When I realized my $68,000 in student loans dictated my whole life, I knew I couldn’t wait any longer to pay them off
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- When I had to leave New York City because I couldn’t afford rent plus student loans, I was crushed.
- Even living frugally on the other side of the US didn’t make a difference — I had to do more.
- Unable to reduce spending further, I grew my income and made a dent in my loans for the first time.
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About a month or so after graduating from New York University with my Master’s in Performance Studies, I signed up for a popular budgeting app. At that time, I still had $68,000 in student loans despite making minimum payments for five years already. Seeing how much my debt increased made me panic, and shortly after, I deleted my account.
As I write in my book, “Dear Debt,”I went for months trying not to think of the financial burden of the loans, enjoying the grace period, and trying to figure out my employment situation and life.
But when my grace period was up in December 2011 and I saw that my minimum payment was $900, I realized I just couldn’t swing it financially. What I was earning at the time teaching theater part-time would not be able to cover rent and student loans.
Moving made things even worse
I reluctantly decided to move to Portland, Oregon. I had personal reasons to move there as my then-partner was there, but I wasn’t ready to leave New York yet. I felt I still had so much to do, so much to experience, and it was getting cut short because of my debt.
I moved to Portland at the start of 2012 and thought things would be different. But the economy was not great, especially for jobs in the arts.