My student loan debt: desperation, coping and solutions

I am trying so hard not to cry right now. In fact, I’m about to throw a fit. I’m jittery, borderline hyperventilating. I just want to kick my legs so hard, like a five-year-old on a tantrum. Student loan debt depression? Sh*t, I didn’t even know it existed.

What have I come to?

You see, I was about to write a cheery post on this Travel Bucket List Wednesday, continuing to tell you about about my teen Europe trip and how it was such a dream come true. However, as I looked over my 2005 travel journal, my mind was blurred.

student loan debt depression, financial anorexia

“Get rid of debt … rid of debt… RID OF DEBT!” (blentley, Flickr)

All I could think about was my Out of Debt spreadsheet.

Over and over again, I calculate and recalculate all its numbers. All the deadlines and financial goals I have set. If I remain on schedule, I’ll pay over $50,000 in debt in 3 years. And no, I don’t have a six figure job or anything close to it. I earn less than $40,000 a year before taxes, live in the Expensive States of America, and live very frugally in order to pay way more than the minimums each month. If I have everything set in stone, clear goals, and I’m on track…what’s up with this f****ing student loan debt depression?

Why am I so desperate? Why am I so obsessed all over this?

As I’m typing, I’m crying. I can’t help it. I look at my balance sheet (currently $36,000 approx.) and can’t help but have mini panic attacks. I feel so trapped. I see no light at the end of the tunnel, even though a huge flashlight is being shoved all over my face, with someone yelling:

HELLO! You’ll be DONE in 2015! You will be able to do everything you want then! You will be FREE! Never again! We’ll leave this shitty hyper consumerism and truly LIVE LIFE!

But I can’t internalize it. This student loan debt depression is very real

I look at myself in the mirror and keep seeing myself fat, even though I’m thin. Some call it insanity. I have begun to call it financial anorexia (I found out that’s an actual term today). I feel worse than a person that can’t make their minimum payments, even though I have a clear plan (and SOLUTION!) to ALL my financial problems, including my student loan debt.

student loan debt depression, dreaming of recovery

Dreaming the dream…dreaming of recovery… (Mohammed Buqurais, Flickr)

I guess I just don’t have much patience, eh?

I read all your travel blogs and wish I could be in Indonesia or Thailand right now. Living off $300-$500 a month. Walking everyday. Enjoying the sunshine. Exploring ancient temples. Diving with whale sharks. Instead, I’m stuck in a gloomy warehouse, typing inside an office under artificial lighting 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

And my job isn’t even that bad. Gee, I even have the best boss in the world

I know I should count my blessings. Trust me, I do. I pray every day and thank God and the universe for everything that I have. A wonderful management position by 25, a college education, several degrees, friends, a loving boyfriend, wonderful family, etc. How many college graduates can say that nowadays?!

I guess the root of my student loan debt depression is that I know what I want to do, but I can’t do it right now. I’m simply not happy in my current situation. I have to get rid of this stupid debt first. I barely enjoy life, barely live, as any disposable income that gets in my hands I put straight into my debt. If I didn’t have a travel blog and went on the occasional trip on holidays, I wouldn’t even eat out every once in a while…

student loan debt depression, desperation

Max Boschini, Flickr

Financial anorexia. Yup.

I deeply apologize for this rant/venting session. But… I really needed it. I’ve been keeping all these emotions, desperation, frustration deep inside me for so long now. It’s been killing me. I mean, have you read my posts for the last month or two? They sound like crap. I’m writing like crap. I barely feel inspired anymore. No, I’m not trying to find a scapegoat. I’m just saying that I can’t even enjoy blogging (or anything I do in my life for that matter) anymore because of this student loan debt depression. I’m coping, but some days are better than others…

And today isn’t a good day.

22 thoughts on “My student loan debt: desperation, coping and solutions

  1. I dunno…I never wanted to go to college in the first place. I owe much more than you. I don’t know if I’ll EVER pay off that debt.

    A lot of people are hung up on “careers” and “money.” These things have NEVER mattered to me. I actually wanted to grow up to be a poor vagabond. Instead I am a poor adult forced to live on my parents mercy. I only make $9.25 an hour…which comes out to approximately $18,000 a year. You don’t need college to make a wage like that. Truth told, in my 11 years of employment I’ve never made more than $11.25 an hour (and that was undoubtedly the worst job I have EVER had).

