from the standard repayment plan to an IDR plan could be a good choice.
Under an IDR plan, your payments will be your income — generally 10% to 20% of your discretionary income, depending on the plan. Your repayment term will also be extended.
There are four IDR plans to choose from:
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR): To qualify for IBR, you must demonstrate a partial financial hardship. Your payments will be capped at 10% to 15% of your income, depending on when you took out your loans. Loans taken out before July 1, 2014, could be forgiven after 20 years of on-time payments, while older loans could be forgiven after 25 years of on-time payments.
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE): IBR, you must demonstrate financial hardship to qualify for PAYE. Payments are capped at 10% of discretionary income, with potential forgiveness after 20 years of on-time payments.
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE): REPAYE is available to almost any federal student loan borrower. Payments are generally 10% of your discretionary income, though there’s no cap. Your loan balance could be forgiven after 20 to 25 years, depending on whether you took out your loans for undergraduate or graduate school.
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR): Any federal student loan borrower can sign up for ICR. Your payments will be limited to either 20% of your discretionary income or what you’d pay on an income-adjusted, 12-year repayment plan. Any remaining balance will be forgiven after 25 years. Additionally, ICR is the only plan that Parent PLUS Loan borrowers can sign up for — though you’ll need to consolidate your PLUS Loans first.
Learn More: PAYE vs. REPAYE
5. Use the debt avalanche method
- Borrowers who want to pay off their loans faster
Since you have $50,000 in student loan debt, you ly have several different student loans — probably with different interest rates and monthly payments, too. To pay off your student loans and save money, using the debt avalanche method might be a good option.
Here’s how it works:
Because you’re paying off the highest interest debt first, the debt avalanche method could help you save money over the length of the repayment term.
If you’re wondering how long it’ll take to pay off your student loans, enter your current loan information into the calculator below to find out. Use the slider to see how increasing your payments can change the payoff date.
Total Payment $
Total Interest $
Monthly Payment $
If you increase your payments by $ monthly on your $ loan at %, you will pay $ a month and pay off your loan by Jan 2021.
Does refinancing make sense for you?
Compare offers from top refinancing lenders to determine your actual savings.
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Keep Reading: Extended Graduated Repayment Plan
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