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What Happened When I Paid Down $112K of Debt Too Fast

What Happened When I Paid Down $112K of Debt Too Fast

Debt: It’s the four-letter word that can wreak havoc on your finances. In our Debt Confessions series, real people share how they tackled debt — from credit card bills to student loans to everything in between — and how it felt to reach their zero-balance goals.

When I graduated from law school in the spring of 2012, I came out with more than just a degree. Between student loans and credit cards, I also had $112,000 of debt. Not exactly how I’d pictured starting my new career.

I got a job at a great firm in Washington, D.C. shortly after graduating. But as the six-month grace period on my student loans ticked away, my massive loan balance took up more and more space in the back of my mind. So I decided that come repayment time, I’d use the bulk of my $100,000 take-home salary to pay off all my debt within one year.

The good news is that after just a few months, I’d made huge progress. The downside? I was utterly miserable.

While most get-out-of-debt stories praise self-discipline and sacrifice, they rarely touch on the consequences of being too aggressive with debt repayment. (Yes, there is such a thing.) Here’s how that happened to me.


When I set out on my goal in the winter of 2012 (just after my grace period was up), the thought of paying off that much debt in a year didn’t seem unrealistic. My student loans accounted for $90,000, while credit card bills made up the rest. Fortunately, I was earning enough to easily cover my rent and was already on track to max out my 401(k). After accounting for my basic living expenses like food, cell phone and utilities, I saw no reason why I couldn’t throw all my leftover paychecks at my debt.

My new apartment was unfurnished, but that could wait, right? The only red flag was that my plan would make it nearly impossible to build up my emergency fund if I focused solely on my debt.Read More »What Happened When I Paid Down $112K of Debt Too Fast