By Alex Migdal, ’15 BA for Thought Box
Bridget Eastgaard, ’10 BSc, was $20,000 in debt when she graduated from university. That year, she started the blog Money After Graduation, chronicling her efforts to pay her debt and become financially independent. Within 22 months, she was debt free. She’s now drawing on her profile as one of Canada’s best-known money bloggers — boasting 100,000 website views each month — to launch a financial consulting business.
What did your finances look like when you started university?
My parents didn’t have any money to help me with school, so I paid for my first year by selling my car. After that, I took out student loans and served in a restaurant part time. I was terrible at managing money. I would get my paycheque and feel rich for 48 hours, but I was always running out. I remember finally looking at the loan balance of $20,000 and realizing it was more than I had ever made in a job.
How do you cope with paying off debt and saving money?
What’s hardest is the negative impact on your lifestyle. My husband and I are both 30 and we both make good incomes, and I ask myself: where is all of our money? You have to decide between a comfortable retirement or a full living room set. You’re going to have to make hard choices with your money every day of your life. Even millionaires have to budget.
How can young people be smarter about their money?
- 1. Make a plan to pay off your debts within three to five years. Most student loan terms are 10 years but if you stick to that schedule, you’ll end up paying as much as one-third more of the total loan balance in interest. (This loan repayment estimator can help you compare different scenarios.)
- 2. At least 15 per cent of your net income should be going toward debt repayment in your budget. So, if your net income is $3,000 per month, you should be making student loan payments of at least $450.
- 3. Claim your tuition and other costs like books on your income tax return. You’ll likely receive big income tax refunds for the first couple of years after you graduate. Use them to make big dents in your debt.
- 4. Keep living like a student for the first few years after you graduate. Don’t kick out your roommates, don’t give up public transit to buy a car and don’t stop seeking out the restaurants with the best happy hour deals. The longer you can keep your spending reined in, the easier it will be to get out of debt.
- 5. Every dollar counts. Putting an extra $50 per month towards a $20,000 student loan will get you out of debt three years faster. It’s worth it to skip one dinner out or a new outfit each month in order to enjoy more years without student loan payments.
You’ve turned Money After Graduation into a financial consulting company. What do you like most about working for yourself?
Everyone should try it out. You’re going to learn more by trying to build a business than you will working for someone else. Even if you do go back to the workforce, you’re still a huge asset — you know how a business should be run.
I’m working very hard on getting my book published. It will be a personal finance book for millennials. My business is also growing pretty fast. I’m looking at moving to an office and getting more staff. It’s so weird to think that this all came from being a poor, struggling, indebted undergrad student.
“Putting an extra $50 per month towards a $20,000 student loan will get you out of debt three years faster.”
Source: University of Alberta