Jacob From Dollar Diligence Tells His Story of Paying Off His Student Loan Debt and Affording to Travel as a Young Millennial on a Budget

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There are few things in life that I enjoy more than traveling, but as a 20-something high school math teacher, I don’t necessarily have the funds to jet set around the country or the world as much as I would like. Yet I am able to travel as a young millennial, thanks to some smart debt repayment strategies and a commitment to picking up extra gigs whenever necessary to pay for my passions. (When I was a teen I learned these simple tricks visiting San Diego!)

Like many 20-somethings, I started off my working career with a significant amount of debt.  Fresh out of college, I was staring down $25,000 in debt and was uncertain as to how I would ever dig myself out of this financial hole.  Overwhelmed by the sheer size of my student loans, I knew that I had to come up with a strategy if I was ever going to find financial freedom.

My Strategy 

My game plan started by figuring out exactly how much I owed, along with the terms, including the interest rates, for my student loans.  Doing this helped me to realize that I could be saving a significant amount of money each month by refinancing my student loans.

Refinancing is a process where you can obtain a new loan — typically with a lower interest rate, if you qualify based on your creditworthiness — for your student loans.  I refinanced my student loans to get a lower interest rate and more favorable repayment terms.  This helped me shave thousands of dollars off of the total amount that I owed, along with putting extra towards my student loan payments each month.  I was able to make these contributions towards my student loans because I made major cutbacks in my lifestyle while repaying my loans.

I moved in with my aunt and uncle to save on living expenses and rent, and stopped going out and spending money on non-essentials.  I then picked up freelance writing and photography jobs on top of my full-time job as a teacher.  Essentially, my free time was spent working rather than going out — and all of my cash went towards paying off my student loans.  It wasn’t the most exciting time of my life, but by devoting all of my extra money towards my student loans, I was able to pay them down quickly and save a lot of money in interest.  I paid off $25,000 in just 15 months.  Doing so has given me the freedom to pursue my other interests — such as travel.

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How It Paid Off

Now that I am debt-free, I have the ability to pay for things such as travel.  Yet I do still have many other financial goals, such as retiring by my mid-30’s.  With that in mind, I try to avoid breaking my budget when it comes to vacations.  Instead, I’ve come up with some strategies to help me pay for vacations without compromising my future.

When I was paying off my student loans, I started to work as a freelance photographer and writer.  This extra cash helped me pay down my loans quickly.  Now that I am done paying off my student loans, I can use this same money to fund my vacations, in one of two ways.

Throughout the year, I continue to pick up jobs as a writer and photographer.  This money can be put towards a variety of things — such as a vacation fund.  Because it is separate from my salary, it can be used for something different than my regular expenses. If I want to go on a big trip, I can scout for additional jobs and set aside the money for that trip.  That way, I’m not dipping into my savings, retirement or other important financial stockpiles in order to have fun.

Once I am traveling, I can keep up the freelancing to pay for my fun while I am there — or replenish my travel fund for the next trip.  As a writer, I know that a lot of clients will pay for well-written pieces on local hotspots.  Similarly, beautiful shots of beaches, overlooks or scenic overlooks could sell as well.

I may also search for photography or writing jobs in advance of my trip so that I can pick up some extra work while I’m on my trip.  This may allow me to extend my vacation, or do a few extra fun things while I’m away.  After all, if I already have my camera, it only makes sense for me to earn a few hundred dollars taking some pictures while I am on site at a great location.

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How You Can Get Started

Of course, affording travel as a millennial isn’t always as simple as picking up a camera or putting a pen to paper.  But if you have a skill or a talent, consider picking up a side gig to supplement your income.  Earning some extra money can help you put away enough money to fund your next trip, and may even help you continue to earn money while you are on vacation. If you’re still a teenage, there are plenty of ways you can save money to help lessen costs so you can save more.

Most people have some extra time on the weekends or during the week — so it only makes sense to devote some of that time to picking up some jobs or commissions to help you get to where you want to go.  Whether it’s a beach vacation, a trip abroad or a cross-country road trip, a side gig may be just the ticket to affording to travel as a young millennial.

Jacob Evans paid down $25,000 in student loan debt in just 15 months. He chronicles his journey to financial independence over at Dollar Diligence. You can learn more @DollarDiligence.