How I Paid Off My $16K Student Loan in One Year

I didn’t move back with my parents. Not an option these days, as I am now in my 40s.

I actually lived in Adam’s Morgan in Washington, DC, one of the most expensive hipster hoods in the country. I shared a flat with two roommates and my rent was still a whopping $1500/mo. Food added up quickly, as the Yes! Organic Market isn’t cheap and Tryst is a living room you frequent at least once a week for coffee and people watching.

I didn’t skimp on parties, Ubers, restaurants, dance classes, or yoga. I didn’t make an extravagant salary. Only $65K. And I didn’t skimp on gifts for my nieces and nephews’ birthdays, in fact, I created the “Tia Rosaura” scholarship fund so I could start investing in their talents. So how did a have $1,333 extra to pay per month for my loans? I didn’t.

The first month, I paid $2300.

The second month, $1850.

The third month $1000.

The fourth month, nothing, because for crying out loud, it’s hella painful to hemmorage that much money for experiences already past. In this case, film school in Prague.

My father told me I should be putting some of this cash into my six-month “just in case” fund, but I already had that covered with accrued Paid Time Off – well, I won’t lie. Not enough for six months, but I wouldn’t be unemployed that long because I’m a maniac when it comes to work.

“But if you get sick,” he would say.

And I would say, “Oh, got that covered, too with my badass health insurance.”

And retirement? My job was contributing monthly – at no extra cost to me.

Finally, after years of being a starving artist living from freelance check to freelance check, all my ducks were in a row. The problem? This wasn’t the job I’d studied for in film school. Within 8 months, I knew it was time to go, but I had to keep my commitment to paying off the loan. New expenses were starting to come up and my landlord wanted to raise the rent. After doing the math, I realized I would have to forego a home in order to meet my goal. So I put my stuff in storage and started talking to my friends. Within a week one of my most reliable friends hooked me up with a cat/house sitting gig for 3 weeks. I met a crew of skaters there and cared for a sick cat. Then I head up to NY to stay with my aunt for a couple of days and to attend my friend’s going away party before heading back to DC to housesit another friend’s house while she traveled in India. Things were just flowing when another friend offered me his place, but it wouldn’t be rent-free, and there was another more important issue with that arrangement, so I booked an Airbnb for the remainder of that time until I would go to Dallas for work where all expenses were paid. Upon return, I stayed with another friend who helped me figure out my next career steps. And received a text from another friend who said he’d be out of town, can I housesit and provide him with some tips on how to redecorate his space so he could clear the energy and think more clearly. From there, I went to Colorado to attend another conference, where I found my first clients, then traveled around in an RV in New Mexico with two friends from high school, then back to DC where I stayed at a friend’s place while she was out of town. By this time, it was Thanksgiving and I was almost done paying off the loan. I had $1900 left to go. I flew to my parents’ for the holiday, then took a bus to Miami during Art Basel week and stayed with one of my closest homegirls for 2 weeks and helped her reorganize her office space (you see the patterns here, right? reorganizing office spaces…)

Returned to Orlando just in time for my niece’s ballet recital and have stayed at my parents’ through the holidays.

While it feels amazing to have made my goal, it feels even more amazing to have spent so much quality time with friends and family, all while offering my services to enhance their lives in some way. This is the sharing economy at work, but it is also showing the power of faith. I knew I was supposed to be “homeless” during this cycle of my life, which was scary and in the beginning took its toll emotionally, but with each step I took there was always a surprise and always someone there catching me before I could fall into the pit of despair (ah…that’s why it’s called the “safety net”).

So…now what?

Believe it or not, I’ve got one more federal loan to go. This one is actually higher, and paid for the filming of Dr. Nutmeg’s success scene at a co-working space in 1999. It also included a green screen shoot in my bedroom and a Latin food market and Dos Gringoes cafe. When I look at the bad production quality of the footage it makes me angry because none of the money went toward my actual film. That $21k paid my tuition and rent. COMPLETE waste of money. BUT the point was not the final results….the point was that I was working with other filmmakers who became my friends and re-writing my past and acting it out on camera.

My hypothesis was, could I use film as my visioning board for my future?