My husband jumped into helicopter flight school just after we found out we were expecting our first child in 2001, back when banks would lend money out like crazy. The flight school made big promises like he would be making $60,000 right after graduating (at least that???s what he heard). He tried to work part-time and go to school, but decided to take the plunge and go to school full-time and we would just live on student loans. We ended up moving around to 3 different schools in 2 states. I worked part-time here and there, but tried to stay at home with my new baby as much as possible. Within a year and a half he finished flight school and started to work as an instructor. A month or two later he was fired.
We were living in my great-aunt???s spider-infested one bedroom basement apartment with $80,000 in student loans (with a variable interest rate). We only had one car. We lived on food stamps and student loan disbursements. Things got scary really fast. I wasn???t sure that I wanted to continue down this path with him. We separated and I moved in with his parents for a few months, then with my parents. He traveled all over the country trying to get a job as a flight instructor. He finally found a job that worked out in Virginia. He rented a couch from his boss???s friend (for $100 a month) and rode a little gas-powered stand-up scooter to work every day. Some days it wouldn???t start. I worked in Utah and saved what little money I could. He was over 6 months out of school with no money at the end of the month to pay the minimum balance on the student loan. So he started taking online classes to defer the payments. My grandma gifted us $2,000 and I sent it to him so he could get a car. He cried when he pulled out of the dealership. No more riding a scooter 10 miles (each way) to work in the rain or heat. We decided to keep working on our marriage. He got enough money saved up (because he rented a couch) to put a deposit down on a 2 bedroom apartment. Then my daughter and I moved to Virginia.
We continued to live with just one car. I relied on members of my church to drive me to church every week and to doctor appointments when I injured my back. We continued to pay 10% tithing and the Lord blessed us. Small jobs popped up that I could do from home. We didn???t have health insurance and I was able to avoid surgery on my back. My husband worked 6 days a week and his boss hired him to mow his lawn once a week. It was hard, and it was scary, but we sacrificed and grew together. He continued to take classes online and defer the loan payment. Unfortunately, the loan continued to accrue interest around 8%.
My husband then qualified to work in the Gulf of Mexico flying to the off-shore oil rigs. He was hired right after Hurricane Katrina and there were no available apartments along the coast of Louisiana. My daughter and I moved back to Utah and I went back to work part-time and saved up for our eventual move. My husband flew home every two weeks and spent about a week home. It was over a year later that we felt like things had calmed down enough that we could move there. We were finally making a comfortable living and could start to think about paying back the student loan. That???s when we learned that the loan had an additional $20,000 added to it in interest. And once we started making regular payments, that $20,000 would turn into principle. We would be paying interest on our interest! We had 6 months to pay off that $20,000. My husband started working overtime and I got serious about keeping a budget. I???m so happy to say that we paid off the $20,000 just in the nick of time! We started into our regular payment schedule. I had every cent budgeted. Anything left over at the end of the month went to the loan.
After a few years of working in the Gulf, my husband had an opportunity to work in Utah where we could live around family again. His parents graciously offered to let us live in their basement apartment rent-free so we could pay down our student loan. Shortly after we moved in I received a statement from the loan company showing how much money we would pay if we took the full time (20 years with variable interest) to pay off the student loan. It was over $300,000! We would be a slave to that loan forever! I then made a goal to pay $2,000 a month on the loan. We didn’t take vacations. We drove very modest, very fuel-efficient cars. I continued to budget every cent. Other members of his family went on cruises and fun vacations and we decided that when we paid off the student loan, we would take a family cruise to celebrate. 8 years after the birth of our first child, we finally had a second child and I quit working part-time (off and on) for good. Relations with my in-laws started to go bad when my husband???s sister divorced her husband and moved in with her 5 kids. It was time for us to move on. We backed off on the rigorous student loan payments and saved up enough money to put down 20% on a town home of our own. I was 30 years old and had never owned my own home. The day we moved in my husband got a call that he had to leave for Afghanistan the next morning for his next job as a civilian helicopter pilot. He was gone for 9 months. He made good money and we were able to put a little away for a better rainy day fund as well as continue our $2,000 a month loan payment goal.
In January 2014 we made our final loan payment of $12,000. We decided to use a portion of our rainy day fund to finish the loan once and for all. It was the best feeling in the world! 7 years later and we paid $112,000 on an $80,000 loan. We immediately began planning for our family cruise. We took our two kids, my parents, and my sister on a Disney cruise to the Bahamas. It was the most wonderful vacation and we appreciated it so much more because of how hard we had to work to get there. Now we are able to plan for our future, to put away money for retirement. Even though my husband makes really good money, we still live in our town home and drive modest vehicles. I would like to save up a big chunk of money to put down on our next home. I???m very proud of our story and how far we have come!