Samantha Ealy thought she was being budget-smart when she transferred from Howard University, in Washington, D.C., to Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
The cost of living was much lower, but she got an apartment that was still well above what she could afford. She was struggling with debt already, and she couldn't quite make rent. And then she was evicted. She sold her furniture to repay her landlord and avoid being sued.
For about a month she slept in her car. It was August 2009, when the average high temperature was 100, and lows averaged 76. She showered in the campus gym and spent the bulk of her time in the air-conditioned library. She says she was there so much they offered her a job.
Things had to change, and they did. She saved as much as she could from her library job and checked an internal housing board at Baylor to find the cheapest living situation she could. She ended up living in an off-campus apartment with a roommate.
Still, she kept her eyes on the goal, earning her bachelor's degree in film and digital media in December 2011. But once that happened, she wanted to make her debt disappear as quickly as possible. She recently connected with NerdWallet to share her story, which may inspire your own debt-free journey.
What was your debt when you started your repayment journey?
When I started my repayment journey, I was $70,111 in debt, which spanned items such as student loans, medical bills, credit card payments, and a car loan.
How did you end up in debt?
It was college. I wasn't granted a full scholarship in undergrad, so there were expenses I needed to pay that were well above my entry-level wages and I didn't have a large savings to tap into at the time. I remember attempting to exhaust all my scholarship options, and then praying I could get enough money in student loans to cover the remaining balance.
Loans felt like "free money." When I was approved for college loans, me and my mom went out to celebrate. I am appreciative of the loans, but I was ignorant of what I was doing.