3 Borrowers Who Paid Off $10K to $40K in Student Loans In Just One Year (and How They Did It)

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If you’re facing a hefty student loan balance, paying off your debt can feel like an impossible task. However, reading stories about others who have successfully paid off student loans can be a huge motivator, especially when they make a lot of progress within a short period.

How 3 borrowers paid off their student loans in a year

The following student loan borrowers repaid huge chunks of student loan debt years ahead of schedule. You can use their strategies and tips to supercharge your own debt repayment.

  1. Inspirational quotes helped her pay off $30,000 in 10 months
  2. Becoming obsessed with debt helped her pay off $10,000 in 5 months
  3. Side hustles helped blogger pay off $40,000 in 1 year

1. Inspirational quotes helped her pay off $30,000 in 10 months

Like millions of Americans, Whitney Hansen graduated from college with student loan debt — over $30,000 of it. But thanks to hard work and some serious discipline, she was able to pay off her balance in just 10 months.

What really worked for Hansen, who works as a blogger and financial coach, was putting sticky notes everywhere around her house with inspirational quotes.

“I remember working two jobs, 80 hours a week, to pay off my debt and thinking it would never end,” she said.

However, having those notes around the home kept her motivated and focused on her goal. And after less than a year, she became debt-free, freeing up money to pursue her other financial goals.

2. Becoming obsessed with debt helped her pay off $10,000 in 5 months

If you don’t make a lot of money, paying off student loans in a year is basically impossible. But with some creativity, it can still be done, as proven by Jackie Beck.

Earning just $2,100 a month, Beck paid off $10,000 in student loans in five months. Being completely obsessed with the idea of destroying her debt was the reason why she was able to pay off her debt so quickly.

For years, she sent payments on her student loans intermittently. At one point, they were even in forbearance. However, she grew tired of constantly having the loans hanging over her head, so she got serious about paying them off.

She started tracking her expenses to cut excess spending from her budget to free up more money for payments. Every time she sent in a payment for her student loans, she said she just wanted to send in more and more. She finally knocked out her remaining balance by moving money over from her savings account to pay her loans off once and for all.

Nowadays, Beck writes about debt repayment and even developed an app for aiding the repayment process.

Having money in your bank account can provide you with peace of mind. But if you’re paying interest on student loans — and the interest rates can be quite high — it’s more cost-effective to use that money to pay down your debt.

3. Side hustles helped blogger pay off $40,000 in 1 year

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner went to college and then earned her Master of Business Administration (MBA). She was responsible for paying for her own education, which meant she had to work various jobs to minimize the amount of student loans she had to take out while in school.

When she graduated, she still had $40,000 in student loans. She also had a good job in finance, but that wasn’t enough to conquer her debt.

Instead, what she decided to do was drastically increase her income through freelancing. It didn’t happen all at once, but her blog Making Sense of Cents allowed her the opportunity to network, meet other bloggers and start a freelancing business.

As a freelancer, she wrote for other blogs as a staff writer, managed other blogs’ content and helped other bloggers with their advertising. Her business grew and grew, until her monthly income eventually moved into the five-figure range.

Thanks to her side hustle, Schroeder-Gardner was able to put several thousand dollars toward her student loans each month. The process wasn’t easy, though — she essentially had two full-time jobs: her regular 9-to-5, and her freelancing business that she worked on during nights and weekends.

However, the hard work was worth it. After paying off her student loans and working for a few more months, Schroeder-Gardner was able to quit her day job and work for herself full time.

Bonus: Working together helped them pay off $80,000 in just 3 years

While Lance Cothern was able to graduate from college debt-free, his wife, Victoria, wasn’t so lucky. She ended up taking out over $80,000 in student loans to pay for nursing school.

Luckily, Cothern — who worked as an accountant — and his wife earned a higher-than-average income, helping them afford their monthly payments. However, they were determined to get rid of their debt as quickly as possible, so they came up with an aggressive repayment plan.

They sat down and made a clear budget together. They cooked a lot of meals at home, and they weighed every single financial decision together. If they went on vacation, they used credit card points for their tickets so that all their excess cash went straight to paying off their debt.

Besides budgeting their money, Lance made extra income through his blog, Money Manifesto, and they sold many of their belongings. Because of these decisions, they were able to pay off $80,000 of student loans in just three years.

Even better, their success empowered Lance to leave his day job and become a full-time blogger, helping him achieve his goals.

Managing your student loans

No matter what your income, it’s possible to pay off your student loans ahead of schedule. However, it does take discipline and focus to reach your goals.

The people listed above paid off student loans by making sacrifices, cutting their spending and working extra hours to boost their incomes. With creativity and initiative, they were able to cut years off their repayment terms, helping them save money on interest and become debt-free sooner.

Want to supercharge your own student loan repayment? Consider the following tips:

  • Pick up a side hustle: Boost your income so you can put more money toward student loan payments. You could write for blogs, drive for Uber or Lyft, walk dogs or deliver groceries for extra cash.
  • Create a budget: Come up with a budget and review your bank and credit card statements to identify spending categories you can cut. For example, maybe skip eating out and brown bag your lunch or find a cheaper cable package.
  • Reduce your living expenses: Your rent or mortgage payment is probably your biggest expense. If you can lower your housing expenses, you can put more money toward your loans. Shop for a cheaper apartment or consider getting a roommate to free up more cash each month.
  • Refinance your student loans: If your student loans have a high interest rate, you can save money and shorten your repayment term by refinancing your student loans. Just be mindful that if you refinance federal student loans, you can lose access to certain protections like student loan forgiveness, among others.

With hard work, paying off your student loans early is possible. Stick with it even though it’s tough. If you figure out how to pay off student loans in a year, you could be our next success story.

This report was originally published on Aug. 12, 2015.

Kat Tretina contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
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1.99% – 5.64%2Undergrad
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1.99% – 6.84%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.91% – 5.25%4Undergrad
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Visit Lendkey

2.25% – 6.53%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.17% – 4.47%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit PenFed

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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 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.


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: 1. Fixed rates from 2.99% APR to 6.99% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.53% 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 0.12% plus 2.38% 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.

6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.99%-5.15% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.17%-4.47% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.