Yes, you just read the title of this blog post correctly. My student loans are gone and fully paid off!
Donezo. Eliminated. Demolished.
It seems like just a couple of months ago I published my post about my $38,000 in student loans (scroll down to the bottom of this post if you are interested in how I paid off my student loans) and how badly I wanted them gone.
I have made a decent amount of recent payments and have watched our savings account dwindle down to a very low and uncomfortable number (still livable though).
Our monthly income keeps increasing and without it, none of this would have been possible. I am very grateful for everything in life.
Also, many have asked about why I made some small payments of less than $1 (see the picture below). It is because whenever I would pay the full amount of the loan off, they would still charge interest on the loan for the day until the actual payment was received. So, I had some small payments of less than $1.
Related blog posts on how to pay off student loans quickly:
- 30+ Ways To Save Thousands of Dollars Each Month
- How To Work From Home By Selling on Amazon
- 75+ Ways To Make Extra Money
- Consolidating And Refinancing Student Loans – What You Should Know
- How Do Student Loans Work?
My Student Loans
I worked full-time all throughout my undergraduate and graduate degrees, and still managed to have student loans. I’m going to blame it on the fact that I had to move out when I was 17/18 and I had to pay for myself to live, but honestly, I wasted a lot of the money I made as well.
I spent tons of money on clothes and food. Wes and I were not the smartest with money when we were younger and first moved in together. I will be honest and say that.
The total amount of student loans that I accumulated was around $40,000 after I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. You can read more about my degrees in the post How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500.
We have had some of the money saved in our emergency fund for quite some time, but I had a hard time parting with it. That is the main reason for why I was able to throw such large payments at my loans every week, and especially the last couple of weeks when I had student loan debt.
Some people ask me if I regret my degrees now that I will be switching to being a full-time blogger. No, I still don’t regret going to school even now that I plan on switching to 100% freelancing. I don’t think I would be where I am today without my degrees, and I do think that they will continue to help me into the future.
My original goal was to finish paying off my student loans in March of April of this year, but I fell a few months behind.
We definitely did some unnecessary (but fun spending), which caused us to be a little behind schedule. However, I’m not going to complain, I’m super proud of myself! I thought that my goal seemed a little hard, and it was, but I only fell a couple of months behind, so it definitely wasn’t impossible.
I also wish I knew that you could consolidate student loans. You can save a lot of money through student loan consolidation such as with Credible, especially if you have high interest federal or private loans.
My Financial Future
What will we do with the additional income that we make every month now that $5,000 to $10,000 isn’t going towards student loans? We’re still not sure! Having this kind of cash flow will be very different from what we are used to because for such a long time everything has been going to my student loan debt.
We definitely want to save as much as we can in order to build a large enough emergency fund to prepare us for the freelancing life that I will be entering.
We also want to start investing more aggressively starting this month. We’ve always invested a little, but not enough as to where it’s a meaningful accomplishment relative to me paying off my students loans.
We still don’t know when we will be buying our next house, and lately we have been talking about putting it off for a couple more years. We haven’t lived in our current home for very long (4 years), and it still fits us for now. So we will be saving for our next house down payment fund, but at the moment it’s not at the very top of our list.
Now, I do realize that in a couple of months that we won’t still have this huge savings amount every month since I will be eliminating an income source. Our income and, therefore, our amount of savings per month will decrease significantly, and that is something that will take getting used to. It’s all relative, though. Just one year ago, I could have never dreamed of being anywhere near half of what we make today. It’s only normal that I can’t work 2 full-time jobs forever.
Anyway, I am so excited that my student loans are gone! And yes, this is a bragging post 🙂
Here are my tips to pay off your student loans quickly:
Do you know how much student loan debt you have?
The first thing that made me jumpstart my student loan repayment plan was the fact that I took the time to add up how much student loan debt I had.
It shocked me so much that I wanted to throw up. That’s good though because it can be a good source of motivation for most people.
I know it was for me!
When you add up your student loans, do not just take a guess. Actually pull up each student loan and tally everything down to the exact penny.
