When Vince Schiano graduated from a private university, he had over $81,000 in student loans.
That student loan debt put him well above the national average for the class of 2016. And because his loans were through small private lenders, he also faced high-interest rates.
But thanks to hard work and a lucrative side gig, Schiano was able to pay off a big chunk of his loans ahead of schedule.
Picking a side gig that matched his passions
Schiano is a public relations professional. When he was starting out in the working world, his salary was too low to make much progress paying down his loans.
He realized he needed to make extra money outside of work and explored the idea of side hustles.
“Working out is an enormous passion of mine. So is becoming debt-free,” says Schiano. “Spending time at the gym is important to me, but I also needed time to work a side gig to pay off my loans ahead of schedule.”
Between his busy schedule at his day job and his workout routine, there was not much time left over for added work.
So Schiano began exploring the idea of teaching group fitness classes, an ideal side gig for him. Not only did it allow him to pursue his passion and squeeze in a workout, he could also help other people and earn money at the same time.
“Initially, I considered working at the front desk of a gym to earn a free membership,” says Schiano. “But, I didn’t have the time to dedicate to five or six-hour shifts per week in addition to my full-time job.”
“Instead, I learned that group fitness was an easy, time-efficient way to earn cash while keeping fit,” he says.
Teaching group fitness classes
To get started, Schiano earned a certification as a group fitness instructor. It cost him $350 for the exam fee and study materials to get the necessary credentials. Schiano says that investment was well worth it.
“Once I studied and passed my exam, I became a certified group fitness instructor,” Schiano explains. “To this day, I still teach spinning, kickboxing, boot camps, and muscle-building classes at my local gym.”
Each month, Schiano earns about $1,300 by teaching five classes a week. As an added perk, he also gets a free gym membership, which saves him an extra $60 a month in gym fees.
Paying down student loans
The extra income Schiano makes from teaching classes goes directly to paying down his student loans.
“Thus far, side gigs helped me pay $12,000 off my principal, in addition to my existing monthly payments,” he says.
Watching the principal go down more quickly is a huge motivator for him. And the extra payments he makes brings down the balance more rapidly, so Schiano can estimate when he will be debt-free.
Balancing work and side gigs
Schiano says the best thing about his side gig is how easily it fits into his regular routine.
“The unique thing about teaching group fitness classes is that it can be a substitute for the workouts I would have done on my own,” he says. “I don’t need to go for a run if I will be teaching a spin class, so that’s an hour freed up.”
But time management is still essential for Schiano to succeed both in his day job and his side hustle. He’s careful about how much time he budgets for different activities throughout the day. It’s important for his mental and physical health.
Above all, when he feels overwhelmed, Schiano recommends keeping your goals in mind.
“I know how it feels to have an enormous amount of loans looming above and having no extra cash to make progress on paying the loans off,” he says.
“My best advice would be to map out your current finances and draw up a weekly schedule,” Schiano adds. “Even if you just come up with an extra $50 on your monthly payment, you are still one step closer to your goal than if you had only paid the minimum.”
Finding your own side hustle
Launching a side gig can be a huge help in paying down your student loan balance. If you have a passion, creating a side hustle can be a great way to make extra money and manage your debt.
“If you can find a side gig that matches up with your passion, pursue it,” says Schiano. “For people who love dogs, consider dog-walking. If you enjoy cosmetics and hair, consider a side gig working at a salon on the weekends.”
“Just remember to gauge your energy and do not overextend yourself,” adds Schiano.
Whether you want to write, deliver groceries, or do design work on the side, there are hundreds of ways to make money outside of your regular job.
If you’re thinking about launching a side gig of your own to pay down your student loans faster, check out our resources here on how to get started.
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