Money Mentality

Why I’m Thankful for My Student Loans

I have a lot to be thankful for—a wonderful family, an amazing partner who I adore, phenomenal friends and a well-paying job that ends the minute I leave the office—but this year, I’m thankful for something in particular: my $13,000 of student loans. They have been the source of stress, tears and countless sacrifices, but despite the pain they’ve caused, they’ve also given me a lot to be thankful for.* They were the catalyst for my self-taught financial education, the reason I learned to save 50% of my income and proved that financial extremes lead to misery. They’ve helped me become a financially literate and mindful adult who isn’t afraid to go against the societal norms.

 

1. Savings > Spending

If there is one thing my loans taught me, it’s that saving money feels better than spending it ever could. When I made the decision to pay off my loans as fast as possible, I quickly experienced the feeling of sheer joy that accompanies $1,000+ loan payments. Watching your loan balance shrink  is the best feeling in the world, and is closely followed by another money win: watching your bank account bulk up right before your eyes.

Before embarking on aggressive student loan repayments, I created a robust emergency fund of three months worth of living expenses. Because I live on 50% of my income, the fund only took me 3 months to create. Watching the fund grow each month was thrilling because it happened fast (due to my high savings rate) and provided me with peace of mind. No matter what happens, I know that I have enough money to survive. That is the kind of happiness that money can buy.

2. Money Knowledge For the Win

My desire to aggressively pay off my student loans led me down the rabbit hole of personal finance education and my world has never been the same. My eyes used to glaze over when I heard terms like “401(k)” or “Roth IRA” but now they excite me. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be 65+ to enjoy the benefits of such accounts and that making a lot of extra money is as simple as a successful side hustle. I’ve seen that early retirement is entirely possible and that any lifestyle I want is within reach when my finances are strong.

Having student loans forced me to educate myself about things I never learned in school. I’ve learned that the possibilities for my life are endless. But I haven’t learned that through fluffy mantras like, “You can be anything you want.” I’ve learned it in tangible, factual ways that involve actions instead of beliefs.

 

3. Being Weird is a Good Thing

Most of my teenage years were spent trying to fit in and be “cool.” Freshmen year of high school, fitting in required pencil straight, frizz-free hair. Despite the countless hours spent and the abundance of damage that ensued, my curly, frizzy hair would not cooperate. At 14, I finally learned something powerful about fitting in: it sucks.

One day, I stopped straightening my hair. In fact, I even stopped brushing it when it wasn’t wet. (If you have naturally curly hair, you’ll understand what I mean.) Overnight, my hair went from a frizzed out mess to perfectly curled. Suddenly, my friends with straight hair desperately wanted curls and began coming to me for advice for how to achieve it. It turned out that being “weird” and not having straight hair was a good thing—it made my mornings easier, my hair was healthier and it looked infinitely better.

Although I first learned the lesson that “weird = good” when I was 14, it’s something that has been cemented in me through my rapid loan repayment as an adult. While my coworkers are buying brand new cars and drowning in debt, I’m taking the bus to work, rapidly building my net worth and will be debt free in six months. They think I’m crazy for subjecting myself to the “horrors” of a bus commute, but as soon as they find out I’ll be debt free in the matter of months, they suddenly change their tune. In fact, they ask me how to do it. When it comes to money and savings, being called “weird” and going against the grain is the ultimate compliment.

 

Happy Thanksgiving, (American) friends. I hope your long weekend is filled with delicious food, good company and an abundance of laughter.

 

*I know (firsthand) that loans can feel overwhelming and like the last thing in the world to be thankful for. If you’re struggling with student debt, please know that you’re not alone. But even beyond that, you can do this! One day in the not-so-distant future, your loans will be nothing but a memory. If you ever want to vent or chat, I’m always here: taylor@thefreedomfrommoney.com

 

What do you think? Is debt ever something we should  be thankful for?

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like

23 Comments

  • Reply Maggie @ Northern Expenditure November 25, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Is it a good time to mention that I wore a splatter-painted print jumpsuit all through middle school? … oh, you probably didn’t mean THAT weird was good. 🙂 But I learned that I hated worrying about what people thought. I knew if I could be so uncool that nobody cared, it would be a lot less stressful. (And it was!) Excellent work for being grateful for the trial that has taught you so much! It’s always easy to look back and think that, but not as easy to be grateful in the midst of the trial.
    Maggie @ Northern Expenditure recently posted…Research Says: Be Grateful!My Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor November 25, 2015 at 8:41 pm

      Hahaha. Middle school and high school are such interesting times for us all 😉 I love the “uncool” strategy. As soon as you stop worrying, life is SO much better. If there’s one thing I hope to teach my future kids, it’s to be confident and not give a crap what others think. Thank you for the kind words and Happy (early) Thanksgiving! I hope you and your family have a beautiful weekend 🙂

