Should-Free Living by Heather Strang – School Loans

Hi Heather,

I feel like I should start paying off my school loans now, even before I’ve graduated. I know that I still have a year until graduation, and that I can make payments until then, but my internal thoughts say I should pay off as much as is humanly possible. I just hate the thought of starting a new chapter in my life with 30Gs in the red. I worry about this quite a bit, and make promises that I will not buy or subscribe to things (cable, Internet, etc.) until I have most of the loan under control. I end up paying almost 3 times the amount owed every month because of this “should.” Any ideas on what I can do?


Dear S.H,

Congratulations on nearing the completion of your college degree! That’s a definite cause for celebration. However, I can understand why it may be hard to celebrate when a dark cloud of impending financial doom is following you around.

Consistently worrying about your student loan debt uses up a tremendous amount of your mental space and energy. In addition, fear keeps you from fully enjoying your life experiences today – in the way of Internet, cable, vacations, dinners out, etc.

When it comes to money, perception is everything. My co-author for Stop Shoulding On Yourself! Brooke Emery, (link to: is a life coach and recently shared an experience she had surrounding the issue of money and perception. One of her clients is very successful and has sold hundreds of thousands of books. He started off a recent conversation with her by saying, “I should be rich…” And guess what? By anyone’s standards, he is a wealthy man.

What does this example show us? Money (as in life) is all about perception. You could have millions of dollars and still feel poor – if that’s your perception.

Today is all you or I will ever “have.” Nothing more, nothing less. If tomorrow was your last day, would you be concerned about student loans? Probably not. Instead, you’d think about your family, friends, places you traveled, people you met in college, your favorite professor, or maybe even that juicy cheeseburger you devoured. Debt would be irrelevant.

If you can move into appreciating and enjoying life now, you’ll have less space to worry about “30G’s.” Shift your perception and it will change your life!

To shift from financial worry to enjoying life in this moment, try some of these tips:

  • Sit quietly for 5 minutes every day. Do not think, ruminate or worry.
  • Engage in one activity a week that you LOVE. This can be as simple as dancing in your living room or treating yourself to your favorite meal.
  • Plan a night out to celebrate being one-year away from graduation. Plan an even bigger shin-dig for next year when you graduate. Thank the university, your professors and the student loan system. Feel gratitude for the experience.
  • Indulge in one luxury a month. It can be a massage, Internet access at home, Netflix – whatever feels indulgent to you.
  • Consider the possibility of simply making just your regular student loan payment, instead of three times the amount. When you write out the check, make it into a ritual – one of celebration and thanks for having the opportunity to receive an amazing education.
  • Spend some time uncovering why debt sends you into a tailspin. Is it connected to your childhood? Do you judge others who carry debt? A great coach or counselor can help you explore these issues.

Much love & blessings,

Have a question about this topic or any other? Next month we’ll focus on the should’s surrounding relationships and sex (fun, fun!). Send your questions to: