It wasn’t too long ago that Sunethra Muralidhara was buried under a mountain of debt.
She had taken out loans for undergraduate and law school, which put her about $200,000 in the hole. But she wasn’t too worried about it at the time. She figured her law degree would be worth it and everyone always told her it was “good debt.”
“People had me convinced that taking 30 years to pay off the debt was normal and that I shouldn’t worry about it,” she said.
But her then-boyfriend, Michael Mohan, was worried about the six-figure burden.Sunethra Muralidhara and Michael Mohan were able to pay down $200,000 in debt in 26 months by getting serious about budgeting.
“When I found out how much debt she had, I started Googling,” he said. He pulled an all-nighter watching online personal finance tutorials and didn’t go into work the next day.
He eventually approached Muralidhara about the debt. The conversation didn’t go well.
“It was probably the biggest fight in our relationship,” she recalled. “We weren’t engaged or married at the time. We were on that path, but from my point, I thought ‘who do you think you are?'”
That initial anger turned into understanding when Mohan explained his concern.
“He wanted to have a house and kids with me; it was a good intention and he was coming from a place where he saw a future and having too much debt could hinder that.”
So the two got serious about paying down the debt. Really serious.
They paid the $200,000 off in 26 months, while also paying for their wedding and Mohan’s MBA without financing.
Here’s how they did it:
They moved to a cheaper city
When Muralidhara started looking for jobs ahead of law school graduation, she realized staying in Chicago didn’t make sense.
“The legal market was so saturated there and jobs were paying so poorly. I couldn’t take a job for $40,000-$50,000 when I have $200,000 in student loans.”
So she started looking for more competitive legal markets.
When she and Mohan each made a list of cities they were willing to move, Las Vegas made both lists.
Not only is the cost of living lower, Nevada doesn’t have a state income tax, which helps them save more.
“I felt that if we had stayed in Chicago, we would have been living paycheck to paycheck.”
Leaving Chicago also meant saying goodbye to their existing group of friends, which also provided some budgetary relief.
“We didn’t really know anyone when we first moved,” Mohan said. “There was no outside pressure to spend money and go out.”