I’m officially debt free!


IMG_20141117_221017404_HDRAround 10:30 p.m. tonight, I logged into Nelnet.com, as I have done hundreds of times, and saw that my last student loan payment had cleared. I am debt free.

I’ve been writing about this goal for almost 2.5 years (6 months for a newspaper blog and almost two years on this one). All month long I’ve been saying, “Well I’m basically debt free now.” But today, it is here.

If you look at the photo, it says, “Paid in full by borrower.” That’s what I love about what I’ve done – I paid it all back. I had help and support along the way, but no one else made those debt payments, no one else sacrificed trips and clothes and bottles of nail polish, no one else did this.

I still feel mostly the same. The older I get, the more I realize that one event will not make me singularly happier or sadder than I was before. After I showed my fiance the computer screen, we still had to take out our dog and I still had to clean up the dirty dishes. So while I am debt free, I am still the same person. I’ll still have anxiety about money and I’ll still worry that I’m not doing everything right.

I’ve been enjoying my “debt free” status all month. I thought I would enjoy shopping and splurging after years of depravation. But it turns out that I don’t really like spending money. At least, not for the sake of it. A couple weeks ago, I went to Nordstrom Rack with no budget in mind. But after years of being so deliberate about my purchases, there was nothing in the store that I wanted.

I know that probably sounds sad and pathetic, but that’s what I’ve learned throughout this whole process. Spending money will not make me happy, it will not distract me from my anxieties and it will not make me feel whatever I want to feel.

So last Sunday I did what I wanted to do. I watched a movie (at a theater, no less), bought groceries and spent most of the afternoon curled up with my dog watching “Game of Thrones.”

Some might say this is a curse, that after all of my hard work, it turns out that being debt free doesn’t make me happy after all. I’m proud to have reached my goal, but I’m prouder of what I’ve learned along the way. That I’d rather hang out at home with a friend watching old movies instead of trudging through the mall or that not leaving the house can be the greatest thing of all.

These past three years have taught me that being debt free isn’t so much about being financially secure, but about being more secure in what I really want. Sometimes when I’ve planned an afternoon of shopping, I’ll quickly realize that what I really want is to be napping at home. Just like I knew that being debt free was what I wanted more than paying off my loans for 10 years.

So I hope to honor what I’ve accomplished by listening to what my body and mind need, whether it’s a new bottle of nail polish or a relaxing day indoors.

What did it feel like when you paid off your loans? Leave your story below!

I'm officially debt free! My journey, how I did it, and my plans for the future here!


  1. Congrats, that’s a huge achievement! Right now as I look as my own debt I feel like I’ll want to throw a party when I’ve finally paid it all off, but I think you may be right on the realities of the situation. I’ll probably just end up clicking a button to submit my payment and then receive confirmation a few days later that my loan is paid in full.

    It’s nice to free up that cash flow and be free mentally from having your student loans though, congratulations once again.

    • Yeah I thought I would do something big, but I didn’t want to. I bought a bunch of awesome groceries, movie tickets and a pie. I still try to stick to the basic principles – that buying experiences is always better than buying stuff. Good luck with your payoff!

  2. Congrats Zina! That is a huge accomplishment. I am sure it was so sweet to see that your balance was at 0! I love how you didn’t really want to spend money afterward either. After sacrificing so much, you realize just how much you can live without.

    • Thanks Melanie! I think that’s been the best reward of this whole process. I really learned how to change my habits and my mindset. Thanks for reading!

  3. Congratulations! While you may not feel any “happier” it would definitely provide some relief! At least now if you want to move forward and take on other debt such a property or you want to save for a holiday all the money you spent in extra repayments can go towards that instead. So much better having a happy savings drain 🙂 I hope to be debt free by the end of the year. it will depend on my other half’s employment as he was just let go at work but we expect this kind of thing in his industry and prepared for it although I would much rather the money saved could be put into our debts.

    • Now that it’s been a few months, I think I’m definitely less stressed. You’re right – I have so much more money to put toward savings or vacations. It’s amazing! I wish I could make everyone understand what it’s like to be debt free, so they could be more motivated. Good luck on your goal – you only have 6 months left to go!

  4. Congrats! I just wrote a post today on my blog about the importance of starting while you’re in college to pay student loans. I strongly believe we should not be in debt for the rest of our lives, especially with student loans. I am a Junior in college, and I hope to achieve the same debt free life you have! It does take lots of saving and lots of sacrifices, but in the long run it is so worth it. So many people accept their debt, when they shouldn’t.


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