I Am Officially Debt Free!

Today is a very exciting day because I have officially made my final lump sum payment that will rid me of my student loan forever! I’m relieved it’s gone, embarrassed it took so long and thrilled to never see the acronym NSLSC (National Student Loans Service Centre) show up in my bank account ever again. For anyone curious, I graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce and about $35,000 in student loan debt. Technically, I could have paid off my remaining balance earlier this year but given that student loan payments in Canada were suspended with no interest accruing, I decided to take the opportunity to instead save for the short term and pay off the remainder of the loan right before payments restarted. I don’t regret this decision one bit, it allowed me to build up a substantial cushion of savings and had I lost my job during Covid I would have been very financially prepared.

I don’t know about anyone else but growing up I always heard people call student loan debt ‘”good debt” and because of this I just wasn’t in a rush to pay if off. I received grants every year in university that paid for my books and then some but never thought to save the additional for my inevitable growing loan. During the 6-month grace period after I graduated I didn’t make any payments because why would I? And even after that I only made the minimum payments (which to be fair, was still very high for what I was earning in my first job out of school). I thought it was normal for people to take 10 years to pay off their loans, it was fine because it was “good debt”, right? Wrong!

I understand why people refer to student loans as a good debt; it translates into a significant amount of value for most people and it’s an investment in your future. And I am proof! I am in the exact field that I went to school for, I seriously love my job and I make a comfortable living which I partially credit to my education. But at the same time, it’s dangerous to label any debt as good debt, especially when the average student in Ontario graduates with $28,000 in loans and a floating interest rate that can hover between 4-6%.

Now unfortunately, I don’t have a great story about how I successfully paid off my loan. I paid exactly what was required of me and nothing more for about 4 years after graduating. In 2018, staring down a balance that was still alarmingly high I decided it had to be gone by the time I turned 30. I started putting down semi-regular lump sum payments and then in 2020, I got a bonus that I used to wipe out most of it. Ta da!

My story is pretty irrelevant. You can’t bet on a bonus or a windfall to take care of your debt but luckily, mine did. Consider me a cautionary tale and prioritize paying off your debt- even the good debt. When interest builds on large amounts like student loans, your monthly payments barely make a dent and you end up paying so much more than the principal. If I could go back in time I would’ve made more sacrifices to pay off the loan sooner. But you live and you learn, and this should be a reminder that it is never too late to course-correct.

The $30 Purchase that Saves Me $60+ Each Month

As many Canadians do, I love coffee and I rarely start my day without it. In following a host of finance blogs and experts online, I learned there was a narrative out there that millennials are somehow sabotaging their financial futures through designer coffees and pumpkin spiced lattes. While I don’t subscribe to the idea that making coffee at home is the pathway to financial independence, the articles did have a bit of a point. This year while reassessing my budget I realized that on average I was spending $60 a month buying coffee even while working from home. And the numbers were even worse BC (Before Covid, had to-) when I was physically going into the office! I should mention that I live a leisurely 3 minutes walking distance to a coffee shop and so it became a part of my early morning routine to get out of the house, take a walk and grab a coffee. And then sometimes while grabbing that coffee I’d get a bagel, or a cookie or a doughnut… you get it.

The dollar amount was not astonishing and for coffee lovers probably not a big deal. But seeing the monthly average I just realized that I’d rather put that money to use somewhere else. I also never bought the fancy coffees anyways and stuck to the basic black coffee that I could easily make at home. So, in July I went on Amazon and bought a Mr. Coffee coffeemaker, a bag of coffee and a 200 pack of coffee filters for $1.50 and I have not spent any coffee money since- win!

I’m now about a month and a half into making coffee at home and there is a noticeable difference in my monthly food/restaurants budget. I can also honestly say I don’t miss buying coffee at all. I learned that as long as it’s hot and it wakes me up in the morning, I really don’t care where it comes from. And as a bonus, it makes my mornings working from the dining table smell great.

Was it worth cutting out? For me, yes. I don’t miss it and I get more joy from saving. However, it’s not the only or best way that you can save money. In fact, there might be even better places in your budget to start; if you haven’t assessed your monthly expenses I’d suggest starting there to figure out where you can cut back on spending that doesn’t make you happy or add value to your life.

For those interested, I’ve included the link to the coffee maker here: https://amzn.to/3mkKZbB