Over the weekend, I got an email from the liberal group One Wisconsin Now inviting the supposedly non-partisan Campaign to Fix the Debt to give up on stemming the tide of Federal deficit spending and to instead focus on getting people out of student loan debt. Now, I'm not a member of Campaign to Fix the Debt, but I would be more than happy to provide One Wisconsin Now a foolproof plan for "fixing" the student loan "crisis" in a way that would require NO additional government funding.
Step 1, "Hello Roommate!"--If you are paying off student loans you probably shouldn't be living alone, trying to cover the entire cost of rent and utilities by yourself. My recommendation would be to find someone who is also trying to pay off their student loans to share a spartan--but secure--apartment. I would also recommend that apartment be somewhere close to where you work because.....
Step 2, "Pedal Power"--If you are paying off your student loans you probably shouldn't be driving around in a car that required you to take out yet another loan (and a lease counts as a loan!). My recommendation would be to find the absolute cheapest form of reliable transportation possible. A bike would be a good place to start--and it's good for the environment (which One Wisconsin Now also advocates--it's a win-win for everyone!). If biking it isn't always plausible, there is public transportation--and finally a very used but still mechanically solid car that can be had for just a couple thousand bucks. Will it make your co-workers jealous? No. But it will get you to work and the grocery store.
Step 3, "Learn to Love Store Brands"--Speaking of the grocery store, if you are paying off student loans you probably don't need to be buying the more-expensive brand names. Yes, the "off-brands" taste just a little bit different, but they will fill you up just the same. My recommendation would be to pass on the uber-expensive "organic" stuff too--you'll have plenty of time to "eat natural" when you have paid off your student loans. You will also want to stock up on sandwich bread because.....
Step 4, "Hold the Fries"--If you are paying off student loans, you probably shouldn't see the inside of a restaurant unless you are going there to work part-time as a waitress, bartender or dishwasher. The same goes for the drive-thru window. My recommendation would be to cook bigger meals at home and bring the leftovers to work--or learn the art of sandwich making. You can forget about going to the bar or the dance club too--since there is nothing for sale there that is going to help you pay off your student loan debt.
Step 5, "Learn to Entertain Yourself"--If you are paying off student loans, you probably shouldn't be dropping hundreds of dollars a month on things like on-line movie rentals, new video games, a thousand song downloads or even high-speed internet. Let someone else download all of that stuff and borrow them for your own use. We also have this place called the Public Library, which loans out movies and CD's free of charge. As an addendum to this step, don't plan on traveling anywhere for a vacation anytime soon either. Yes, a long weekend in Las Vegas can help "relieve stress"--but the relief that comes from paying off your student loans early provides real relief that lasts a lot longer than a weekend.
Of course, One Wisconsin Now has no use for my plan to get out of student loan debt. It doesn't involve government spending--and it requires the person who took out the loans (and who received and is using the education they paid for) to pay back all of the money they borrowed. To them, it's far more "fair" to ask those of us who employed the steps listed above to get ourselves out of debt to just pay more taxes to "help" those who refuse to make the effort.
And the funny thing is, if people were to employ the same plan to buy a house, pay their medical bills and save for their retirement, the Campaign to Fix the Debt wouldn't have so much work ahead of itself either!