The internet is full of student loan payoff stories, but many of them include little details that don’t work for most people—for instance, the couple whose mom bought a condo for them. Having no housing costs should definitely let you repay loans faster!
While there’s nothing wrong with getting a little help from mom or dad, many people don’t have that option. Fortunately for you, I interview a lot of people who have paid off significant student loan debt—and most of them didn’t do so by getting a lucky break.
Rather, they relied on discipline and hard work. Here are two borrowers’ stories who really stuck out to me.
Melanie Lockert of Dear Debt has perhaps one of the best student loan repayment stories out there. She paid off $80,000 of student loan debt in 10 years, most of which she covered in the final 4 years of her journey.
Now, that amount of time isn’t what’s amazing. Ten years is the standard repayment period, after all. Rather, what’s impressive is that Lockert achieved this without a full-time job. Because of the recession, she experienced years of contractual and part-time work. At one point, she was living off $14,000 a year.
One day, she’d had enough of her student loans and decided to do something about it. In her case, she started living a very frugal lifestyle. Additionally, she began freelance writing and blogging about saving money on the side to make extra income.
Through her writing, she built a contact list of financial companies. And since she was also good at event planning, those companies started paying her to plan events for them! The more her income grew, the more she put toward the loans.
She made her last student loan payment in 2016 and now runs an incredibly successful business as a writer. She also still plans events, including an annual retreat for women about money.
Colleen Coughlin of The Full Edit attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and graduated with $30,000 in student loan debt. She went over a year without a job in her field in New York City. During this time, she found work as a bartender and lived an extremely frugal lifestyle in the city, putting her tip money toward paying off her loans.
She eventually found a job in fashion, but the salary wasn’t enough to cover all her bills and student loan payments. So, she decided to keep bartending on the side—despite now having a high-pressure job in a very competitive field.
After that, she put all the money from bartending toward paying off her loans. As a result, she paid it all off before her 30th birthday—approximately three years early.
The main thing to remember is that paying off your student loans is a process, and it won't happen overnight. It took Lockert and Coughlin 10 and 7 years, respectively—and that’s still fast! For many borrowers, it takes twice that time.
So while you may experience some setbacks along the way when getting rid of loans—especially if you’re on your own like Lockert and Coughlin were—that won’t last forever. If they could do it, then you can too.