4 Borrowers Who Paid Off $10k – $40k in Student Loans In Just One Year (and How They Did It)


If you’re trying to destroy student loan debt, reading stories about others who have successfully done so already can be a huge motivator. It’s even more impressive when these people have paid off student loan debt very, very quickly.

Below are four examples of people who not only paid off huge student loan balances but did so in impressively-fast time. While their stories are remarkable, the strategies they used can be used by just about anyone.

Here’s how they did it:

1. Working Together Helped Them Pay Off $80,000 Early (in Just 3 Years!)

Lance Cothern started planning how to pay off his wife’s student loan debt before they were married and before his wife, Victoria, even graduated from nursing school. Talk about organization and planning!

Because they were very committed to their goal, they paid off an incredible $80,000 in student loans in just three years. What’s even more impressive is that they bought two homes during that time period and still managed to pay off their debt.

Lance is an accountant and, as stated, Victoria is a nurse, so together their income is above the national average. However, high income alone is not how these two got out of debt. Instead, it was their extra work and their commitment to a frugal lifestyle.

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 of their excess cash went straight to paying off their debt.

In addition to budgeting their money, Lance made extra income through his blog, Money Manifesto, and they sold many of their belongings. Because of this, they were extremely successful with their goals in a very short amount of time.

2. Inspirational Quotes Helped Her Pay Off $30,000 in 10 Months

Whitney Hansen might seem like your average girl at first, but a closer look shows an incredible amount of determination and discipline. After all, she did pay off $30,000 in student loans in only 10 months.

Whitney says what really worked for her was putting sticky notes everywhere around her house with inspirational quotes. She said, “I remember working two jobs, 80 hours a week, to pay off my debt and thinking it would never end.”

However, with a lot of grit, determination, hard work, and accountability—and, of course, all those quotes!—she was able to cross the finish line and pay off her debt in under a year.

3. Becoming Obsessed With Debt Helped Her Pay Off $10,000 in 5 Months

Earning just $2,100 a month, Jackie Beck paid off $10,000 in student loans in just five months. She credits being able to pay off her loans so quickly to becoming completely obsessed with the idea of destroying her debt.

For years, she sent payments on her student loans here and there. They were even in forbearance at one point. 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 the excess spending in 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.

I think this provides a really great lesson, because so many of us have savings or emergency funds that are larger than we actually need. Once you pay off your student loans, you can always realign your focus to re-filling your savings account.

4. Serious Freelance Hustling Helped This Blogger Pay off $40,000 in 1 Year

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner went to college and then earned her MBA. She funded everything for her education herself which meant she had to work extremely hard during school at various jobs to try to minimize the amount of student loans she had to take out to begin with.

When she graduated, she 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 by helping them with their content, and helped other bloggers with their advertising. Her business grew and grew, until her monthly income eventually moved into the five-figure range.

Because of this, Michelle was able to put several thousand dollars a month towards her student loans. The process wasn’t easy. Michelle essentially had two full-time jobs: her regular 9-5 and her freelancing business that she worked on during her off hours.

The hard work was worth it, though. After paying off her student loans and working for a few more months, Michelle was able to quit her day job and work for herself full time.

As evidenced, anyone, regardless of their income levels, can pay off their student loan debt quickly. However, it does take an extreme level of focus and discipline to really pay it off that fast.

The people listed above sacrificed many luxuries and worked extra hours in order to put as much money as possible towards paying off their debt.

Remember, if they can do it, then you can, too. Start to think of other ways you can earn money and what expenses you can cut to make room in your budget for higher loan payments. Then, just stick with it even though it’s tough—if you do, soon you could be our next success story.

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Published in Budgeting, Federal Student Loan Repayment, Income, Student Loan Repayment

  • homedawg007

    Reading these stories are motivational and I think people should share more of these stories to motivate others to start paying off their crushing debt. When I graduated back in May last year, I received a letter from my school stating that I have a crushing debt of approximately $100,000. Fortunately, I somewhat knew beforehand but didn’t have an actual plan to pay it off. I did pay off about $9000 of interest during my 4 years of school to help lower the loan cost over time. Luckily for me, I got an average paying job as an engineer close to my parent’s home and lived with them while living frugally. I then started putting most of my income towards the debt in just a few months and worked extra hours thanks to the job being a hourly pay kind of job instead of a stated yearly salary. I then learned about refinancing my loans even though most people do it after a few years out of college with a job but I decided it was well worth a try and then got lucky with refinancing most of my private student loans. Cutting down my interest rates in half, I could focus more of my payments towards the principal balance. It has been 9 months since I started repaying back my loans and basically only 2-3 months since I got out of the grace period of my loans and I have already paid back a third or $33,000. In just a year, I should be able to pay back about $45,000 is my guess. Just another year and a half at this rate and I will have finish paying back my debt! 🙂 I wish everyone best of luck and hope everyone will come up with a plan to pay off their loans as I know I may have been a bit lucky with refinancing and living with my parents.

    • Thanks for sharing this awesome story! We definitely hope to feature more stories on here.


      Student Loan Hero

  • BoomHeadshot

    paid off mine after 6 years, I thought I would feel fantastic. I just felt an “about time” moment. now the question is how to put that extra money each month to use and not just throw it back into another debt.

  • seedee

    Horrible stories. Not inspiring at all. One girl had to work 80 hours a week. Another had to cash out her savings. Not cool. We go to school in hopes to make more money, but instead we can’t save for the future. HORRIBLE. Don’t get student loans, they are a horrible trap that can lead to poverty.

  • Hi Seedee,

    Thanks for the feedback, and sorry you didn’t like the stories. Are there any stories you’d like us to feature? Let us know!



  • Shanthi

    I am an international student and I too paid off my student loan debt of 80,000 USD in three years (as of today to be precise). This has been the toughest three years of my life both personally and emotionally. After I graduated I was struggling for over a year to find myself a decent job to pay off my debt and to sustain myself. I was so depressed at one point having this massive debt hanging over my head that there were nights I simply woke up in a cold sweat wondering if I will ever be able to pay it off. I never thought i will live to see this day. Four years back it seemed daunting but god has been kind. He held my hand through it. I am so grateful. I message for other students like me is to be obsessed about paying off your debt. There is no substitute in life for hardwork. Dont ever give up and never be afraid to work hard. Initially it will be like trying to cut a massive stone with an axe. At first you will not see any impact but as you keep giving it your all one fine moment, it will crack and life will open up possibilities and you will realise potential you never thought you had!!