In order to be so aggressive with my payments, I've done a few key things over the last few months, and I'll do a few more to both cut expenses and earn additional income:
- I picked up a second job. On the weekends, I work between 5 and 13 hours at the same part time job I had in college. This means I'm earning a bit, and it also keeps me from spending much on the weekends; a win-win. The job is low stress, at an organization I'm happy to give my time to, and comes with a pretty great perk - free theatre tickets at various points throughout the year!
- I maximize cash back deals as much as possible, without spending money I wouldn't otherwise. This means that groceries always go on the card that gets me 6%, and when I can get 10% rewards at Starbucks, I reload my card to last me several months. I also pay in full every month, so this is basically free money.
- I pack my lunch every day. I also pack snacks, and for the days when I know I'll need it (workout days, or when I'm going out after work) I'll pack a second breakfast and/or dinner. It means a lot of Tupperware to clean, but it's also hundreds of dollars a month I'm saving, not to mention the health benefits.
- Almost every bit of extra money goes to loans. I try to save $50-100 per month for upcoming travel expenses, as I have several small trips planned for the summer and I want to be able to pay for airfare without cutting back on my loan payments. Other than that, any extra money leftover or any gifts, rewards, or unexpected cash goes to loans.
Right now, my boyfriend (and roommate) isn't earning much, so I'm covering the bulk of our living expenses. Next year (academic year), that will hopefully change, and he will take on most of our financial obligations for a year. We haven't figured out exactly what that split will look like, but I anticipate that he'll at least be covering half the rent. That alone will make a huge difference in what I'm paying toward loans, but for now I can't count on anything more than that. My goal of paying my loans before I'm 27 is with that in mind, but I'm stubborn enough that, should something in our relationship or individual job statuses change, I will do everything in my power to stick to my goal.
I'll write more about my budget at a later date, but, spoiler alert, I try to keep my expenses as low as possible.