Student debt and the ‘baked beans’ dream

October 25, 2015


Image of someone frustrated

Image by: Zach Klein

What do you do with student debt after you graduate? Repay it of course.

Hold strong you cash hungry beast, you have debts to pay and it won’t get easier if you don’t hit the lump sum on the head in major repayments.

How you ask? Find extra channels of income to buy the little things and put your major incoming amounts into paying off your loans. I did it. So can you. It all begins though, with the debt…

Image of a money jar

Image by: Ramberg Media

The source of debt

I wasn’t a star scholar or a gold medalist ‘whatsit‘ so I made it into university but without a single deduction to my fees.

It was decided that to be given the chance at my four year Bachelor of Journalism Degree, I would have to take out close to £3000 in a student loan. This would be for my first year alone and on the condition I passed and made it further,  my parents would pay for my next 3 years via monthly stop orders.

The student loan would sit in a corner, growing like a cyst over the next few years and I would study towards,  probably, the  only academic career that would be worth less in a years starting salary than my ever growing student loan.


The ultimated dinner

Image by: Joey Parsons

The make-shift jobs

I was short on cash but never starved. I found a multitude of dollar jobs while I was in uni to substantiate my social life and buy the essentials like rather large stores of my favorite chutney and a ‘step-above-1-ply’ toilet paper.

These jobs were fool hardy at the time but meant that I never had to consider increasing my overdraft. The three that stood out the most were:

1. CHAMPS SPORTS BAR: I worked a few times a week at a rough but charismatic sports bar… I quit about 6 months after, deciding I wasn’t built for cleaning men’s toilets in such an establishment or working for less than £0.50 an hour from 3pm to 2 am.

Skills acquired: finally learning how to count without my fingers; learning how to use Tabasco in a variety of shooter cocktails; jimmying a pool table open to avoid pub brawls over ‘fixed games’ and learning how to ‘Coyote Ugly‘ – spit unwanted shooter into a beer bottle subtly looking as if chasing said shot, when bought a shooter that you can’t refuse.

2. FREELANCE WRITER: I landed myself a tidy little commission job for a campus national newspaper earning between £150 and £300 for the rest of my first year. The newspaper shut down by the time I started my second year but it had got me through first year before it did.

Skills acquired: writing, amateur photography and the ability to learn by example that the newspaper shutting (like many others all of a sudden) probably meant that learning to a print journalist would be worth less than I thought by the end of my degree.

3. EGG DONATION REGISTRY: I was out of writing work and not willing to go back to bar service shifts so I did what any intelligent uni student would and Googled: ‘student + jobs + easy’ and ended up reading an article written by a girl who was considering putting her name on the Ovarian Egg Donation Registry list.

Image of sign syaing "Eggs for Sale"

Image by: Cindy45472

While she was still considering it (with some very well weighed up pro’s and cons) I signed up super fast. It all seems very generous and the £500 or so in reward for ‘eggs’ going to a good family -that I wouldn’t use anyway- seemed like a good deal.

They phoned me up about just the other day saying I’d made it to the ‘finals’ for a set of parents. By then I was a a few years older, wiser, a few countries to far away and a little richer. Thank goodness.

Skills acquired: learning of valuable life lessons like: its not as easy as selling sperm;  I probably saved myself having feelings of remorse in the future at the chance of having ‘half me’s’ looking for me in 20 years time… and that you probably won’t get picked straight away if you failed maths and physics. Burn.

Image of Help sign

Image by: Dimitri N

The pay back
The end of 2013 brought an end to my studies, a shiny new degree and the end to a final year in New Media Journalism (a strategic move to the dark side to guarantee getting a job…and one which I could legitimately use Facebook and Twitter for all day).

One last South African Summer of student living and before I knew it I was coming home to my parents in Edinburgh, Scotland to start my life on a ‘forever’ visa that cost me another £2000 in a personal loan. When the cold hit my face so did the realization that there was no way round paying back my student loan or my newly acquired personal loan in a long term, easy going manner.

My ‘quick fix wish’ of getting a flat after my first pay check suddenly seemed reckless. I had an inflated interest loan to pay back from 2010 and it wasn’t getting any smaller. Along side my additional loan, my world seemed to get a little scarier.

I needed a solid plan to pay it all back before it grew even bigger and the there were a few simple, immediate and mildly terrifying steps to take to get there…
1.    Get a job
2.   Determine how long it will take to pay back loan in shortest amount of time possible after first pay-check
3.    Pay back student loan in multiples greater than half of my paycheck. In addition put aside more than a quarter of my paycheck after that towards my personal loan
4.    Live in box room or on sleeper couch of parents house whilst paying off loans to avoid rent and amenities costs and to live. Enough said.
5.    Use remaining money to buy endless amounts of baked beans for sustinance, cheap cider for strength and no name chocolate for basic needs of survival.

Total time living the’ baked beans dream’ – 8 months

6 months later

I am just less than 2 months from paying off my final payment of my student loan, 3 months away from paying off half of my personal loan and 3 months and a few days away from moving into my first flat which I have painstakingly been putting away for to pay the deposit out of my remaining pay check every month. By then the remaining payments will be limited and the majority of debt will be paid off.

Lessons learned: I have learned valuable lessons like: planning far in advance with repayment plans; putting away every pound if it doesn’t need to buy anything important and most of all… that I hate baked beans.

Image of beans

Image by: Avlxyz

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  • Heather Mhari McGreevy

    Feeling your pain here Lisa! Can’t wait to get rid of all my student debts!