I was on track to make a payment in May that would put me at 50% of my former student loan balance – until good news arrived and I thought I’d have to delay my progress a bit. As I made arrangements to travel (my good news was a grant that would pay for a trip to a conference) I realized that I didn’t want to give up that milestone. As I laid in bed one night, I thought, “There must be a way.”
To make the 50% mark, I’d need to make a $3,325 payment. I had it, but I spent $565 on a hotel room (which will be mostly reimbursed) and another $445 on a registration fee (which will also be reimbursed.) I raided my payment, because I thought the trip was the more important thing.
It is important. But so is that payment.
I also have a bicycle fund and a vet visit fund and my emergency fund and some other money stashed in places. I really didn’t consider any of those stashes as options. Early in the debt repayment process, I told myself that I didn’t want to dip into my $5,000 emergency fund.
And I still didn’t want to, until I had to use it to pay for registration.
I told myself that I was okay with pulling the payment from my emergency fund (instead of putting it on a credit card). And it is okay. It’s so okay that it opened the door for me to pull a little more money out to make that monster payment.
I’m going for the 50 folks. I’m going to pay off 50% of my student loan balance in six months.
It’s symbolic. I need to see that progress to keep myself on track.
To do it, though, I had to adjust my thinking a little bit. I had to look at where I had money stashed – and why I had it stashed – and figure out if I was willing sacrifice the beliefs I had around each stash. For instance, I believed that keeping $5,000 in the emergency fund was non-negotiable. I believed that my bicycle fund was sacred.
In all honesty, I still believe that $5,000 in the emergency fund is non-negotiable. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t know I could put the money back in early June. I’ll have the reimbursement from the grant, and I’ll have money from a side hustle that came through for May. I’m going to be so busy with the side hustle and preparing for the conference that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my bicycle until the end of May anyway.
While I was lying in bed, thinking about finding a way to make the 50% mark, I thought about all the things I could do. I could temp for a week to make some money. I could put things on Craigslist. I could donate plasma. I thought of all the ways I could make some quick cash, and then I thought about the money I already had. All I had to do was have a conversation with myself about my priorities.
The truth is: this works in all areas of your life. Don’t think you can tackle your debt? Have a conversation with yourself about your priorities. Think about what you’re willing to do, or give up, or try. Maybe you have to shift your belief system a little bit. But maybe your belief system has needed shifting for a long, long time.
Don’t think you can find a better job? Keep thinking that you can’t and you won’t. Don’t think you can lose ten pounds? Keep eating donuts for breakfast and you won’t. Keep believing that you can’t and you won’t.
It starts with the voice inside you that says, “There must be a way.” There is. You can find it.