Are Student Loans Affecting Your Plans?

Categories Goals, Saving Money, Student Loans

On Monday, I shared with you all that R and I decided to open a joint checking account together, despite the fact that we’re neither married nor engaged. I completely realize that it’s not a choice everyone would make, but we have been technically sharing money and resources since the beginning, so it felt like it was the natural progression for our relationship.

Today, I am going to share with you why we haven’t gone down the marriage path yet, and the outline we have for getting there. If you’ve been dealing with student loans affecting your plans as well, I’m sure you’ll relate.

student loans affecting your plans

Student loans are affecting our plans

I don’t like to type that out. I really don’t like to admit it. I have read several articles from different viewpoints, ranging from those that claim student loans are holding millennials back, to other personal blogs, where authors state that they’re not going to be held back by these chains.

When I broached the topic of marriage with R, he had some uncertainty about being able to afford everything. After talking a bit more, we both reached the conclusion that we would ideally like to start our marriage on a clean slate.

Our hope of going into marriage debt free

Being debt free is important to us. Both of us grew up with our parents in debt our entire lives, and money issues were never fun to contend with. R’s minimum payment is around $100 more than mine, and he hates seeing how much he has to part with every month.

R was just breaking even most months. Not being able to save up money put a real damper on things. He was frustrated with the amount of expenses he kept incurring. The reality is, we can’t afford a wedding and pay extra. It’s much easier to focus on annihilating your debt than to worry about a bunch of other things, too.

Neither of us view marriage as a big deal, so while we aren’t in any particular rush, no one in our family is getting younger. I would really love it if those closest to me could celebrate with us.

Saving and debt could continue

Our expenses saw a pretty large decrease from moving, but R is shifting his focus to saving for a car. We did some number crunching, and ideally, R will be able to save around $500/month right now. If he does, he will have $3,500 by the end of the year. He is aiming to get a used car at some point next year, and would like $4,000 to put down on it. He’ll finance the rest.

Hm, but won’t he then have both a student loan payment and a car payment? That’s pushing us further away from our goals of being debt free. As much as I’m not completely happy about it, a reliable car is necessary, and we haven’t been able to find a good deal for ~$4k. He would really like a 2005ish with less than 100k miles on it. We’ll probably be looking anywhere from $6k-$8k.

After that, he’ll shift his focus back to making extra payments on the student loans (we’re assuming the interest rate will be higher), hopefully paying them off within three years.

What’s the plan?

Three years seems like such a long time! I have to remind myself that we’re not accounting for quarterly bonuses and tax returns, which are always good for making large dents. That’s also plenty of time to ensure raises

R is focusing on making more money as we’ve really done almost everything we can to cut our expenses down. R has been working overtime, but I don’t want to count on that, so we were conservative in our monthly savings estimate. If I can find more clients to write for, the possibilities are endless, and then we can also dodge buying a car as it would allow us to be a one-car household.

What about owning a home? Not in our plans regardless of our debt situation. We really want to explore more states and towns before settling down. Deciding on a place to live for five or more years seems a bit daunting!

Travel? Not off the table completely. I’m still debating on whether FinCon is in our plans yet. R and I have never taken an actual vacation that was longer than a weekend, and he does have a week to use. I do keep in mind that everything we purchase sets us further back, so it’s a bit hard to splurge. If anything, we’ll stay with my parents for a week-long beach vacation.

My vague plan for a wedding includes spending $5,000 and having around 30 guests, which isn’t something we have to kill ourselves saving for. If we feel like we shouldn’t wait, other sacrifices will have to made. We might not be able to start married life off being debt free, but at least we know we’re on our way there. After our student loans and possible car, we have no plans for debt!

So while student loans are affecting our plans, we are mostly okay with it. As we all know, life isn’t about rushing through everything, it’s about taking things one step at a time and appreciating the journey (after all, this is my “journey to saving”!). My cousins didn’t get married until they were around 26/27, and that’s still a few years away for us. I also told R I wouldn’t mind a longer engagement =).

I think I get a little jealous when I see my friends from college getting engaged, and heck, even seeing some of you out there that are my age that are already married with a house. Everyone takes a different path in life, though, and this is mine.

Are student loans affecting your plans, or have you ignored them and gone forward with marriage, home ownership and travel? Tell us why!

Erin is a total goofball who sucks at writing about herself (though she finds referring to herself in the third person amusing). When she's not editing videos, she can be found messing around in Photoshop, laughing at her cats, watching YouTube videos, playing video games, chair dancing, sipping coffee, or any random combination of the above.

55 thoughts on “Are Student Loans Affecting Your Plans?

  1. I have a decent amount of student loans, and I think it has affected my ability to buy a place (but the main reason is the cost of housing in NYC). Fortunately for me my student loans have a very low interest rate, and at this point after paying off the high interest ones, they are manageable and doesn’t really affect our financial situation too much. As for traveling, I hoping to churn some cards once we buy a place…don’t want any dings on my credit.

