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.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.30% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.
Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.47% – 6.30%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.51% – 8.09%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.02% – 6.44%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.69% – 7.21%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.79% – 8.39%6||Undergrad & Graduate|