Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

My birthday & student loans: Bring on the numbers

with 9 comments



CC image courtesy of ginnerobot on Flickr


Does 26 still count as mid-twenties or am I coming up on late-twenties now? Either way, I think my birthday (today, whoo hoo!) is the perfect time to talk about some numbers — specifically, my student loans. While my ever-increasing age is inevitable, student loan numbers upset me and that is why I devised a plan:

Pay off my student loans.

Genius, right? Easier said than done, but I am proud to report that I have been able to bring my principal down $16 grand since graduating in 2008. That’s a lot of payments! I still owe about $20 grand, but if I continue at the same rate (about $8G/year) I can be debt free by 2013. I am going to try to do even better and finish a year early. I’ll let you know how that goes…

Why am I sharing this information with you? Partly because I am pretty amazed with my progress (I’ve never been good with money, just ask my dad), but mostly because I know many of my friends and colleagues have school debt of their own. Whether you have more or less, I hope I am able to inspire you to work towards your own financial freedom. I know it’s super difficult with this economy and that many of you are currently looking for jobs, but I thought I’d share some tips that have worked for me.

  • Create a budget. You don’t have to stick to it 100% of the time, but knowing how you spend your money (and where & when) is immensely helpful if you’re trying to save up or make a monthly loan payment. Try tracking your spending for two months and I guarantee that you will be surprised by how much money you spend online shopping (Etsy is my personal weakness), buying fancy coffee drinks and eating out at restaurants. Just being aware of how much you’re bringing in and how much you’re shelling out will get you in the right frame of mind to think more carefully about spending and saving.
  • Find someone who motivates you. We were very into Dave Ramsey a while back, and still subscribe to a number of his concepts (had to stop listening due to his religious rhetoric, however). But the person who really motivates me is my boyfriend. He follows his own budget to a T, and encourages me to make responsible decisions with my money. Sometimes that extra step of talking to someone gives you enough time for the impulse purchase feeling to pass.
  • Set a goal. Then reach it, and set another one. Share your goals with other people so that they can keep you on task and celebrate with you when you save $1,000 for your emergency fund or make an extra payment. Start small and you will gain momentum with each success.

In other numbers news, this is my 100th blog post! Thanks for reading (and commenting – over 320 comments to date), friends.

So, what financial advice do you have? What works for you? What are your biggest money woes?


Written by Erin Dorney

October 7, 2010 at 7:13 AM

9 Responses

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  1. First, happy birthday! Here’s hoping that it is a super awesome birthday from awesometown!

    Also, 100 blog posts – too cool!

    I’ll tell you that I am not the best with money – but Jen is a frickin genius! I would add to your list that if you are in a relationship where you feel comfortable doing so, you should discover who is best at finances and then let them do their work. Jen has been so great at this, and we have a good system set up. Cool! Nice post!

    Jason W. Dean

    October 7, 2010 at 8:43 AM

  2. You rock Erin! First of all…a very Happy Birthday to you! Very good post on numbers…even if you made me feel old šŸ™‚

    Congrats on your 100th blog post (I really need to start on my first…I keep having to tell people I don’t blog…yet)

    Some other money advice:

    Keep track of your credit rating. Everyone is entitled to a free credit report every year…see (I’ve include a Diigo link to some money tools below).

    ATMs…don’t pay to use them. Find free ones (also link below) or use your own bank. Those 2-3 dollars add up.

    Pay yourself first. Be sure to put some money in savings and a retirement plan.

    Use some software to track your budget and set goals. Sometimes having that visual representation makes a world of difference. There was a time when we had 2 brand new cars. When we actually pie charted our expenses we were shocked to learn our biggest expense slice was our cars and car related expenses. Decide what’s important to you and if how cool you look in a vehicle is not important, don’t spend all your money there šŸ™‚ Back to the software…I like

    Here is a Diigo link with links to some good sites!

    Keep up the good work Erin and you’ll rock at finances the way you rock at everything else you do!!


    October 7, 2010 at 8:49 AM

  3. Well my finances are super effed up right now, so my mistake everyone should learn from is don’t settle for a crappy job that doesn’t pay well just for “job security”. My paychecks changed week to week and were so unpredictable there were points where I had no idea if I’d be able to pay my basic bills (rent, etc).

    Also, I second the car thing, my car sucked up so much of what little income I did have… damn!