    1. A low interest rate can be a bit more “comforting” (as much as one can be comforted by having debt!). I think the lowest we have is around 4.5%. I’d love to have 2-3%, but I think I might feel the same way. My guess is it’s because this is the only debt we’ve ever had, and we would like to return to being debt free ASAP.

      1. Yea a lot of my loans are in the 2-3% range. I’d rather invest my money…I feel like there’s a good chance I’ll get a better return. I started with $90,000 in loans. Down to around $50,000 now so there’s been progress.

  2. First of all, I would say don’t feel jealous or worry about the rush. I think you need to do whatever is best for you and R, and if that means paying off your student loans first, then I think that’s a great plan!

    1. Thanks Tonya! It’s funny how all these things that happen after college make you wonder about your own life, but I do know we are doing what is best for us.

  3. I think that’s smart! Start off your marriage debt free. I also applaud you for joining finances before you are married — it’ll probably make things easier! Student loans have affected my plans. I want to travel, move, be more spontaneous. I can’t do any of these things with my large payments as they are. I am trying to work hard, and find balance, but I realize how much I could have in retirement by now or how much i could travel and it can be quite depressing.

    1. That’s the trap a lot of us fall into – wondering what we would be able to do with all the money we’re paying toward our student loans. It really can be depressing! I try not to go there too often. I hear you on being more spontaneous as well – I know it’s holding our relationship back a bit that we can’t go out more often.

  4. I was literally just thinking about this this morning and how difficult it must be for two people to both have student loan debt and be in a relationship. When you combine finances, the combined debt is so high that it definitely prevents doing other things that you would like. I have a client right now who has so much student loan debt that she thinks that she is unappealing to guys because of it. As long as you guys are happy and working toward common goals, though, that’s all that matters.

    1. Oh I don’t like to hear that (about your client)! Debt shouldn’t make us feel unworthy at all, especially where student loan debt is concerned. It’s unfortunate that so many of us go through college, ill advised, and come out with mountains of debt, but all we can do is our best in paying it off. I know you’ll make a difference for her =).

  5. Oh boy, I have LOTS to say on this topic! I’ll keep it brief though. I just got engaged a month and a half ago, after being with my guy for five years, and we both have always known that we were heading toward marriage. We both also have more student debt that you would even believe. We have high degrees in music and have spent boat loads of money, well have been LOANED boat loads of money, and will be paying it back for a while. We have so much debt that it’s impossible to wait until we are debt free to get married! However, I have been making the biggest payments that I have been able to on my loans, and he has been in continued school programs and able to defer his loans all this time.

    Now that he’s not in school, he was just having to start making payments on his loans, but the universe decided to treat us kindly and he won an audition in a military music ensemble, which will pay off most of his loans during the next four years. So though we’d ideally love to be debt free, we still have some of his loans and all of mine to deal with, but we will make it work! The education was absolutely worth it. I just don’t think of the hundreds of dollars that I pay toward my loans each month as mine to begin with. It helps. ;D

    Also, a longer engagement is a good idea. We’re trying to figure out now how to pay for a wedding and a longer engagement is the only way. Plus, it’s fun!

    Good luck to you!

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Traci! I like seeing how other people are approaching the situation. First of all, congrats on the engagement! Second, I completely understand that those with larger loans probably won’t want to wait. We are “lucky” in that combined, we have around $29k in student loans, which isn’t completely unmanageable.

      It’s great that his loans will be paid off in around four years, and I’m glad that you got a lot of value out of your degree! Having a positive attitude about it really helps. We’re definitely not opposed to the longer engagement – I also think it will be less stressful with regards to planning everything out. Good luck to you as well!

  6. Student loans definitely played a role when we first started dating. We made it a rule that we would not go into debt for a home until we’d paid off my student loans completely. It really provided the motivation I needed to tackle them head on, instead of letting them hang around for years like I had been. Anyway, I’ve found that one thing at a time is a solid approach.

    1. Oh yes, we wouldn’t fathom buying a house with debt either. A mortgage is such a big undertaking and we’re not ready to acquire that much debt! It is good to have such a goal to give you motivation, though.

  7. I think you can take out the student loan part and replace that with debt in general. It certainly affects many of the decisions we make. It all depends what’s a priority to you. Is it a car, marriage, debt freedom, I’m sure they will all get tackled eventually but I find that when you focus on one item, your results are best.

    1. Sure you can Steven; I only have student loan debt, so that’s why I chose to talk about it specifically. I agree that focusing on one thing tends to have the best results!