  • Reply Maggie @ Northern Expenditure November 25, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    I’m hipper now with my jeans and long-sleeved shirts than I’ve ever been. Although now, I’m a mom that doesn’t wear yoga pants… so I’m “out” again. You can never win! Thanks!
    Maggie @ Northern Expenditure recently posted…Research Says: Be Grateful!My Profile

  • Reply Alyssa @ GenerationYRA November 25, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    I think any event (positive or negative) that sets off an impetus to promote great change is a good thing! Student loans were also a huge part of why I kicked my personal finances into high gear, so I am thankful for them too! Being “weird” is something I completely embrace – it’s where I’ve found my strengths, where I’ve been able to create change, where I’ve been able to help others. Sometimes it can be a challenging lesson to learn, but I am so glad you experienced it (especially in your teenage years)! 🙂
    Alyssa @ GenerationYRA recently posted…Look Up From Your PhoneMy Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor November 25, 2015 at 10:53 pm

      I’m so glad to hear that you’ve embraced your “weirdness” too! And I love how you explain it—that the things that make you different are actually your biggest strengths. Beautifully said. I’m glad that you were able to find the good in loans as well. They are not fun, but can help you grow so much! Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  • Reply Des @ Half Banked November 26, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    “Normal” is basically the most boring thing you could possibly say about anyone, so I totally agree – weird is where it’s at! Also, I’m entirely convinced that everyone I once thought was “totally normal” in high school actually turned out to be even weirder that I could have imagined. Everyone’s weird when you get to know them, lol.

    Honestly, I love your perspective on this – I’m a huge fan of looking at things that are traditionally “setbacks” as catalysts that led to whatever the next great thing is. Big breakup? Eventually leads to the next great person you get to spend time with. Lost a job? Opens the door to look for your next big opportunity. Debt? Gives you a crash course in managing money and sets you up for an amazing financial future 🙂

    Of course, that’s a really simple way to look at it, and I don’t mean to minimize how much those things can truly, truly suck at the time – but it’s a great frame to put on it after the fact!

    Happy Thanksgiving, Taylor! I’m grateful we connected this year 🙂
    Des @ Half Banked recently posted…What’s a Good Night’s Sleep Worth to You?My Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor December 3, 2015 at 12:16 am

      Awww, thanks Des 🙂 I’m so grateful to have connected with you and found your blog as well. You’re a phenomenal writer and the perspective you’re bringing to the personal finance space is so important.

      Hahha, it’s so true about the “normal” people from high school! Honestly, I just think high school is such a bizarre time in general, hah. I’m the same with the positive perspective. I’ve always truly believed that hard changes make way for bigger, better and more beautiful things. Sometimes it’s hard to see when you’re in pain, but I’ve always found it be true 🙂

  • Reply Tawcan November 26, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Accepting that being weird and don’t fit in will totally make you happier in the long run. Great stuff on realizing that. Happy Thanksgiving!
    Tawcan recently posted…Frugality is a lifestyle, not a fadMy Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor December 3, 2015 at 12:13 am

      Thanks, Tawcan! I completely agree. Being normal is lame 😉 I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday weekend!

  • Reply DC @ Young Adult Money November 30, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    This is a great way to look at student loans. My wife and I have quite a few and while it’s a burden it also motivated me to side hustle and that has opened doors I would have never thought possible. It’s also given me a “career” job that I’m very thankful for.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…How to Start a BlogMy Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor December 3, 2015 at 12:08 am

      Hi David 🙂 I’m so glad that loans have brought some positives into your life as well! They are such a burden, but I truly believe that they can also lead to good. Side hustling is one of my favorite things that have resulted from having loans as well! I don’t think I would have been nearly as motivated to make extra money if I didn’t have the goal of paying my loans in less than a year. They have forced me to hustle hard, even during days when I didn’t want to.

  • Reply Michelle November 30, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    I am thankful for my student loans. Without them, I don’t know if I would have ever started my blog!
    Michelle recently posted…The Importance Of A Cash Budget – This May Be The “Diet” You Need!My Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor December 3, 2015 at 12:03 am

      Ahh, I love that your loans led to such a positive addition to your life 🙂 I can only imagine how many people you’ve helped and inspired as a result of your writing!

  • Reply Jim Wang December 1, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    We spend a lot of our youth trying to fit in, only to learn that the path to success when you’re an adult is to stand out. 🙂
    Jim Wang recently posted…How Much Do You Really Thneed?My Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor December 3, 2015 at 12:02 am

      Love it! So concise, so true and so powerful. I wish there was a way we could help high schoolers to truly believe it though! High school is such a bizarre stage of life, haha.

  • Reply Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income December 2, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    I am never thankful for debt, but I am thankful for the lessons I have learned from my financial missteps in the past. I wished I had learned them earlier on, but you never really understand until you live through it.