Related tip: I highly recommend Credible for student loan refinancing (they are the top student loan refinancing company and have great customer service!). You can lower the interest rate on your student loans significantly by using Credible which may help you shave thousands off your student loan bill over time. Through Credible, you may be able to refinance your student loans to a rate as low as 2.47%! Plus, it’s free to apply. Related: Consolidating And Refinancing Student Loans – What You Should Know.
Understand your student loans.
There are many people out there who do not fully understand their student loans. There are many things you should do your research on so that you can create the best student loan repayment plan.
This mainly includes:
- Your interest rate. Some student loans have fixed interest rates, whereas others might have variable rates. You’ll want to figure out what the interest rate on your loans are because that may impact the student loan repayment plan you decide on. For example, you might choose to pay off your student loans that have the highest interest rates first so that you can pay less money over time.
- Student loan reimbursements. Some employers will give you money to put towards your student loans, but you should always do your research when it comes to this area. Some employers will require that you work for them for a certain amount of time, you have great grades, good attendance, and they might have other requirements as well. There are many employers out there who will pay your student loans back (fully or partially), so definitely look into this option.
- Auto-payments. For most student loans, you can probably auto-pay them and receive a discount. Always look into this as you may be able to lower your interest rate by 0.25% on each of your student loans.
I recommend that you check out Personal Capital (a free service) if you are interested in gaining control of your financial situation. Personal Capital is very similar to Mint.com, but 100 times better as it allows you to gain control of your investment and retirement accounts, whereas Mint.com does not. Personal Capital allows you to aggregate your financial accounts so that you can easily see your financial situation, your cash flow, detailed graphs, and more. You can connect accounts such as your mortgage, bank accounts, credit card accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and more, and it’s FREE.
Create a budget.
If you don’t have one already, then you should create a budget immediately.
First, include your actual income and expenses for each month. This will help show you how much money you have left over each month and how much money should be going towards your student loan debt each month.
Earn more money.
The month I paid off my student loans was a month where I earned over $11,000 in extra income. While this does sound crazy, I did start off by making just $0 in extra income. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Even if $11,000 a month isn’t possible for you, I’m sure something is. If you can make an extra $1,000 a month in extra income, that can help you knock out your student loans in no time.
Some ways to make extra money are below, but check out the related articles below to see many, many more:
- Start a blog. Blogging is how I make a living and just a few years ago I never thought it would be possible. As of December of 2016, I am now earning around $100,000 a month blogging and I never thought this would be possible. You can create your own blog here with my easy-to-use tutorial. You can start your blog for as low as $2.95 per month plus you get a free domain if you sign-up through my tutorial.
- Sell your stuff. There are many things you can do to make money by selling items. We all have extra things laying around that can be sold, or you can even search for items that can be bought and resold for a profit.
- Answer surveys. Survey companies I recommend include Swagbucks, American Consumer Opinion, Survey Junkie, Pinecone Research, Opinion Outpost, Prize Rebel, and Harris Poll Online. They’re free to join and free to use! You get paid to answer surveys and to test products. It’s best to sign up for as many as you can as that way you can receive the most surveys and make the most money.
- Rent an extra room in your home. If you have extra space in your home, then you may want to rent it out. Read A Complete Guide To Renting A Room For Extra Money.
- Become an Uber or Lyft driver – Spending your spare time by driving others around can be a great money maker. Read more about this in my post – How To Become An Uber Or Lyft Driver. Click here to join Uber and start making money ASAP.
- Try InboxDollars. InboxDollars is an online rewards website I recommend. You can earn cash by taking surveys, playing games, shopping online, searching the web, redeeming grocery coupons, and more. Also, by signing up through my link, you will receive $5.00 for free just for signing up!
- Find a part-time job. There are many part-time jobs that you may be able to find. You can find a job on sites such as Snagajob, Craigslist (yes, I’ve found a legitimate job through there before), Monster, and so on.
- 75+ Ways To Make Extra Money
- 8 Things To Sell To Make Money
- 10 Ways To Make Money Online From The Comfort of Your Home
- 10 Things I’ve Done To Make Extra Money
- Ways To Make An Extra $1,000 A Month
Cut your expenses.
