This is a post from Make Love, Not Debt staff blogger, Abby.
Image: F. Hoffnar
When I graduated from college in 2008, like many people my age, I graduated with debt. Thanks to my college’s stellar financial aid policy, a generous parent who believed the cost of higher education was worth it, and some substantial saving on my own part, that debt was a very reasonable amount (more than $10,000, but less than $20,000). I knew that I wanted to be rid of it as soon as possible, both to have that mental burden lifted (because I am the kind of person who is HAUNTED by finances), and because I would be unlikely to find any kind of savings vehicle that would produce a higher interest rate on the cash I had than the interest rates on my student loans.
Because I am a little bit of a wacko, I decided I could pay this off in a year. I would be working in New York City, and while my salary would be low (hurray publishing jobs!) I would be able to live at home and save money (this is a great advantage that I know many, many young people don’t have, and I realize how lucky I am).
I’ll say a few things about “saving money” in New York City – even the cheapest things are painfully expensive, and the easiest things are kind of miserable. I wasn’t paying rent, but I was paying about $300 in commuter expenses a month. I was living at home, but I was traveling almost two hours each way, every day, and it took its toll. I was paying off my debt, but I was skipping happy hours and lunches out to do so. After six months of this, I was worn out. After a year, I was miserable.
I won’t go into the details of said misery, because no one wants to hear the whining of a lucky post-grad who managed to pay off her debt. But I will say that year took its toll. Yes, I’d paid off my debt, and saved up a nice-sized emergency fund for the future, and even splurged a little in-between, setting aside money for furniture for my future apartment (IKEA, of course) and a monetary gift for my sister before she went abroad her junior year of college. But there were days when I felt so beaten down, when all I wanted was to get more sleep and time to myself instead of rushing to catch a subway, then a train, then a bus; when I wished I could stay out late with friends at a bar without torturing myself over the cost or falling asleep before the night even started.
Sometimes I wonder if the monetary savings of that year were worth the emotional and physical toll. What, exactly, is the cost of our current happiness? Is it worth it if the future payoff is great? Or should we not torture ourselves quite so much in exchange for financial payoff?