Photo Credit: Devon Horace
When Devon Horace graduated from St. Joseph’s College New York in 2015, he left with his degree of psychology — and more than $37,000 in student loans.
“I felt it was impossible for me to pay this much debt back,” said Horace. “When student loan repayment started, I felt like it happened so fast.”
Despite feeling overwhelmed by all his debt, Horace decided to aim for the impossible and pay off his debt as quickly as possible.
While the standard student loan repayment plan spans 10 years, Horace retired his debt in just 10 months. Here are the strategies he used to pay off his loans in record time:
Learning from the experts
After facing his mountain of debt, Horace knew he needed expert help. So he turned to podcasts, YouTube videos and debt-free online communities to learn from finance gurus and people who’d been in his shoes.
“I listen to a lot of podcasts and listen to a lot of interviews where millionaires express how important it is to get out of debt to accumulate wealth,” said Horace. “Who doesn’t want to be a millionaire? So I listened and started to apply the methods that were presented to me.”
Some of his favorite experts and motivational speakers were Dave Ramsey, Mark Cuban, Les Brown and Eric Thomas.
“These were the voices that kept me motivated and focused on the big picture,” said Horace. “I also read a ton of books, but the one that affected me the most was ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ by George S. Clason. It taught me the very basics that I share today to accumulate wealth.”
Taking inventory of his debts
The first lesson Horace learned was the importance of taking inventory of his debts so he could have a clear picture of exactly how much he owed and to whom.
“I wrote out all my student loans in a notebook,” said Horace. “I listed each loan amount from the largest dollar amount with the highest interest rate to smallest.”
According to Horace, getting this bird’s-eye view of his loans was an easy but crucial step in tackling his student debt.
“The most effective step was writing my loans down, taking inventory,” he said. “Once I wrote out the loans and actually wrapped my mind around the amount, I was able to start thinking of strategic approaches I can take to start paying this debt down.”
Celebrating small victories
Once Horace had his loans written down, he decided to tackle them one at a time. While still paying the minimum amount on all his debts, he made extra payments on one loan until the balance was completely paid down. Then, he’d move on to the next.
“I tackled my debt one loan at a time,” said Horace. “Once you pay off one debt, you become more motivated and determined to pay off the others.”
This approach is known as the debt snowball method, where you tackle the loans with the smallest balances first. You still keep up the minimum payments on all your loans, but you make extra payments to close out the targeted loan faster.
The debt avalanche method is another approach, which involves focusing on the loans with the highest interest rates first. While this method could save you more on interest overall, you might not get the satisfaction of closing out a loan as quickly. You may consider experimenting with both approaches to see which one is more effective and motivating for you.
Making extra income with side gigs
Wanting to pay off his debt ASAP, Horace searched for ways to increase his income. Along with working his full-time job at a sportswear company, he found side gigs to make extra cash.
“[I was] freelancing, selling unwanted items on apps like Letgo, Amazon and Facebook Marketplace, [and] taking the garbage out for the elderly,” said Horace. “I was determined to pay off my debt, and I took on any gig I could find to make extra money.”
Horace was able to throw extra payments at his loans ranging from just $10 to as high as $6,700. He even paid as much as $7,600 one month. Between his full-time salary, extra income from side gigs, and extremely frugal lifestyle that involved living off half of one paycheck, Horace opted to pay significantly more than was due to get out of debt as fast as possible.
If you have time to drive for Lyft, freelance online or work another side hustle, you could use the extra money you earn to pay down your student loan balance.
Keeping expenses low
Along with increasing his income, Horace also tried to keep his spending down. He didn’t have a TV in his apartment, wore the same few outfits, and “ate pasta with tomato sauce for a year straight.”
“I cut my expenses down so much that I could pay all my bills on half of one paycheck,” said Horace. “I went extremely basic because I really wanted to get rid of my debts.”
It’s tempting to spend more once you start making a salary, but keeping living costs low could help you slash your student loan balance.
If you can keep living like a college student a few years longer, you could move up the timeline on your journey toward a debt-free life.
Finding support online
All this hard work and self-control wasn’t easy, so Horace looked for support along the way. His friends weren’t eager to talk about debt, so instead, he found fellow borrowers online.
“The ‘debt-free journey’ community on Instagram was a huge motivator for me,” said Horace. “Following like-minded people all over the world, facing the same issues, was like having a support system cheering you on and providing tips and tools they used themselves.”
He also started recording himself on Instagram and YouTube to show his progress. The feedback he got motivated him further, while also serving as an accountability system.
After building a presence on social media, Horace kept up his momentum by consulting others on paying off debt and improving their financial literacy.
“Hundreds of people ask me questions today on how I was able to pay it off, and it motivates me to know that I am helping solve a crisis in our community,” said Horace.
Don’t wait to pay off your loans
When asked for his advice to new graduates dealing with student loans, Horace encourages borrowers to think long-term.
“Find a coach, read books and come up with a plan to pay off your debt,” he advised. “It doesn’t have to be as fast as I did, nor do you have to sacrifice everything I did, but be willing to sacrifice something for the freedom and financial stability. Think bigger picture.”
For Horace, that big picture involved returning to school for an MBA in Leadership and Management and growing his business relations consulting agency, Horace Consulting. Plus, his debt payoff had another life-changing light at the end of the tunnel.
“When I paid it off, I celebrated by proposing to my now wife,” said Horace.
Whether you use Horace’s approach, or try other tactics for speedy repayment (such as refinancing to a lower interest rate or accessing LRAPs), know that keeping motivated — as Horace was — can help greatly in getting to the finish line.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 8 lenders of 2022!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|2.50% – 6.30%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.05% – 5.25%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 7.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.24% – 7.99%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 7.99%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.86% – 7.98%||Undergrad |
|1.74% – 7.99%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.24% – 9.23%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 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 $9 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.
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%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
2 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.
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 5/17/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 2.05% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.93% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
3 Important Disclosures for Navient.
4 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
Fixed rates range from 3.99% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 2.24% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. 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. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.
5 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
Student Loan Refinance Interest Rate Disclosure Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.49% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 2.14% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 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%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account.
6 Important Disclosures for Purefy.
Purefy Student Loan Refinancing Rate and Terms Disclosure: Annual Percentage Rates (APR) ranges and examples are based on information provided to Purefy by lenders participating in Purefy’s rate comparison platform. For student loan refinancing, the participating lenders offer fixed rates ranging from 2.73% – 7.99% APR, and variable rates ranging from 1.74% – 7.99% APR. The maximum variable rate is 25.00%. Your interest rate will be based on the lender’s requirements. In most cases, lenders determine the interest rates based on your credit score, degree type and other credit and financial criteria. Only borrowers with excellent credit and meeting other lender criteria will qualify for the lowest rate available. Rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice. Terms and conditions apply.
7 Important Disclosures for Citizens.
Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.24%-9.23% (2.24%-9.23% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.29%-9.73% (4.29%-9.73% APR).
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 5.37%- 8.81% (5.37% – 8.81% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 5.87% – 9.31% (5.87% – 9.31% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.24% – 8.75% (2.24% – 8.75% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.29% – 9.25% (4.29% – 9.25% APR).
Education Refinance Loan for Parents Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.24%- 8.40% (2.24%- 8.40% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.29% – 8.90% (4.29% – 8.90% APR).
Medical Residency Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.24% – 8.75% (2.24% – 8.75% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.29% – 9.25% (4.29% – 9.25% APR).