The next step is to cut your budget so that you can have a better student loan repayment plan. Even though you may have just created a budget, you should go through it line by line and see what you really do not need to be spending money on.
There’s probably SOMETHING that can be cut.
You might not have even realized it until after you wrote down exactly how much money you were shoveling towards nonsense until now. However, now is better than never!
We worked towards cutting our budget as much as we could. I can’t remember exactly how much we cut it by, but I know that it was enough to where I felt like I was putting a dent in my student loans.
Even if all you can cut is $100 each month, that is much better than nothing. That’s $1,200 a year right there!
Some expenses you can lower or ways to save money include the below:
- Earn free cash back. Sign up for a website like Ebates where you can earn CASH BACK for just spending like how you normally would online. The service is free too! Plus, when you sign up through my link, you also receive a free $10!
- Lower your cell phone bill. Instead of paying the $150 or more that you spend on your cell phone bill, there are companies out there like Republic Wireless that offer cell phone service starting at $10. YES, I SAID $10! If you use my Republic Wireless affiliate link, you can change your life and start saving thousands of dollars a year on your cell phone service. I created a full review on Republic Wireless as well if you are interested in hearing more. I’ve been using them for over a year and they are great.
- ATM fees. Why do people do this to themselves?
- Pay bills on time. This way you can avoid late fees.
- Shop around for insurance. This includes health insurance, car insurance, life insurance, home insurance and so on. Insurance pricing can vary significantly from one company to the next. When we were shopping for car insurance last, we found that our old company wanted something like $205 to insure one car for one month, whereas the new company we have now charges $50 a month for the same exact coverage. INSANE!
- Save money on food. I recently joined $5 Meal Plan in order to help me eat at home more and cut my food spending. It’s only $5 a month (the first four weeks are free too) and you get meal plans sent straight to you along with the exact shopping list you need in order to create the meals. Each meal costs around $2 per person or less. This allows you to save time because you won’t have to meal plan anymore, and it will save you money as well!
- Fuel savings. Combine your car trips, drive more efficiently, get a fuel efficient car, etc.
- Trade in your car for a cheaper one. For us, we are car people. Cars are one of our splurges. However, if you only have a nice car to keep up with the Joneses, then you might want to get rid of it and get something that makes more sense.
- Live in a cheaper home. I’m not saying you need to go live in a box, but if you live in a McMansion then you may want to think about a smaller home. This way you can save money on utility bills and your mortgage payment.
- Learn to have more frugal fun. We don’t spend anywhere near the same amount of money on entertainment as we used to. There are plenty of ways to have frugal fun.
Pay more than the minimum.
The point of all of the above is to help you pay off your student loans. However, you can always go a little bit further and pay off your student loans more quickly. The key to this is that you will need to pay more than the minimum each month for you to speed up your student loan repayment plan process.
It may sound hard, but it really doesn’t have to be. Whatever extra you can afford, you should think about putting it towards your student loans. You may be able to shave years off your student loans!
How much student loan debt do you have? What’s your student loan repayment plan?
That’s fantastic! Really inspiring to hear that you managed to get rid of your student loan debt. What a relief that must be for you. My current financial goal is to eliminate a credit card debt by Christmas. I’ve had it since I was 18 years old and it’s been paid off almost a few times. I will be so glad when it’s gone! Good luck with your freelancing!
ooh yay I can’t wait until your credit card debt is gone!
That’s fantastic – you should be so proud!
Awesome! Michelle I’ve been reading your blog from the beginning and I know you have talked about this for a long time. I am so proud of you! You inspire me!
Congrats on paying off the student loans!! You must feel like a weight has been lifted, I know I would.
Thanks! And it feels wonderful 🙂
First off a big serious congratulations is in order! I know that couldn’t of been an easy debt to tackle but with that weight off your chest it has to bring new forms of even further optimism. Second of all I’m glad I found your site again lol. For some reason I keep losing it always meaning to come back and then forgetting to but I’ve bookmarked it this time! =)
My wife and I are launching an attack against our debts as well. We just bought our very first house yesterday and we are planning and strategizing on removing every piece of debt we can including our combined $20k of student loans. Success stories like this always help give me and I’m sure others a glimmer of hope that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel.
