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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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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2 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.
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