  8. I have both student loans and consumer debt (plus a mortgage, but I’m ignoring it for now) and they ARE holding me back. I’d like to find a new job and move but neither will be happening anytime soon, but I have written them out in my 5 year plan! I really don’t love my job and I’d like to find something I do love, but for now I have to stay where the income is enough to meet my needs. After the debts are gone I anticipate taking a salary cut to pursue something I actually care about…

    1. Hey, use it as extra motivation! Having the freedom to be able to choose where you live and what you want to do is a great thing, and it is something we are both after. I never want to have a job just for the sake of the money, either, but sometimes it’s necessary.

  9. When I think of the millions of people still saddled with student loans decades after they graduate school it really saddens me. Life is difficult as it is, imagine that debt load on your shoulders for that long. The interest, the worry. Student debt does really put your life on hold. It makes you question everything from marriage, to starting a family to buying a home. It truly is a disease that does put your life on hold.

    1. Yes, it’s true – so many adults are still paying their student loans back. I am so glad I stumbled upon the PF community for that reason. I fear I would have been one of them, thinking it’s just a normal part of life. I definitely do not want these hanging over my head for the next ten years.

  10. If I wait to pay off my student loan before getting married, I’ll have to wait another 48 years!! (At least at the rate that I have been paying it off…) It’d be nice to start off our marriage debt free, but that student loan is sadly going to be there for a while..

    R and I did sort of rush to get engaged, but we’re not rushing the wedding. We too are hoping to only spend $5,000, so it should be “easy” enough to save enough for it – especially if R gets the new job he’s currently applying for. It’ll help that my car will be paid off in March, so that’s freeing up a little more money.

    1. I’ve been slacking at making extra payments lately, and it’s frustrating. I would like to get more stable income before I go full force again, though. That said, if we had a larger amount, we probably wouldn’t bother with waiting.

      I hope your R gets the job, that would be great! We were really happy when R got this job, as he wasn’t expecting to get a direct raise. It has helped out a lot.

  11. Luckily.. My wife and I are debt free and thrilled to be so.

    With that said, the FUTURE cost of college for our children is certainly starting to weigh more and more heavily on our decision making process each year.

  12. Student loans are absolutely affecting my plans, as they are the reason I am still living at home. Now I don’t hate my situation and I’m lucky to be able to take advantage of this while I can, allowing me to pay down my student loans even faster but I would have rather moved out at this point!

    Going into marriage being debt free sounds like a great plan.

    1. I can understand that. I lived with my parents after graduating as well, as both my boyfriend and I had to wait before we could actually afford to split rent together somewhere. It was nice to have decreased expenses for a bit!

  13. Student loans never did affect me, but that’s because I never had one. I did everything I could to avoid them as I’ve heard so many horror stories. However, it looks like your relationship with R is alot like mine with Ana. We’re adults that discuss everything. We want to get married, but know that we’re going to one day, so there’s really no rush while we work on other financial goals. It’s almost like looking in the mirror…well, with different types of financial goals. I’m glad you found your other half!

    1. Thanks Josh, I’m glad you did too! I really wish I went to greater lengths to graduate without loans, but I did what I felt comfortable with at the time. Working a bit more during college would have been beneficial, though it is what it is now.

    1. I’m really hoping it won’t cost too much! I’m not someone who wants all the frills, so $5,000 should be a realistic budget. If I can at least pay off my loans before R, I’ll be able to save a bit more, so it will be a team effort.

  14. This is a great question. I think student loans have certainly held us back in some regards. If we didn’t have student loans we wouldn’t have bought a first house that has a studio apartment in the basement. We wouldn’t probably be so adamant about couponing and other side hustles as well. In fact, the whole reason I started blogging was to create an income stream that could offset our monthly student loan payments.

    Student loans haven’t stopped us from getting married, buying a house, or traveling, for the most part. It has caused us to put off house upgrades (desperately need to get rid of this old carpet!), it has prevented us from ‘expensive’ vacations (only reason we are going to Hawaii is because I won it!), but it has brought more stress into our marriage because it’s so much harder to save.

    1. That’s so true! Without student loans, I don’t think I would be blogging. My motivation for reading blogs was to hear other stories about becoming debt free, and how people got there.

      I definitely hear you on the stress part. There was a time when R didn’t even want to discuss his student loans because he was so frustrated with the lack of saving going on. Thankfully he’s in a better place now career-wise, and he’s really excited about finally being able to save.

  15. Very wisely said! No point in rushing into things especially marriage. It is best to be 100% prepared when it comes to treading that path. I have been there, done that, so I know and I couldn’t agree with you more.

    1. Well, I do know that there are some couples out there who met, got engaged/married fairly quickly after that, and ended up okay! I guess when you know, you just know! That said, my friends that are getting married have been together since 8th grade so I think it’s really cute and about time!