Thank you Adam!
American Debt Project says
Congratulations!! You work so hard and it’s so awesome to see you make so much progress! I hope to join you there next week!!!
Thank you girl! Congrats to you too 🙂
Drop that Debt says
Congratulations Michelle! That is so freaking awesome! I bet it feels wonderful. You worked hard and made it happen. It is pretty motivating for people still on their journey like me. 🙂
Thank you! 🙂
Lisa @ Cents To Save says
Congratulations!! You are one hard working girl!!
Congrats on paying off the student debt! I’ve been gradually paying off mine because it’s at a really low interest rate, like 2.5%, so I haven’t been in a hurry. Once I pay off my car though I will focus on it hardcore.
Thank you! And I wish mine were at 2.5%!
CF @ Outlier Model says
Congratulations! That’s a great achievement and no doubt a huge weight off your shoulders.
I am on track to be paid off in about 1.5 – 2 years. I’d love to be done sooner, but I don’t want to sacrifice my savings and investments.
1.5 to 2 years is great!
I am SO happy you checked out my blog and I was able to follow you back here! I’m about to finish graduate school, and I’ve moved back in with my parents while taking my boards, applying for jobs, etc. Paying off all my student loans is still a pipe dream for me, but I’m working hard on organizing my finances/budgeting so that it will happen someday once I enter into my career field! I’m so happy for you that you’re done with those damn loans! I’ll definitely be reading my way through your blog history for some tips!
Aww thanks Kaitlin!
Well congratulations on paying off your student loans Michelle. I hope that all your dreams come true for your present and future endeavours with your blog. Keep up the good work.
Gary @ Save Money & Live Better says
Congrats Michelle, such a tremendous feat! Paying off student loans is the next step in my journey to being completely debt free and this has been a great inspiration for me.
Thank you Gary!
Coincidently, my husband and I JUST paid off my $35,000+ student loan debt in less than a year. After 7 years of college and graduate school, pouring my first real income into my student loan debt was the last thing I wanted to do. We just celebrated our 1st year of marriage, and the stress of our debt payment plan did not make for a blissful first year.
Your consistent progress updates were always encouraging! Congratulations!!
Wow that is awesome! Great job.
Jefferson @SeeDebtRun says
Michelle, I know you have worked so hard to get here and I congratulate you on your accomplishment! That is just amazing! It will be awesome to watch what you do with the total financial freedom you now have!
Thank you so much!
Many congrats on paying them off and in record time! I really like the route you took to pay off even a couple dollars a few times a month to counter interest, I have a question related to that though-did any of your student loan companies say anything when you do that?
Hey Rebecca! The only time when I would pay just a dollar or less is because I would be paying off the loan in full, but the student loan company would still charge interest for the single day until the payment was actually received.
Does that make sense? A lot of people have had questions on that. That’s just how student loan companies work and it gets annoying!
Jason B says
Congrats. My main goal right now is to pay off my student loans.
I’m so happy for you! I only had about $20k in student loans, but I was super excited when I made my last payment! Hearing other people’s success stories with their debt always motivates me so I linked up to this post in my August goals post. Here’s the post if you’re interested:
Nightvid Cole says
Right now I am just a grad student and due to sequestration cuts it is likely to be much more difficult for the years after school than it would have been, since in my field much of the money comes from federal grants. But as long as I can find a job appropriate for my skill set, I should be able to stay out of debt.
My intention is to continue living with roommates and avoid expensive cars and vacations even when I have enough income that people are going to think I’m weird for it. And postpone buying a house for a time.
When I finally do buy a house, I intend to STILL be debt free 🙂
Nightvid Cole says
At some point, be in a position to buy my first house without borrowing money 🙂
Congrats! I know the feeling of freedom too. It is amazing!!