    I’ve always thought that if folks can’t accept you for who you are then they really aren’t much of a friend to you. Unless it is my wife, mom, or mother-in-law I’m not overly concerned with what other folks think. I don’t have time for it so I will let them worry about it for me.
    Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income recently posted…Investing Part 1: What is Investing and Why Does it Matter?My Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor December 3, 2015 at 12:00 am

      Hi Lance 🙂 I love your perspective about debt and mistakes! I’ve got to admit though, I don’t consider my debt a financial misstep. I consider a calculated decision to propel me into my next stage of life. I know a lot of people have different experiences, but I never took my debt lightly. It was painful to sign up for because I knew it would be painful to pay back. But in the end, it was worth it. I wouldn’t trade my degree from UCLA for the world 🙂

      Haha, your list of the opinions you care about is remarkably similar to mine 😉 I completely agree. If people can’t accept you for who you are then life is better without ’em!

  • Reply Our Next Life December 2, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    Belated happy Thanksgiving! This is such a refreshing perspective — and so true! We can never appreciate the good stuff without having some challenges to teach us to be grateful. The things in life that come easily are never those that are most satisfying. And if you have any hair tips for wavy hair, let me know! 🙂
    Our Next Life recently posted…How We Convinced Our Families to Do a No-Spend ChristmasMy Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor December 2, 2015 at 11:55 pm

      Hi ONL 🙂 I completely agree! Even though taking a step away from the situation to gain perspective can be so hard, it’s also so powerful. I think that in a lot of ways, paying my way through college and aggressively paying back my loans afterwards has changed my life in a lot of positive ways.

      Ahh, curly/wavy hair. The greatest gift and also the biggest curse 😉 My only suggestions are to just let it be! haha. I never brush my hair when it’s dry and I always let it be as “crazy” as it wants. Do you normally straighten yours?

  • Reply Sarah Noelle @ The Yachtless December 4, 2015 at 2:30 am

    How did I miss this post? I swear I have a clear memory of signing up to get your posts by email, but apparently I did not. This evening I was like, huh, Taylor hasn’t posted in a while, that’s weird, and then I clicked over here to learn that I was actually way behind! Anyway, happy late Thanksgiving! I hope you got to spend it with your partner and/or family. 🙂

    Ok, so regarding debt and gratitude…I’m very torn on this one. I do have a sense that if I had happened to (accidentally) avoid debt when I was in my 20s, I probably would have been one of those people who ends up in debt in their 30s or 40s or 50s. So if that’s true, I’m grateful to have gotten it out of the way early, haha! The real reason I’m conflicted though is that if I weren’t in debt, I certainly would never have started a blog or found this community. And even though all of that has only happened over the last 3 months or so, it has been incredibly meaningful to me. So I’m very, very thankful for that. 🙂

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor December 5, 2015 at 12:22 am

      Hi Sarah 🙂 I think it’s my fault! I don’t think I have my RSS feed set up correctly yet 😮 So right now, the email opt-in is for my weekly newsletter. It’s confusing and I need to figure it out! haha. But thank you for trying to subscribe! I’m sorry I made it so difficult, hah.

      I’m so glad to hear that debt has brought some positives into your life! I have no doubt that you’ll feel even better about the situation once you’ve started paying it off. When I was still in school, it felt like the debt was hanging over my head and it was really hard to deal with because there was nothing I could do about it since I didn’t have an income. But now that I’m working full-time, I don’t think about it as much. If anything, my monthly $1000 payment is just a fun thing I look forward to, haha. (Nothing feels better than watching that balance shrink!) So I have no doubt that will happen with you once you finish your PhD and rejoin the workforce. It will be a thing of the past in no time and you’ll only have the positives left 🙂

  • Reply Claudia @ Two Cup House December 4, 2015 at 2:49 am

    I feel the same way you do. In fact, the Debt Free Guys reminded me of this very fact: without debt, we wouldn’t have the money conscious life we do today. Like Michelle mentioned, too, she wouldn’t have started a blog and now she’s traveling the country. I’m thankful for our debt, for the struggle we’re faced with daily and for the ability to learn to tackle it all. Because of debt, we have a plan for our future–and I’m very thankful for both!
    Claudia @ Two Cup House recently posted…Giver or a Gifter? Making the Holidays About Gratitude and Giving.My Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor December 5, 2015 at 12:16 am

      Hi Claudia 🙂 It’s so true! Honestly there are quite a few hard things that have happened in my life that changed the course of my life for the better. Even though it’s often painful in the moment, the positives have always been greater than I ever could have imagined. Your journey is particularly inspiring and I can’t wait to hear the good news with the house sale! I’ve got my fingers crossed that it sells this month 🙂

    Leave a Reply

    CommentLuv badge