  16. I can tell you that student loans definitely affected me for a long time. I’ve been able to pay back a significant amount, which has reduced my anxiety, but there are still 4 figures left. I think student loan debt changes how I see future jobs and how I save now.

    1. That’s a good point – it has changed how I save as well. I’m glad you’ve been able to pay back so much and reduce your anxiety!

  17. I like what Shannon said about as long as you’re both happy, that’s what’s important. I also love that you’re doing a small, inexpensive wedding, as that will definitely help you reach your other financial goals faster. I think you’ll both know when the time is right to get married. :-)

    1. Thanks Laurie. It’s not worth it (for me personally) to go and spend an extravagant amount on one day. I just want an intimate, fun celebration for everyone to enjoy! Traveling and having money saved up is more important to us.

  18. There are definitely points where if my student loans were not there we would have a lot of extra money for renovations and things that we really want to get done. But it is what it is and luckily they aren’t that large that it is truly burdening us like for other people. As for me, I’m always on the lookout for a better paying job because I know the more I make the quicker we will get out of this rut.

    1. That’s where R was in the beginning. Thankfully he was able to work his way up to a better paying job. While it’s still nothing amazing, any extra money helps!

  19. I think you are wise to focus on your debt first. Perhaps you could break it down into mini targets and then re-evaluate once you reach each goal. What percentage of your net pay is going towards this debt?

    1. For the most part, I mentally break it down into little goals for myself. R has just paid off one of his student loans, and he paid the other off last year, so now he has to focus on the last one, which is larger. The percentage is a bit harder to answer as R has been pushing to pay off that one loan, and I’ve cut back as I no longer have a steady paycheck. It’s not huge, though.

  20. Not students loans for me, but debt has definitely changed the progression of this first year since I graduated. I’m starting later and pushing things out as a result. I’m coming to a point where I’m trying to figure out the 5 year plan, how my career will go, and how kids and D play into that (I mean in terms of when we might get married) and it’s a little confusing. We have been engaged for other three years always saying “meh, we will get there when we get there”, but at 28 I am starting to feel the biological clock a bit (not for now, but how it fits into the nearish future)… I don’t want to do kids without having a stable financial footing.

    1. That makes sense. If we were to ever have kids (still undecided/leaning toward no), I’d also want to be debt free. My cousins just had an adorable baby and I believe she was 31, and it does seem as if people are waiting a bit longer to have kids nowadays. It really is difficult to balance everything out, though.

  21. I got married with a bunch of debt. My situation is different though. My husband is military. If we waited, he could have easily been stationed in Japan while I was in the states. The plane tickets there and back would have caused more debt. LOL.

    Because of our debt we got married in the court house. Because of our debt, we’ve waited longer to have kids. But truthfully, it hasn’t stopped us from doing most things. It’s a tough decision to make, but this was a great post. I’ve never thought about waiting to get married until debt is gone. I guess it comes down to how much you have. 15,000? Ok, sure. 150,000? That’s a long wait. Life happens. Things comes up. Love this post though.

    1. Yes, I do think it heavily depends on how much debt you have, or at least how soon you’ll be able to pay your debt off. It sounds like you made the best decisions given your situation! I’m glad it hasn’t stopped you from doing most of the things you want =). Thanks for stopping by!

  22. I’m just a little bit older than you, and yet my boyfriend and I are having the EXACT same conversation as you and R! I’m so glad someone is willing to put this on the table – a lot of people don’t want to admit they’re starting off their married life in debt, which makes sense, but it’s nice to see someone who’s honest about wanting a debt-free start to their marriage.

    This is one of the reasons why my bf and I have decided to hold off on a wedding, mostly because we’re both in an average amount of debt that doesn’t look likely to be paid off within the next 2 years.

    However, like you, I have some older relatives who I need to see at my wedding (my dad’s health isn’t good), so I am hoping within 3 years… we’ll see!

    Good luck to you two!

    1. Hi Melissa, thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Three to four years would be nice for us, too. I am always worrying about my grandma, as she is 83! As I said, I really wouldn’t mind a longer engagement to make this happen. On the plus side, the planning wouldn’t feel rushed, and I think things end up being less expensive when you’re planning that far in advance.

      Good luck to you as well!

  23. I feel like my loans are stopping me from starting my “adult life” and getting ahead, even though I’ve been an adult for a while (I’m 26 now). I’m pretty lucky though, because with my current income rate I could p pay back my loans in 3 months. That’s pretty crazy! I figured it’d take me a few years. I’m not sure if i’ll pay them back that quickly because I would like some money in an emergency fund, but I will be hammering them away quickly.

    1. I know how you feel – I haven’t been out of college for that long, but I do feel like I haven’t been able to start on an actual path to adulthood. I don’t blame you for wanting an emergency fund, either! I started off saving when I was living with my parents, and then I started making extra payments.

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