“Sallie Mae Back” and 10 More Songs That’ll Motivate You to Pay Off Your Student Loans


David Augustine was just another guy, working two jobs, living off instant noodles, and struggling to pay off his student loans. He had even gone into default.

Then he scored a record contract (under the alias Dee-1) and used the money to pay off his student loan debt. Now, his song detailing his debt journey, “Sallie Mae Back,” has amassed more than 5 million hits and countless numbers of shares and likes in its first month alone.

Part of the success of this viral song is the story in itself. Paying back your loans is no easy feat — but it’s something millions of young Americans are attempting to do. In fact, One Wisconsin Institute found it takes graduates an average of 21 years to pay off their student loans.

But, as Dee-1 proves, there is hope. By making your payments diligently, you, like the upstart rapper, can pay off your loans. If you need some inspiration, “Sallie Mae Back” is a good place to start. Round out your loan payback inspiration playlist with these ten other awesome debt repayment songs.

1. “Bills Bills Bills” by Destiny’s Child

It might seem nice to have someone pay off all your debts. But really, isn’t it more attractive when you pay off your student loans yourself instead of depending on others like your mom or your “sugar mama” to pay your loans? We’re sure Beyoncé would think so.

Before you jump into a relationship with a fellow student loan debt holder, we recommend reading up on marriage and student loans.

2. “Free Money” by Patti Smith

Debt repayment can even infiltrate your dreams, as the venerable Patti Smith knows all too well.

“Every night before I go to sleep,” she sings on this track from her 1975 masterpiece Horses, “Find a ticket, win a lottery.” It’s tempting to live in the fantasy world, isn’t it?

But remember, just as Smith does: it’s just a dream. Real debt repayment takes hard work. And, if you don’t pay your student loans, those fantasy lottery winnings can be seized unless you ante up.

3. “16 Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford

Feeling oppressed by how hard you’re working? Tennessee Ernie Ford has you covered with his #1 hit from 1955. And while the average cost of college at a school like University of Pennsylvania was a mere $800 in the 1950s, his lyrics still speak to us today.

“You load sixteen tons, and what do you get?” the song asks, “Another day older and deeper in debt.” It’s not cheery, but it definitely captures the way paying back your loans can sometimes feel like going in circles, as if you’re getting nowhere.

4. “Bills” by LunchMoney Lewis

“I got bills I gotta pay / So I’m gonna work, work every day,” the rapper claims on his debut single as he laments about the extra jobs he takes on to get through the mountains of papers.

Getting a second job or side hustling your way through your debt payments is just one of the many ways you can tackle debts faster. This song is great inspiration — and wise words to keep in mind. Work hard, and you’ll earn what you need to pay down your debts.

5. “If I Had $1,000,000” by the Barenaked Ladies

What would you do if you had a million dollars? Buy a big house? Travel the world? Money means freedom when you don’t owe a soul. Sure, it can be fun to fantasize about other stuff you might buy, too (“like a llama or an emu”), but would you do?

That’s why we think the Barenaked Ladies need to amend their hit song to add paying down what you owe the government or private lenders. Either way, this song is great for cheering you back up and getting you thinking about the future or helping you build your dream to-do list.

6. “Royals” by Lorde

Paying off your student loans will leave you without much money, but as the pop chanteuse from New Zealand rightly notes in this 2013 mega-hit, you don’t need money to have a good time. This song is all about doing your own thing — even if you’re broke.

Frugal living doesn’t have to be horrible or sacrificing. Learning to live on less can be your salvation to paying off your loans faster by allowing you to save more on expenditures. Skip the fancy watches and drinks. You’ve got bigger plans.

7. “The Debt I Owe” by Lou Reed

Legend rocker Lou Reed set music to a poem by folk master Woody Guthrie. It shows that, no matter the era, debt is the same. “Every day, several times a day, a thought comes over me,” Reed sings, “I owe more debts than I ever can pay back more money than I’ll ever see.”

It’s perfect for commiserating when you’re feeling discouraged — you’re not alone. Experian states that over 40 million Americans have an outstanding student loan.

8. “Pay It Back” by Elvis Costello

“One of these days, I’ll pay it back,” the post-punk icon croons in the chorus of this deep cut from 1977. This is where you start turning things around. It’s not as oppressive as it seems — or even if it is, you’re going to get it done, someday.

Do you know you can get to that “one of these days” faster? If you’re wanting to cut time off your student loan repayment, consider refinancing your loans. Not only will you pay it off sooner, you’ll also save on interest.

9. “I Will Survive” by Donna Summer (or Cake)

First you were afraid, you were petrified… kept thinking how you could ever live making student loan payments that high!

As you make your way through, you’ll find you’re absolutely able to do this. You may even notice you have strengths you never knew you had. You can be fiscally responsible. You can get your finances on track. You’ll “get strong” and “learn how to get along.” You. Will. Repay. This. Loan.

10. “Free” by Phish

This is your celebration song. “I see the path ahead of me,” the lyrics say, and it’s totally true of you. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. “In a minute, I’ll be free,” you can sing along with the band. You’re on your way to a better, debt-free life.

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