It wasn’t God. It was Sallie Mae.

debtWhen I was in college I thought God provided through student loans. I would take the biggest loans I could get and after putting some on books and bills I would “live” on the rest. Of course you understand that in order to live one must have furniture, cars, vacations, etc.

I would spend that money and say things like, “God really cares about us! Look at how He is providing!” All the while God must have been shaking his big, wise head saying things like, “Silly lad….”

Well, now that I have a big family and lots of letters behind my name I realize that it was not God providing. It was Sallie Mae. And she wants her money back… plus a heckuva lot more!

So now I work… and work… and work… This last year I’ve worked as many as five jobs in one week (pastor, painter on two different jobs, hospital sitter, and personal trainer at the gym).

I am living the truth of Proverbs 22:7, “The borrower is a slave to the lender.” Every month when I give money to Sallie Mae I think of all the good I could do with that money. But at least I have all those letters behind my name (that’s the sound of me trying to comfort myself).

If I could do it over I would:

  • Earn those degrees a little slower. I’d work more jobs to pay cash for college… and for my graduate work too. It would have been a lot easier to work those long hours before I had six awesome kiddos!
  • Consider how practical those degrees would be in the “real world.” More letters behind the name don’t guarantee more numbers on the paycheck. Be sure that what you’re paying for will pay you later! Education should be an investment… not a dark, debt hole!

Well I don’t get a mulligan on this one, so here’s what we are doing now to free ourselves from the clammy hands of my demanding mistress (Sallie Mae):

  • We are keeping our expenses low (e.g. no car payments, no cable TV).
  • We are generating as much additional income as possible and putting all extra $ on debt (we are following Dave Ramsey’s “Debt Snowball” plan). (By paying debt off sooner rather than later you save yourself a TON of money… money that would be paid in interest payments!)
  • We are breaking up the total amount due to Sallie Mae into chunks so we can celebrate progress! It’s fun and rewarding to send in a “final payment”. As much as I owe Sallie Mae it’s going to be a while before that final one is sent, so to keep our moral up we have broken it up into bite size chunks and celebrate when each chunk is paid off!

Really there’s no secret here. If I were to boil this post down to three words/wishes for you they would be:

  • Prescience – I wish for everyone considering student loans or other big debt the ability to look ahead and realize “someday I’m going to have to pay this back… plus a lot more (they call that interest).
  • Monster work ethic – if you have skipped step one, I wish for you a huge work ethic… because you’re going to need it to escape the death grip of Sallie Mae (or whomever else holds your debt). You will have to work much… there’s no real way around this (unless you win the lottery… and pay off your debt with it).
  • Perseverance – You will get discouraged along the way. It will seem like the snowball is not developing momentum and that in spite of all your hard work the total amount due is not shrinking. It is. I wish you perseverance as you continue to push that snowball! It will develop momentum and in time that bill will be gone and you’ll be debt free!


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