    A lot of people’s “cost cutting” suggestions are unintentionally hilarious. I rarely ever buy new clothes. I buy a new pair of shoes once every three years on average. I don’t eat out very often and I don’t spend much on groceries. Even so…that is only enough to service the minimum payments on my debt. If/when my car breaks down…I don’t know how I will be able to fix it. I do not want to minimize your depression…but you should really consider yourself lucky if you have the means to pay your debt off in three measly years. If someone had presented me some way to do that…I would take it in a heart beat. Instead I spend most of my days fending off suicidal thoughts.

    • My plan to pay off my student loans in 3 years takes a lot of dedication and sacrifices. For one, I don’t own a car and only take public transportation everywhere (as hard as it may be sometimes in Tampa, Florida). Also, I have more than one job, I work way more than 40 hours a week, and work hard to finally found a job that pays “decent” wages.

      Yes, I’ve been blessed. However, nothing was handed to me! I have a very specific budget spreadsheet and stick to it. I see how much extra I have beyond my basic needs/expenses every month and all that extra money goes toward paying my debt. I do not only pay the minimums, because we know if we only did that, we would never pay off our debts.

      I believe in you Aaron, I believe you will find a way. If you need help, specific tips, etc. please to not hesitate to contact me!

  2. Ah Maria, the debt one pays for always learning is never truly paid. The nice part about it is that over the next few years your salary will grow faster than if you hadn’t gone to school and as your opportunities grow exponentially, so will your bank account.

    Maybe paying off your student loan shouldn’t be your top priority right now. It’s there regardless of what you do but if paying off just the minimums from time to time is enough to make life worth living you need to indulge yourself.

    I hate debt and feel trapped by it as well so I understand where you’re coming from but you need to realize that the debt you owe is simply a small down payment on the life you will on day have. Rome wasn’t built in a day and a life is no different. Take it day by day and all will be well.

    Good Luck!

  3. I feel your pain. Literally. Student loan debts are no joke.
    If you have federal loans you can apply for an income based repayment plan. It may lower your monthly payments. Of course feel free to continue to pay as much as you want. I first heard about it a few months ago via msn:
    You can also get more info at
    Paying off debt is great but it can also be draining cause you miss out on a lot. You’re doing the right thing by getting creative. Everyday gets you closer to your goal!

    • thanks for the links, but the problem is not that I’m having trouble pay my loans (at all). In fact, I’m able to pay well above the minimum every single month. The problem comes with how fast I want to pay them off…

      I want to be absolutely debt-free by summer 2015, which under my current budget plan, is a challenge (but not impossible). I just want to get rid of this and be able to start living and traveling the world full-time, no strings attached. There are no real manuals for what I’m trying to do 😉

      Although I have found that opening credit cards with 0% balance transfer APR’s have helped tremendously in shrinking the debt at an accelerated pace. I’ll write a detailed post describing my tactics soon!

  4. Chin up girl! I also need to pay off my student loan debts, much more that yours actually. Try to save up as much money as possible by cutting down your daily expenses, for example don’t overspend on your clothes, food and cosmetics. After a year you will see how much you were able to save up!

    • I already do that. In fact, I put so much of my money towards the debt that I feel like I’m not living. That’s pretty much the frustration I was venting about on this post. It is agonizing..

      I’m doing better this week though, as I’ve been looking for alternatives such as a well-paying job abroad, etc. that way, I’ll be able to stay on track with my financial goals, all while in a new country! Let’s hope this Plan B works out 🙂

  5. I had 40k to pay off so if I can offer you any bright side…the reason I was able to save money to travel was because once my student loan debt was paid off I kept putting payments into a savings account as I has learned to live without the money. In 18 months I had 20k to travel.

  6. I’ve gotta weigh in here. Just wanted to offer you some encouragement and say I think you’re making a really wise decision. I don’t say this to bum you out, but my husband and I have literally no debt (except for a mortgage on a house we own as an investment property and therefore rent out). I was fortunate to only have student loan debt from graduate school, but still it was a lot and I worked hard and paid it off before I got married at 27. We were 27 years old with good jobs and no debt … and so you know what? As a result, we can afford to travel the world. We don’t travel permanently and non-stop like some nomad travel bloggers, but we take several very nice vacations each year — and we can afford to. There is so much freedom that comes from being debt free if you can just stick to that “financial anorexia” and stick to your schedule of how to pay it off. You’ll pay it off and then if you want, you can use some of that money that was going toward your loans and apply it to great trips for years to come. hang in there!

