Student loans are an overwhelming financial burden for many, and it can feel impossible to get out from under them. That’s when reading student loan success stories can help.
Seeing how others have overcome similar obstacles that you face will empower you to repay your own student loans. And, you may get ideas and inspiration for new ways to demolish your debts, too.
7 must-read student loan success stories
Student loan success stories are proof of what’s possible, from keeping up with six-figure student loans to repaying $47,000 in 14 months.
Here are some of the most inspiring student loan success stories of 2016.
1. The writer who repaid $68,000 in under 5 years
A contributor to Student Loan Hero, Melanie Lockert shared her story of repaying her $68,000 student loans in less than five years.
The first step she took was lowering her living costs. Lockert moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon where she could pursue a minimalist lifestyle. She got a studio-sized apartment, had no car, and used a pared-down budget to keep expenses low.
Lockert also took a big risk by quitting her day job to focus on freelancing. She worked diligently on growing her business and a year later she had doubled her pay.
2. The law school grad repaying $250,000 as a programmer
Andrew Post is a Los Angeles native who graduated in 2010 with $200,000 in student debt and no job prospects thanks to the Great Recession hitting the U.S. economy.
Post worked as a solo legal practitioner but struggled to make ends meet. He put his loans in forbearance while studying for the bar exam, and they ballooned another $50,000 thanks to unpaid interest.
Post decided to turn things around and switch careers from law to programming, falling back on his bachelor’s degree in computer science. He got a stable, well-paying job and continued to do legal work on the side.
After meeting with a financial planner, Post made deep cuts in his budget and was able to live on just 40 percent of his annual income. He also refinanced his student loans, which saved him $10,000 a year in interest.
So far, he’s paid down over $70,000 in student debt while building an emergency fund.
3. The MBA who bought a home while repaying $75,000
Beth Walker, a business professional in Raleigh, N.C., earned an MBA in 2010 with $75,000 in debt. She worked full-time and lived with her parents, keeping her living costs at just $400 a month. This enabled her to put $1,000 a month toward her student loans and save the rest.
Using her savings, Walker was able to buy a home — even with student loans. She purchased her condo and got roommates whose rents covered the cost of her mortgage. Today, she owns a second home where she lives and now rents out the entire first condo she bought.
Walker also kept up with her student loan payments by using a mobile app to track her debt repayment and stay motivated. And as her income grew, she used her raises to double down on her student loans and is now on track to pay them off in January 2017.
4. The “Financial Panther” who repaid $87,000 with a six-figure income
The main strategy he used was managing his lifestyle. Since Kevin ultimately valued his financial freedom more than a lavish lifestyle, he treated his salary as a windfall, keeping his costs in check.
This served two goals: it helped him pay down his student loans, and maintain a cheap lifestyle he could afford even without a six-figure salary.
In addition to cost-cutting, Kevin got some side hustles going. And, he was pretty much open to anything.
For example, Kevin made over $1,000 picking up and selling items students abandoned between semesters in his college town. He dog sat, delivered food, and Airbnb’d a guest room.
Kevin used the extra cash from these ventures to double and eventually triple his student loan payments After just 2.5 years he was student-debt-free.
5. The recent grad who paid off $30,000 on an entry-level salary
On the other end of the spectrum from Kevin is Kaysie Garza. She hated the idea of wasting money on interest, so she started paying back her student loans before she even graduated.
After college, she landed an entry-level copywriting position with a starting salary of just $30,000. Her pay was about equal to the balance of her student loan debts.
Garza slashed expenses to free up money to dump on her debts. She chose the cheapest apartment she could find and furnished it with free secondhand pieces.
Every extra cent Garza made went to repaying her debts, which she did in just 19 months. She even took screenshots on her phone to celebrate.
Those screenshots came in handy, too, because a lender processing error showed Garza still owed $1,000. But she was able to provide her screenshots of proof that she’d settled her debts.
6. The 40-something professor who erased a $47,000 student debt
By declaring bankruptcy college professor Amanda Page had discharged $40,000 in credit card and medical debts.
However, her student loans hadn’t been discharged in bankruptcy. After drowning in debt for so long, Page had a hard time believing it was possible to get debt-free.
“I will probably die with student debt,” Page recalls telling her mother just before her 40th birthday.
But, hearing herself say those words helped her realize how much her student debts were still burdening her. And she decided to make a change
Page downsized her lifestyle and got a roommate to limit living costs. And, she decided to earn money through side jobs rather than spend it on outings with friends.
Using the debt avalanche method, Page targeted her highest-interest loans first. In 14 months, she eliminated $47,500 balance and became debt free in February 2016.
7. The gym rat who paid off $12,000 in student loans by working out
A public relations professional, Vince Schiano’s starting salary was outmatched by his heavyweight student loans. He’d racked up $81,000 in student debt attending a private school, and his monthly payments were barely making a dent in it.
Schiano spent hours at the gym and realized that he could be using his workouts to earn some serious dough.
He spent $350 getting certified as a fitness instructor, an investment he’s earned back making $1,300 a month teaching five classes a week. Plus, he has a free $60 monthly gym membership thrown in.
To make the most of his fitness instructing income, Schiano applies it directly to his student debts. As of September, he’d paid an extra $12,000 on his student loans this way.
Whether you’re earning a six-figure income or entry-level wages, pinching pennies or side hustling — there’s no wrong way when it comes to paying off your student loans and reaching that debt-free finish line.
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