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Sacrifice Pays Off




Mandy Velez celebrates her student loan payoff at age 28.

A few months after Mandy Valez graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in English and communications, she was in for a shock. She calculated that if she were to make the minimum monthly payment on her $US75,000 loans every month, she’d pay them off around the year 2046.

She calculated that if she paid the minimum payment as long as her loan balances suggested, she’d have paid over $US96,000 in interest alone – more than she borrowed originally. “I was like, ‘This is ridiculous,’” she told Business Insider. “There has to be a better way than taking the 20 or 30-some years that it’s telling me I would need to pay them off.’”

She had three public student loans totaling $US30,500, with interest rates between 9% and 12%. Additionally, she had two federal loans, one direct subsidised student loan and one unsubsidised, totaling $US45,091 at 6%. If she could pay off her loans faster, she reasoned, she could avoid having the interest add up and pay more than she had to.

She felt it was unfair that the loans that helped her earn her bachelor’s degree had such high interest rates attached. “I have always been a person who, if I feel like if things aren’t fair, I have to find a way to make them fair,” Velez told Business Insider. She aimed to pay them off by the time she turned 30, but ended up doing it in just six years, two years early.

She started researching student loan repayment methods, and came upon the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods. The debt snowball method makes minimum payments on all debts while putting extra cash toward the smallest debts first, to eliminate them and move on to the others. The debt avalanche focuses on eliminating the debts with the highest interest rates first, rather than the smallest. Velez chose the debt snowball method, and focused on eliminating her student loans one by one.

“My loan payment came first, and then I had to figure out my life around that,” Velez said, “whether that meant living farther away from where I worked and have a long commute, or the jobs that I decided to take, apply for, or turn down.”

She’d lived in New York City the whole time she was paying on her loans, and had worked jobs with salaries between $US40,000 and $US80,000 per year. She had roles at various startups, publications, and even took temp roles. She now works as a senior social editor at The Daily Beast.

Her sacrifices became more intense as she got into the final stretch. “Particularly this past January, I literally gave up time with my partner and my friends,” said Velez. She cut her grocery budget to only the essentials. She also took on side hustles to help earn a few extra bucks by babysitting and walking dogs, once even taking a role as an extra in a TV show that filmed overnight. “The side hustles, they brought in so much extra income that I was able to increase my debt snowball with,” she said.

“Once I committed to it, it just kind of happened. It really felt like a sport,” Velez told Business Insider.

She ended up not only meeting her goal of paying off her loans by 30, but exceeding it, and finished paying off her college debts on August 2, 2019, at 28 years old.

In the last eight months of her debt repayment, she paid over $US32,000. In the end, she paid a total of about $US102,000, including $US27,000 in interest on top of her $US75,000 worth of loans.

In celebration of the end of her six-year journey, she had a funeral for her loans in a New York City cemetery. “This is what it takes to get out of debt simply for having an education that you had to get loans for,” she said.

If she can do this living in an expensive place like New York, there really is no excuse for ANY woke and entitled person living here not to do the same.

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  1. One discussion which we don’t hear too often revolves around “was it worth while getting in the crap for a shitty university degree”. Often the recipient would be better off going for a Degree in Hamburgerology at McDonald’s Hamburger University which would give them a valuable start in what they’re going to end up doing anyway.

    Meanwhile try finding a plumber or electrician. Chances are you won’t because they’ll be out fishing in the flash boats hauled by new utes paid for via the extortionate charge out rates degree holders have to fork out for their services.



    • I’m not a degree holder, but had to pay a plumber recently for something I couldn’t fix. And with his hourly rate of nearly $150 per hour, I completely agree. That Ute may be a Urus though and the boat something sleek with a side pocket for a baby boat.



  2. Yet to be convinced a Batchelor degree in English and Communications is worth that effort and cost.

    I favour learning a trade, being paid as you earn, coming out of the apprentice stage and earning all the way through and not incurring the big education debt.

    Taking Massey University as an example. Is the associated garbage inherent in University education worth the cost to the individual or the country? I suggest that when the Universities cut the pointless costs and keep the focus on education then the taxpayer support is reasonable.

    This taxpayer holds the view I am not keen on funding Massey university. For example, on hearing the Massey approach to freedom of speech, using “safety” as a shield for lacklustre managerial performance, increased my unwillingness to continuing paying tax for that University. The good they may achieve is overwhelmed by management distraction on non essentials and attempted social engineering.



    • My grandmother wanted me to be a lawyer and I was enrolled in law school at Stellenbosch University. Hated the thought and I’d have been saddled with so many years of student debt if I’d actually gone that road.

      Instead, I withdrew a few months before and applied to our local technical college for a diploma in IT. I wanted to do what I was passionate about and what I had a real aptitude for. Year 1 was theory, year 2 + 3 were split between 6 months theory and 6 months in industry. You had to go for interviews, were paid, etc.

      One of the better decisions I’ve made and it’s made me realise what a crock this “You must have a degree” business is. We’re lucky in NZ though that we have ITOs, we have the likes of Te Wananga, etc. who deliver relevant education to people. All that is needed is to break that focus on universities.



    • Can I just point out that a trade often involves buying $000’s worth of tools and a vehicle to tote them in, $200 boots and all the safety gear that doesn’t come cheap – much of it getting knicked on a regular basis.
      Don’t even start me on compliance costs for health and safety.
      Nothing pisses me off more than some biro-jockey who thinks tradies should work for the love of it, while paying through the nose for ‘professional services’ provided by people who think they’re a cut above because they’ve been to varsity and have never had dirt under their nails.



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