    Kara Elliott

    October 7, 2010 at 8:56 AM

  4. Happy Birthday! You are officially a part of the “Pushing 30” club — my sister just turned 26 in August, that’s exactly what she said to me three years ago when I turned 26. šŸ™‚

    And congrats on your 100th blog post! there was an article in Glamour a month or two ago about finances, I’m going to see if it’s online, or scan a copy for you —


    October 7, 2010 at 11:49 AM

  5. I just wrote a four paragraph comment and received an error when I hit submit. Grrrrrr.

    Happy birthday, Dorney. šŸ™‚

    Jen Dean

    October 7, 2010 at 12:01 PM

  6. Happy Birthday! It’s definitely mid-twenties, 26 is a cool age (it just so happens to be mine also!).

    I’ve been number crunching recently too as I have a new job, and we’ve decided to start overpaying our mortgage to reduce that debt. I have a student loan which comes straight out of my salary but the interest is so low, so it makes more sense for us to put extra money into the mortgage repayments rather than paying of my student loan.

    I’m the money saver in my relationship, but at times it’s still difficult to put money aside for savings when there’s so much temptation to spend! Well done on your achievements šŸ™‚

    Jo Alcock

    October 7, 2010 at 12:44 PM

  7. Happy Birthday, Erin! I am so impressed with your student loan payments. I guess I just kind of accepted that I’d be paying them off the rest of my life – but maybe not! (well, first I have to get a job – but if I do – maybe I’ll let you inspire me)

    Also, congrats on the 100 blog posts! Your blog is one of my favorites. Keep up the awesome work!


    October 7, 2010 at 6:25 PM

  8. @ everyone – Thanks for the birthday wishes! You guys rock šŸ™‚

    @Jason – I just randomly noticed that I was at 100… almost missed it! Excellent advice about managing money in a relationship. Tony and I have separate accounts and split anything, but I imagine once you get married it gets super complicated! Go Jen (she’s great, huh?)!

    @Tina – Haha you are SO not old! Your spirit and enthusiasm are inspirational, and I am trying to keep up! I think you would be a great blogger. Good call on the money advice and thanks for the links (they don’t call you cool tools librarian for nothing, eh?). I have an emergency fund in my savings and I am also saving up for a trip to Egypt once I graduate. I’ll have to check out mint… My bank offers some of the charting functionality built in, which is nice. Totally get your point about the cars too – I am amazed at the number of people who go out and buy expensive vehicles once they get a job… it’s just not that important to me. All I need is to get from point A to point B. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

    @Kara – Aw šŸ˜¦ Stupid unpredictable job and high cost of living! ::shakes fist:: Hang in there…

    @Tinamarie – 30 still seems far away, but I know it will sneak up on me because it’s tricksey like that! Let me know if you find that article.

    @Jen – DAMN! That sucks… it’s the thought that counts.

    @Jo – I can’t wait to hear more about your new job, please blog about it! I can only imagine the day I have a mortgage payment… yikes. Makes sense to work on that first though, with the difference in interest rates. It is very tempting… but I just keep thinking about the year I’ll have that eight thousand and not have to send it Sallie Mae. Imagine the possibilities!!

    @Lauren – Thanks! Yeah I always thought they were just something I would have to live with, but then I realized that paying them off is well within my reach (at this point). I really appreciate your comments and readership šŸ™‚


    October 7, 2010 at 9:42 PM

  9. Hey old lady šŸ™‚ Here’s my money advice:

    Don’t buy things the first time you see them. Wait and come back another day if you really want it. If it was meant to be, it will be there. This will keep you from making too many spur of the moment decisions.

    Keep up the living like a grad student until you get your loans paid off and you have a down payment for a house. Once you ratchet up your spending, it is hard to go back to living cheaply. Once that down payment is in the bank, then you can start living the high life when you want to. Pumpkin spice lattes everyday if you wish.

    You don’t have to share bank accounts with your man if you don’t want to. Find out what works and stick with it. Couple fight about money a lot, so if you have a good thing going, enjoy the peace.

    Don’t borrow money for things that depreciate in value: food, cars, appliances, computers. Buy what you can afford and then put the money you would have spent on monthly payments in the bank for the next purchase. As you save, you will be able to afford nicer things.

    Money is power – the power to make choices in your life. The choice to leave your job, to get out of a bad relationship (not that you are in one), to run away for the weekend to a little cabin in the woods to regain your sanity. Always keep some money just for you socked away somewhere for when you need options, or need to feel like you have options.

    Lastly, don’t forget to save for adventures and travel. You never know when someone will knock on your door and try to drag you away to some exotic foreign shore. Have your passport ready and a little cash money in the bank so you can always say “Hells ya I’m ready to go explore the world. Let me just grab my imodium and I’m out the door.”

    Kudos on reducing your debt and increasing your age!!! Not everyone is so lucky!


    October 7, 2010 at 10:30 PM

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