( Note: I've read that paying off your loan early can have a negative impact on your credit report. For me, this wasn't the case, but I thought it was worth mentioning.)
I avoided lifestyle inflation
Remember a while back when I wrote about a friend who did fancy things that I couldn't afford to do? Well, I suppose I
have afforded to go to St. Maarten with her if I wasn't
on paying off my student loan early. When I started working, I gave myself a small cushion for entertainment, yeah - but most of my income was aimed at my debt.
While I technically could have taken a trip or lived in a better apartment or worn better clothes, not having any debt was more important than any kind of lifestyle improvement at that time. Despite my lender neatly calculating my monthly amount, I didn't see my debt as a monthly bill - I saw it as one large amount, and as long as that amount was there, my income would be dedicated to it.
Thus, I couldn't conceive of trying to go on a tropical vacation when I owed thousands of dollars. When I did conceive of it, my mom quickly squelched the idea. “You're 23,” she would tell me. “You have plenty of time to travel.” Had I been older and in debt, maybe I
have decided to travel - life is short, after all - but at that time, I was young enough to have more youth to look forward to. So I decided sacrificing a year to pay off my debts and live like a pauper wouldn't hurt.
It was worth it. A year after paying off my student loan, I took a two-week trip to Europe, where I didn't
think to myself, “Ugh, I'm eating pizza by the Coliseum but I'm in soooo much debt.” It was a completely guilt-free trip.
I didn't have “mad” money
If I came into a small amount of money for whatever reason - a bonus, credit card reward - I never thought of it as my “mad money.” I had a strict amount allocated for entertainment, and if I came into something extra, it didn't go toward more entertainment. It went toward my student loan.