I almost paid off $ 16,000 in student loan debt, but it cost me my friends
This post was already published on MEL, a new voice in men’s lifestyle and culture covering what guys think of when no one is watching.
This is the fourth installment in our series In the dark, where we hear from people who have found ways to pay off heavy debts. This week, we spoke to Kyle Pendergrass, whose debt management has improved his mental and physical health, but who has lost friends in the process.
Kyle Pendergrass, 26, Tucson, Arizona
Past debt: $ 16,000
Source: Student loans, including $ 6,000 in credit card debt because Pendergrass misused a credit card to pay off some of his student loan debt
Past employment: Waiter at Turquesa Latin Grill
Past salary: About $ 800 to $ 900 every two weeks, or $ 22,000 per year (including tips)
Actual job: Research Associate II at Ventana Medical Systems
Current salary: $ 50,000 per year, plus a 5% annual bonus based on personal and company performance
Current debt: $ 3,000
How he did it:
Graduation was supposed to be a party, but I was depressed when I graduated from college.
Americans have this mindset that a college degree will solve everything.Take thousands of dollars in loans. Don’t worry, it’s okay. You will get a high paying job right after you graduate. You will be paying off your debt in no time.
But they were all bulls —. The ramifications of taking out loans have never been explained to me in real terms of dollars and cents. I was never told, “If you take out X in loans, at interest rate Y, you will end up paying Z in the future.”
Relatively speaking, my student loan debt consolidation was low – $ 16,000. But thousands of dollars are still a significant amount of money, and trying to pay it back was intimidating. Even the idea of getting a well-paying job was hopeless, as most of that money would go to my debt.
Not having a job upon graduation really put me in a slump. I spent the first year after college serving tables at the Turquesa Latin Grill, a restaurant at the neighboring Ritz Carlton, which only earned $ 400 to $ 450 per week (including tips).
I drank a lot that year, mostly to avoid the fact that I was in a dead end job. And going out drinking wasn’t cheap, so I wasn’t making any headway on my debt. I was sad and angry with the world for pressuring me to get an education that the job market deemed worthless. And it was even with a degree in science: ecology and evolutionary biology.
I spent at least 10 hours a week looking for a job. I searched Monster.com, Career.com, Glassdoor. I sent out probably 40 resumes that year and had six job interviews, some of which didn’t go well. I interviewed a local lab that does blood and urine tests for other companies, and tried to negotiate them for up to $ 10 an hour on the first interview. They didn’t like it.
The sixth interview was my last. It was for a temporary job at a biotechnology company, replacing a lab assistant who was on maternity leave. It was paying a little more than what I was making as a waiter, and I was told it would last six to 12 months, with no chance of getting hired full time. I accepted the job because I wanted it, but also because I was desperate. If that didn’t work, I thought I would at least have some sort of formal work experience.
I have done everything I can to impress everyone I have worked with. I learned all I could about the company and what my team was doing in particular. I spoke to my bosses regularly and asked them follow-up questions and made it clear that I was interested and excited. No one wants to work with someone who obviously doesn’t care. And if it is obvious that you to do care, people will naturally want to give you more work.
Yet my salary was only about $ 24,000 a year, which just wasn’t enough to pay off my debt. I only made the minimum payments, I paid nothing for my main.
In the fall of 2013, after six months of work, things started to go wrong at the company, and it ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me. My team was developing a test that would help identify specific types of cancer cells, and was painfully overdue. So they asked me to play a bigger role. I said “Absolutely” and immediately asked if this could lead to a full time job.
“If you do it right, I think we can find you a permanent position,” my boss said.
I went from organizing tissue samples to being directly involved in product development. In April 2014, I was promoted to Research Associate, earning $ 40,000 per year.
It was then that I fell victim to lifestyle inflation – my expenses increased with my income, so that I did not save more money than when I was a temporary worker. I splurged. I ate a lot in restaurants, spent more on drinks, bought clothes and a new TV. I was earning more, but I had nothing to show.
I tried to take my finances seriously in September 2014, after stumbling across the subreddit r / personal financeand read all those stories about people budgeting and paying off debt. I downloaded the Mint budgeting app and set a personal budget but couldn’t stick to it. It was a mental thing – I was spending willy-nilly on food and alcohol, even though I knew in the back of my mind that I was overspending.
The following January, I said to myself, Enough with this shit. I repay my debt. I was fed up with fees, bad credit.
I set a strict budget: $ 755 per month for rent, $ 500 for food and alcohol, $ 140 for gas. I removed all unnecessary expenses: video games, clothes. That left me $ 800 a month to pay for my debt. This meant that I had wasted $ 800 per month on unnecessary expenses.
I used to go out drinking three to four times a week. After that, I would go out once every two weeks and only buy a drink or two when I did.
I used to go out to eat when I wanted to. After that, I did it once a week, maximum.
I compensated by making more visits to friends, or texting and calling more.
Despite this, I lost about six friends in the process. They came from more affluent backgrounds and just couldn’t understand that some people have to say “no” to certain things in order to be able to pay off their debts.
My new lifestyle has given me a lot of free time. I started to read, mainly books on science and the history of scientific discoveries –A brief history of time, Quantum electrodynamics– and the books of Chuck Palahniuk. I trained for my first half marathon and lost 15 pounds.
More deeply, I learned that I was an introvert. There was a part of me that had long felt uncomfortable being alone with my own issues, and spending time alone helped me feel comfortable with myself. I realized that I could be a flaky and unreliable person. Being responsible for my financial guidelines taught me to be trustworthy to others.
Within 10 months, I had fully paid off my credit card. I decided to tackle it first because the interest rate (22.99%) was higher than my student loans (around 5%). I was delighted. I didn’t know who to tell, but it felt like this tension was released from my chest.
At the end of 2015, I got another promotion, increasing my Research Associate II designation and salary to $ 50,000. I was thinking,I’m not going to change anything. I will stick to the same budget and use my extra income to attack my debt even more.
I have since paid off over $ 7,000 of my student loan debt. I plan to repay the remaining $ 3,000 by October of this year. I have no intention of celebrating, but I know I will be relieved. It’s so important to owe someone something.
This article was already published on EMAIL, a new voice in men’s lifestyle and culture covering what guys think of when no one is watching.