A few months ago I was talking to my friend, Joey Ferguson, a web programmer in D.C., and asked how he was able to pay off $16,000 in student loans in just two years.
“I’m single AF,” he said.
But for Ferguson, his single lifestyle was the key to his own journey out of debt.
“Frankly, being single was a massive boon to my efforts in eliminating debt,” he recently told me. “I was able to live off very little and make big sacrifices, which made it easy to dedicate large amounts of money to paying off debts.”
10 ways being single AF can help you pay off debt
Intrigued, I asked other single people how they capitalized on their lifestyle to pay off student loans and get out of debt.
Essentially, instead of focusing on romantic relationships, these people fixed their relationship with money. Altogether, they paid off more than $126,000 in student loans and other debt while enjoying the single life.
If you’re wondering how anyone can possibly benefit from being single while paying off student debt, here are several reasons why it can be a good thing.
1. You have total financial control
“One benefit of being single is that I don’t have to negotiate with anyone about how I spend or don’t spend my money,” said Denise*, creator of personal finance blog DoubleDebtSingleWoman.com.
So far, Denise has repaid over $70,000 in credit card and student debt, and has another $72,500 to go.
“I have total control over all of my finances,” she continued. This has its own benefits:
- You set your own financial priorities. “I can spend a little money on a few things that are important to me and ruthlessly cut spending from elsewhere,” Denise said.
- No one else can negatively affect your budget or influence you with bad financial habits. “I don’t have to take into account a spouse’s/partner’s spending in a joint account,” added Denise.
- You get to decide how intensely you’ll focus on debt repayment. “How fast I want to pay off debt is up to me and the choices I’m willing to make,” Denise stated.
2. You get to live a flexible lifestyle
“Being single comes with a measure of choice and flexibility that may be difficult to achieve if one is married/partnered, especially if one’s significant other is not on the same page with respect to personal finance,” Denise pointed out.
According to Denise, when you’re single, you can also:
- Explore what others are doing to pay off student loan debt.
- Take this time to experiment and find out what keeps you motivated.
- Establish good habits with your money.
- Push yourself to your financial limits and find what works for you.
3. You can resist lifestyle inflation
“When I graduated college, I knew I wouldn’t be making much money for a while,” Ferguson said. “Just because I graduated college didn’t mean I had to immediately stop living the frugal lifestyle of the student,” he continued. “Being single made that easy even if the paychecks were very small.”
That’s why he recommends that single people resist lifestyle inflation — the temptation to spend more as your income increases.
“Even if you get a job out of college and start making money, that doesn’t mean you should start spending it,” Ferguson explained. “It’s worth it in the long term to live frugally until the debt is gone.”
4. You don’t sweat the small expenses
As you’re working to keep costs low, you also want to make sure your budget doesn’t kill your social life. Lauren Weber, a sandwich shop manager and founder of money blog MillennialDollar.com, learned that lesson as she paid down $11,000 in debt.
“Don’t try to save money by skipping dinner with friends and/or going out occasionally,” Weber advised. Attending social events — “That’s what single people do!”
Instead, focus first on your biggest costs, not nights out or weekend brunches.
“If you want to make an impact on your finances, work to lower the big expenses like rent and car payments,” Weber said.
5. You can live with roommates to cut rent
Most of the single people I spoke with said they chose to live with roommates at some point to lower rent costs.
“I have been able to pay less in rent so that I can put more money towards rent,” said Kerrie Barry, an attorney who lives in New York City and chose to rent with roommates.
While it’s helped Barry repay $15,000 of her $250,000 student debt, she admits that sharing a living space can straight-up suck. “I have suffered both [lack of] privacy and space in order to pay back my loans,” she said.
6. You’re able to downgrade (or dump) your car
Car expenses are another huge cost that single people can cut back on to create more room in their budget. Here’s how the borrowers I spoke with are doing this:
- Weber is working to pay off her car loan early, which will free up cash and help her avoid interest charges.
- Barry said she drives “a beat-up car, whereas my colleagues drive high-end vehicles.” But unlike her coworkers, Barry isn’t facing a high monthly auto loan or lease payment that can come with flashier rides.
- Denise finds it more cost-effective to make do without a vehicle. “I rely on public transit so as not to have the expense of a car,” she said.
7. You can dive into a second source of income
“We’ve all heard the saying ‘time is money’,” said Christina Oswald, a digital marketing analyst for ThinkMoncur.com. “[By] being single you have more time to side hustle,” she explained.
To get a second income stream going, here are a few ideas:
- Get a second job. Oswald currently works night shifts as a bartender.
- Try freelancing or contracting to make money off a valuable skill you hold.
- Figure out how to make a little money from a hobby. For instance, one fitness buff became an exercise instructor and turned his gym time into additional paychecks.
- Rent out an extra room via Airbnb, or even rent out your car with Turo.
If you get creative, you can generate a new income stream — and devote this extra money to paying off debt.
“I use the paychecks from my bartending gig to pay a little extra each month,” Oswald said. This has helped her repay $14,000 of her $25,000 in student loan debt.
8. You’re able to focus on your career
Living that single life also makes it simpler to devote more time and energy to your day job — and quickly become a standout employee.
“Being single also allows me to work long hours at my firm in hopes of being recognized for my hard work,” Barry said. This dedication is the perfect ammunition to ask for and receive a raise. You can then use these extra funds to pay more toward your debt.
It also makes it easier to follow opportunities that can grow your career. “I have been able to switch jobs in order to pursue higher paying jobs,” Barry said. And being single allowed Denise to move out of state when she was offered a job after months of unemployment.
9. You can save a little less
When it’s just you that you have to support on your income, this can have its advantages. In the age-old question of which financial goal comes first — saving money or paying down debt — being single means you can squeak by with smaller margins.
“I found myself saving absolutely nothing and putting my income towards loans and bills,” Barry said. “I was able to do this because my only responsibility is me.”
Of course, an emergency fund is always a good idea, even while you’re working to repay student loans. But you can get by with smaller savings than your friends who are married or have kids.
10. You’re able to sacrifice for a better future
You can make a lot of sacrifices when you’re single to get ahead of your debt. But as you’re figuring out how to pay off student loan debt, make sure you remind yourself why you’re doing it. Remind yourself that you’re building a better future and becoming more financially independent.
“The freedom you have after [the debt is] gone is amazing, and it will put you in a place where you can avoid future debts,” Ferguson pointed out. “For example, I was able to buy my car with cash because I wasn’t buried in debt payments.”
Singlehood is the time to invest in yourself, and paying off debt is an investment with guaranteed returns. Paying off student debt also frees up resources for life goals such as travel, founding a business, or even settling down and starting a family.
As Weber said, “If you are single and paying off debt, you’ll do so much for your future self (and your future family because you probably won’t be single forever) by putting your nose to the grindstone.”
Whatever your dreams are for the future, paying down student debt while you’re single AF removes a major obstacle that can stand in your way of achieving them.
*Name has been changed to conceal identity
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