9 Tips to Pay Off Your PA School Loans

How One PA Paid Off Debt in Three Years

July 20, 2018

By Courtney Smith, PA-C

Courtney Smith and husbandI felt stressed about my student loans when I got accepted into PA school. My only reassurance was that I knew I would make enough money as a PA to actually pay them off (not all professions can say that!). As I reflect on finally paying off my student loans, I want to share some tips that helped my family.

  1. Create a budget and stick to it. My husband and I worked together to agree to a monthly budget and both logged all of our purchases. There were definitely times when we slipped up or an emergency came up and we had to make mid-month adjustments. Be forgiving of yourself, but get back on track afterward.
  2. Don’t take out new lines of credit. It doesn’t make sense to put yourself into debt in one way while you’re paying off another debt. Even though it’s easy to feel entitled to a new car when you’re finished with school, it doesn’t help your overall financial situation. We paid cash for two used cars while paying off the student loans. You don’t need or want a car payment.
  3. Minimize expenses. Think about whether or not you need that cable subscription. If you’re paying someone else to do housekeeping or yard work, do it yourself. By eliminating other expenses, you free up more money to dedicate to paying off student loans.
  4. Buy secondhand whenever you can. We had a baby in the middle of paying off my PA school loans, and almost all of his clothes and toys were gifts or hand-me-downs. And don’t forget that buying secondhand has the biggest impact when you buy a used car!
  5. Pick up extra hours or a second job. PAs are fortunate that our profession offers flexibility to work more if we want to. Increasing your income allows you to put even more money toward your loans.
  6. Plan your meals ahead of time. Write up a grocery list before going to the store. Buy only the necessary ingredients. Consider shopping at a discount grocery store if you have one in your area. Buy store brand or generic.
  7. Minimize eating and drinking at restaurants. I think it’s unrealistic to avoid this altogether, but by minimizing it you will save so much money on food and drink.
  8. Create a budget for vacations. There are so many shortcuts you can take when on vacation to help save money. Driving instead of flying will save money most of the time. We made vacations out of work trips since part of the cost was covered by our employers. Book an on-budget hotel, hostel, VRBO, or Airbnb. And I think it goes without saying, but save up for the vacation before taking it.
  9. Ask for help. There were so many times when my husband and I wanted to go out and needed a babysitter. When our budget didn’t allow for a babysitter, we asked our friends and family members to watch our son. Our sanity and our budget directly benefitted from this arrangement, and we are so thankful we had support through this process.

In my experience, these are the most important guidelines for paying off your student loans. We were able to pay mine off in three years – in addition to funding a wedding and a honeymoon and having a baby. We hit speed bumps along the way (we had to replace a car engine!) but we stayed committed, and got back on track as soon as we could after life’s many surprises.  Now, it feels so liberating to not have to make that payment every month, and I hope every PA can experience this feeling.

Additional Resources from AAPA:

Laurel Road
Did you know that you can refinance a student loan just like a mortgage? PAs could save tens of thousands by refinancing to lower rates. Laurel Road’s average borrower saves over $20,000. It’s free to apply and AAPA members receive an additional .125% rate discount.

PAs can save thousands when they refinance their student loans through SoFi. Adjustable rates start at 2.15% APR and fixed rates at 3.50% APR. No fees and no prepayment penalties. AAPA members receive a $300 cash welcome bonus when refinancing through SoFi. 

Courtney Smith works full-time in a family medicine practice in southwest Michigan. She graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2014 and volunteers with the Michigan Academy of PAs (MAPA) to manage their social media presence.

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