Would You Go as Far as These 7 People Did to Pay Off Debt?

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Originally published April 17, 2016

If you owe a mountain of student loan debt, paying it off can feel insurmountable. But some borrowers go to extremes to tackle their debt head-on. From selling stuff to pay off debt to consuming a daily diet of instant ramen noodles, here are some of the most extreme ways to pay off debt from seven student loan borrowers.

1. Work in another state
2. Hunt for scrap metal to recycle
3. Become a human billboard
4. Side hustle, save and move to a new neighborhood
5. Flip electronics for a profit
6. Sell all your furniture
7. Eat ramen noodles every single day

1. Work in another state

Monica Louie and her husband paid off $120,000 in debt in just two years on a single, middle-class income. They started their debt-free journey in August 2013 and continued for two years until they moved into their new house in August 2015.

“Our strategy for paying off the first $90,000 was to sell whatever we could around the house and have my husband work as much overtime as possible,” said Louie. “He worked in another state for 45 days when our son was two years old and our daughter was four months old because there was more opportunity for overtime there. During that time, he worked 16-hour days and didn’t take a day off until he returned home.”

If you’re looking for more overtime or a better-paying job, you might not want to end up selling stuff to pay off debt or working for 45 days straight. But you might consider working in a different state until you reach your debt-free goal if it offers better opportunities. If you’re open to moving, a few states even offer student loan repayment assistance to new residents.

2. Hunt for scrap metal to recycle

Lane Fournerat and his wife Krista paid off $70,000 of student loan debt in just one year. They did everything from selling stuff to pay off debt on eBay and Craigslist to finding metal scraps in people’s trash and bringing them to the scrap yard in exchange for cash.

“I’ve gotten really good at finding a way to find and sell almost anything to make some quick cash,” Fournerat explained. “During this time we also had two kids, a few medical bills, and to top it off, I had just lost my job literally days before our oldest daughter was born.”

“We knew it was time to get out of debt. Last spring, almost a year to the day, we drove to Nashville, Tennessee and did our debt-free scream on the Dave Ramsey show, which was a big inspiration for us,” he said.

How much can you earn from digging through people’s trash to find scrap metal? According to Fournerat, he’s made over $110 from a week’s worth of scrap metal finds.

3. Become a human billboard

Jesse Harrison had student loans and a small auto loan he was attempting to pay off. One of the most extreme ways to pay off debt he employed was using his body as a walking advertisement for local businesses to earn extra income: “I put the name of a business on my forehead and walked around the town with it for a month,” he said.

Oddly enough, there are companies out there looking for young adults to wear shirts, hats, and other pieces of clothing to promote their brands. In fact, some people are even willing to get a brand’s logo tattooed on their bodies for a lifetime of discounts and free stuff.

He might not have gone to the extreme of a forehead tattoo, but this out-of-the-box strategy helped Harrison pay off all his debt in about four years.

4. Side hustle, save and move to a new neighborhood

When I asked Aja McClanahan about the most outrageous things she did to pay off debt, she answered with, “The question is what didn’t I do?” Aja and her husband had over $120,000 in debt, about half of which was student loan debt.

“We first got serious about paying down debt when we wanted me to be a stay-at-home mom,” she explained. “I went on to provide Spanish tutoring, then graduated onto database consulting. But that was only half the battle.”

McClanahan and her husband started doing more radical things to pay off debt, such as placing a moratorium on buying paper towels and refusing to get their air conditioning unit fixed during a record-breaking hot summer. However, the most drastic thing they did was move to a new neighborhood “to get a home with no mortgage payment,” she said.

Still, according to McClanahan, “every sacrifice was worth it,” noting that “in 2013, we paid off all our debt.” She encourages anyone else who’s in debt to keep going, “because one day you’ll be financially free.”

5. Flip electronics for a profit

During his college days, Todd Tresidder worked at HP. To make money to pay down his debt, he would buy computers using the steep employee discount and then resell them at retail price.

“The markup paid off a big chunk of the debt,” he said. “Then I used the interest-free loans from the company to pay back the cost of the computer over time.” He used this method to pay off his student loans in about a year. (Others have tried similar methods, as you can see in this other post.)

This is actually something I used to do while I was paying off my credit card and auto loan debt. Every year, my cell phone company would offer me the chance to upgrade my cell phone, so I would take advantage of the free upgrade and choose the one that had the highest resale value.

I had no intention of using the cell phone myself since the one I was using was already in great shape. Instead, I would resell these brand new cell phones, sometimes limited edition, for several hundred dollars on eBay. I also sold older or broken cell phones for parts, and since I obtained them for free, it was all profit.

6. Sell all your furniture

Tristan Desinor and her husband started off with about $40,000 in debt, primarily made up of personal loans, credit cards and a car loan. As they began to buckle down and really make headway with paying it off, they did one particularly outrageous thing for some extra cash: they sold all of the furniture in their house.

Some furniture can be worth a lot of money, especially if it’s vintage or antique. If you can sell your furniture and purchase cheaper stuff while turning a profit, this could be a great strategy for making extra money to put toward debt.

“So far we’ve paid off one loan, two credit cards and half our car,” said Desinor. They expect to have all their debts completely paid off within the next eight months.

7. Eat ramen noodles every single day

When you’ve exhausted all these crazy ideas, you can always take the traditional route of reducing your grocery bill down to almost nothing by eating instant ramen noodles every day. That’s exactly what recent college grad, AJ Saleem, founder of a small startup, did to repay his loans.

“After missing one payment on my student loans and getting charged outrageously high fees, I knew I needed to get rid of my loan as soon as possible,” Saleem explained. “So I actually did the stereotypical poor college student budget: I stopped going out to restaurants and purely bought ramen noodles to save money. It was extremely cheap, around 50 cents a box, and it would last me one per meal.”

He admitted that eating instant ramen noodles every day can be quite disgusting after a while, but he actually managed to pay off all his debt in three years rather than spreading it across several decades. Besides reducing your grocery expenses, here are 101 other ways you can save money.

How can you pay off your student debt faster?

Sometimes changing your financial habits takes some drastic and outrageous thinking. So don’t be afraid to try out some of these extreme ways to pay off debt to pay off your student loans ahead of schedule. If you’re committed to ditching your debt, check out this guide for effective ways to pay off your student loans faster.

Rebecca Safier contributed to this article.

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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of Feburary 1, 2021.

2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

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 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% 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 October 26, 2020, 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 10/26/2020. 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 [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. 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 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.

4 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 2.99% APR to 7.33% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.88% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.25% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 0.13% plus 2.37% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the interest savings are applied to the principal loan balance, which may help pay the loan down faster. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.  

5 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

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.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

6 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.


This information is current as of January 4, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.