Dear Dave: I’m 38 years old, and I’ve got $12,000 in student loans still hanging over my head.
It’s the only debt I have. I make $30,000 a year, and I’ve managed to save $12,000, but I’m also driving a junky, old car that will have to be replaced soon.
Should I split the money I’ve saved and buy a $6,000 car while paying off $6,000 of the student loan?
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Dear Phil: If I’m in your shoes, I want that student loan out of my life as quickly as possible. At the same time, I don’t want you living life without some money in the bank.
If you’ve followed me for very long, you know I teach the Baby Steps when it comes to getting out of debt and saving money. Baby Step 1 is to save a beginner emergency fund of $1,000. Baby Step 2 is to pay off all debt, except for your home, using the debt snowball method. The third Baby Step is to build a fully funded emergency fund of three to six months of expenses.
You don’t have quite enough on hand for your idea and to have something left over. I recommend paying off $11,000 of the school loan now and then finishing it up as you go. It won’t take much more time. Limp along in the beater for a little while longer and then, when you have no student loan debt, finish your emergency fund and start a car fund.
I talk to a lot of people your age who still have student loan debt. But you have the opportunity to punch its lights out in a hurry. If you pour on the coals, you should be able to save money and get a better car in just a few months.
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