    • I know mine is the best course of action… The deprivation just gets to be too much sometimes. I am very social bein, so holding myself back from going out so much affects my mood.

      I’ve been better about inviting friends over and coming up with gatherings that were either free or very low-cost, though. Also, hanging out with the local couchsurfers has helped tremendously. Still, some days are better than others… Trying to have a completely different mindset this week so I’m not depressed!

      Thanks for the encouragement <3

  7. I really do know where you are coming from and you have a better plan and clearer goal than me. I owe more than you, and my wife has some too and combined our income isn’t that far above 45K. We could make a serious dent in our debt but then all the money we have saved up for our trip would be gone. We are banking on the idea that everything works out for our Peace Corps application. That will at least help.

    Keep your head up, and do like I did- keep typing away on your blog to help you maintain focus and achieve your goals.

    • maybe if the Peace Corps works out, you’ll be able to use a chunk of those savings (which were meant for travel) to pay off some of the debt? 😉 best of luck to y’all!

  8. This is the first post of yours I’ve ever read. But I wanted to share what life is like on the other side of debt, when you are free. The times you lived on nothing, existed just to update that spreadsheet, pining for anything but the life you have…will be over soon. And then you’ll have the life you worked so hard to achieve. And it is amazing. And worth the journey. Having these moments of self doubt and mental agony is normal, but stay the course and you will be better for the journey. It has been more than 5 years since we paid of more than $100,000 in debt on ordinary salaries, and the deprivation in retrospect seems less torturous with ever passing day. I wish you peace as you reconcile today with tomorrow.

  9. I feel you’re pain! I just graduated with over $30,000 in debt myself and even with piching every penny and being extremely frugal I feel like I don’t get anywhere. Like Justin, mentioned, I’ve tried to make the loan payments an afterthought and instead focus on creating new revenue streams rather than paying off my loans. It distracts me from the reality of the crushing loans which cannot be changed and instead shifts it to what I can change (developing a plan, learning new skills, meeting new people) These are things that CAN help… or at least WILL EVENTUALLY help.

    This change in perspective alone has helped me immensely. I do slip back into depression about the loans every once and a while but refocusing has always helped me pull out of it.

    • I hope I can get better at this. My attention always seems to shift back to paying off the loans. Maybe it is due to the fact that I’m using so much money to pay off the debt that I’m currently not partaking in activities that could distract me a little. I guess I should go out more with friends eh?

  10. Hey love! I just wanted to tell you, I’m in the exact same place as you right now. I relate to everything in this post. & This >>> “I know what I want to do, but I can’t do it right now” and having panic attacks, feeling trapped, seeing no light at the end of the tunnel… I’m right there with you girl. Not just for student loan debt but also other personal reasons, and I too feel trapped indefinitely. But we need to remind ourselves that THERE IS light at the end of the tunnel! WE WILL be out there traveling full-time soon enough. We may be 25, but we’re still young and still have plenty of years to travel after we take care of these debts and issues. You’re not alone, and I’m always here to talk if you ever need/want to vent to someone who’s going through a similar situation 🙂 I agree though, it’s hard to stay inspired to write when we’re not out there.. but we will be soon. Just focus on other things you love until then.. That’s what I’m trying to do. Miss you girl! Email/call me anytime! -Gina

  11. I know this feeling all to well. Nothing to apologize for.

    So here is an idea:

    What if, instead of planning for the big picture, you plan for the reality that this loan is just part of whatever it is you going to do for the next 10 years. If you can make a plan to create the income that pays the minimum payment each and every month, you solve your problem, and then you can leave. Carry the debt with you and just consider it a monthly fee you’re paying to live the life of your dreams.

    You know that I’m all about patience and responsibility, but we all have limits. Maybe plan A is not your best plan. Maybe it’s best to leave the job, create a smaller income, and pay the debt slowly. Lot’s of options. More than you think.

    Take a deep breath and look for a plan B. I changed my plan a million times. It’s OK to do that. You’ll figure it out!

    • and such a type a person, that changing the plan to delay paying off the debt, and seeing that will past 2015, would be a heavy burden on me as well. I know, I’m weird!

      Instead, I thought of Plan B to be finding a well-paying job abroad. This way, I can be traveling and exploring a new place, all while still making a big dent off my debt! I’ll keep you updated on what happens 🙂

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