Bad Decision -- Huge Amount of Debt, Need Advice


I've told my story on here before, but it has been on my mind again now that I'm sorting through my last year of financial aid paperwork.

I entered college when I was 17. I should have never been allowed to make such big decisions for myself at that age because I was vastly immature and did not have very good foresight. I thought I wanted to be a doctor, and decided to go to an expensive private school because my friend was going to it, and because I figured that after becoming a doctor the debt wouldn't really be a big issue.

Little did I know that the lifestyle of a doctor wasn't for me. I was able to get the grades and nearly finish my first degree in a hard science before I decided that I'd rather be a nurse.

Long story short I will be about $60-70k in debt by the time I finish. I tallied the numbers up last summer but I'm too afraid to look at it now. About $30-40k of that is in private loans and the rest are in government loans. This is just for tuition. I never studied abroad, lived the high life, etc.

I know I am stupid, and I readily admit to making this bad decision. It was entirely my choice, I was warned, and it is my fault. I accept this, and I am looking forward to how to handle this amount of debt and pay it off. I want to repay every cent. Right now, I have about $8k in savings and am hoping to retain this until I graduate next May. Hopefully this money will carry me through until I obtain a job.

I'm just wondering if anyone else has experienced this situation, or has any advice for me, or what my life will be like. Starting wages for nurses in our area is about $35k a year. I can survive on about $5k a year. Do you think if I work a few years, live in poverty, and take a bit dent out of this debt, I will be able to lead a fairly normal life afterwards?

Specializes in LTC, Hospice, Case Management. Has 37 years experience.

35K is only about $16/hr. Are you sure this is all the starting pay is? How about overtime hours or even a part time second job?


172 Posts

Oh I guess I meant $31/hour. Which is about $64,000 without taxes removed. That makes things seem a lot better. I am hoping to have a BSN by the way next May (if all things go as planned).

I live on about $5k a year with my parents covering my insurance (car, health, dental). I pay for rent, utilities, food, and everything else, and I have a supportive boyfriend who makes about $40k a year but is (understandably) unwilling to assume partial responsibility for my debt.

Specializes in New PACU RN. Has 12 years experience.

This will be hard but it can be done:

I don't know if you live near your parents - but I would move back home and live with them for the next 1-3 years if they are ok with it. This is no time for pride - you don't want interest to collect on that which would take you years. Live back home if possible and put every cent of your paycheck towards paying off the loan. No vacations, no shopping, no eating out, no expensive holiday gifts, etc. etc. If you have a cellphone - I would even get rid of that and just use the home phone.

Tighten your belt for 1-3 years and you can be debt free forever (if you continue to spend within you means).

Here is a system I found really helpful:

Here are some tools you could start with incl. budgeting

I know some people might find it too extreme but that is what I am doing. I want to enjoy the rest of my working years without worrying about debt or incurring crazy interest. Furthermore I am single so if you are married/have kids I know this is not realistic.

P.S. That does not mean that you have no life - trust me there are hundreds of fun things you can do for free - picnics, biking, visiting library, going to the beach, visiting the free landmarks/attractions of the place you live, playing board games, inviting friends over for a movie on the tv, having potluck etc.


376 Posts

Live with your parents if you can, spend as little money as possible. Eat a lot of ramen if that's what you have to do to pay down the debt. If you make $64K/year and really can live in $5K/year with your parents, you should be able to pay off your debt in a few years. Then you can take things from there...


172 Posts

Thank you very much for your excellent links Florence and your advice 33762FL. My boyfriend and I live together in a small apartment and share rent and utilities. I'm not sure I will be able to move back home, but I will toss the idea around in my head for a while. My parents live about 30 minutes from the major city with lots of hospitals and my car is very old and on it's last legs. With the price of gas nowadays it may be better for me to live near my work.

Specializes in New PACU RN. Has 12 years experience.

I really recommend the book by Dave Ramsey - Total Money Makeover. In the spirit of saving money - don't buy it but borrow it from the library!

Start an excel spreadsheet and track where your money goes each month.

Hey also has an iphone/ipod touch app if you have one of those. It's important to surround yourself with reminders about your financial/debt plan.

canchaser, BSN, RN

1 Article; 446 Posts

Specializes in ICU. Has 20 years experience.

Op, stop beating your self up. I know lots of BSN students that have $60000 in debt. My self included. I have a friend that was bullied by a 4 year school and "flunked" clinical cause of a stuttering issue. Then completed at a 2 yr school and was 60 Grand in debt. U can make it on what u will end up making. Its a struggle but hang in there.I just want you to understand you are not the only one to make a "stupid" mistake. My story is something like yours.


172 Posts

I don't have any technology, not even a smart phone. I have a 5 year old laptop and a $20 phone and that's it, not even a television :) I don't believe I have a right to own a television or fancy gadgets because of this debt. I really do need to start budgeting, though, and will look for spreadsheets on the web. I do go out too much, and we have a chronically ill pet, but I'm a little nervous/embarassed to see where my money is going.

Specializes in Med-Surg, ICU.

I have to second the advise on Dave ramsey. Even if you don't go "Gazelle Intense" you can make a LOT of headway by following the basic principles.

Good luck to you honey. Stay focused. :clown: You can do it!


172 Posts

Thank you for the reassurance Canchaser. I just get nervous. What are you planning to do once you graduate? How do you feel about your debt?

The only real "unnecessary expense" that I have is my chronically ill pet. We rescued her when she was older, and should have never taken her on, but she is part of my life now and I adore her. However she has a chronic, progressive illness that we discovered after rescuing her, the vet bills are expensive but I can't help but feel I have a sense of responsibility for her and don't want to just abandon her. However her lifespan is projected to be shortened by this illness.

allnurses Guide

BCgradnurse, MSN, RN, NP

1 Article; 1,678 Posts

Specializes in allergy and asthma, urgent care. Has 14 years experience.


Have you looked into the National Health Service Corp or other loan repayment programs? Basically, you have to work with an underserved population for a couple of years and they give you money towards your loans. I did that when I got my NP and was $72,000 in debt. I work in a community health center and NHSC gave me $50,000 in return for a 2 year commitment. I'm not sure what the deal is for RNs, but you can check out their website for info (Google National Health Service Corp). Good luck!!