Christine Berry - Wealth Way Online says
After a few years of denial, I am looking to pay off my student loans. I have quite a lot of money in an emergency fund that would go a long way towards paying my loans off, but especially with the industry my parter and I work in, plus the fact we’re moving overseas I’m going to hold off that for a while.
My goal is to have them paid back by October – and they’re about $31,000 – so wish me luck!
Michelle S. says
Good luck Christine!
I know I’m a year late but what an amazing accomplishment! I dream of the day my student loans will be paid off and the freedom of being able to invest so much more.
I admire the positive outlook you have on life, and that you don’t regret studying and besides you should be proud of your degrees. Congrats on paying off your student loans, michelle!
Joseph Hogue says
Wow, that is inspiring! I am almost 38 and am nowhere near done paying off my college loans. Congrats.
Wondering how you are using that money that you now have that otherwise would have been going to student loan interest.
Thomas @ i need money ASAP! says
Wow Michelle! This is amazing. I’m just reading a few of your old posts and came across this one. It’s amazing how fast you were able to pay off your loans. Definitely an inspiration for many. Must have been a lot of work though 🙂
Chris Martin says
Thank you so much for sharing your story. The fight to pay off student loans is one that hits close to home for me. With a degree in Architecture and 100K+ in loans I wonder how the hell can I pay that down. Like you I diced to share my story.
Rachel R. says
What are your degrees IN, that you’re making that kind of money? We don’t have $38,000 come INTO our household in 7 months, much less have it to spare after food, housing, etc. I’d love to make enough to have something left over after the essentials!
Erin @ Erin's Inside Job says
I have about 200K in student loan debt and had to enter an income based repayment plan. I make so little money that based on my income, I actually owe $0 every month. The interest keeps accruing however, so my total goes up every month. If after 25 years you haven’t paid it back, there is supposed to be loan forgiveness so I was just banking on that, but on some level it makes me feel irresponsible. I am working on building my blog and I wanted to thank you for this post and others because it gives me hope that I can actually make something and start to pay back these loans. That’s my goal!!
Whoah!!! Congratulations! It’s amazing you paid off your debt. I’m going back to uni and i’m trying the crowdfunding way to help with tuition fees. let’s see how it works
Shaquanna Walls says
I would like to know if you are still making money blogging. If so, exactly what do you blog about that has made you money.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
Yes, I do. You can find my latest income report here – http://www.makingsenseofcents.com/category/business-income
Marko Zupanic says
This is probably one of the best articles I have ever read. Your story is amazing. Congratulations 😀
Steve Miller says
Great post, I did not know about SOFI for loan consolidation, thanks for sharing. My son just went through all of his 529 money and we told him he had to get a loan for the rest of his college (we already paid $125k so enough is enough!).
It will be good to know about SOFI once he gets out.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
Thanks Steve! What’s your son going to college for?
Steve Miller says
Food Science. He has changed his major several times so it’s taking him a bit longer than anticipated to get his degree. But I think he is now in the right field, as he is a Vegan and loves everything to do with food.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
I have nearly $40,000 in student loans as well, but no degree to show for it. The goal is to put at least $400/month towards it, plus $4000 of my income tax return. I have also started a blog for side income and I’m looking into work from home opportunities for when I go on maternity leave in May. The goal is to have everything paid off within the next 3 years. Hopefully I can stick to the budget. Thanks for your tips!
1) I still don’t get it how you made over 300K last year. Have explained from where did those money come from? When you make 300K gross income a year, you ar not going to scratch any dime you explained above. You HAVE MONEY, so paying 40.000 USD out of 300.000 + USD is something like 8-9% of the gross income(s).
2) Have you paid your income tax?
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
I explain how I earn a living online in several blog posts. You can find most of them here – https://www.makingsenseofcents.com/extra-income. I publish a monthly income report that provides many details, so nothing is a secret.
Also, I was not earning $300,000 back in 2013 (when I paid off my debt). If you read this post a little more carefully, you’ll see that I have edited it over the years so that it is up-to-date for readers who come across it and are new.
Of course I’ve paid my income tax. Why would you think otherwise?
Kudos to you for paying off your student loans! I just graduated after getting both undergrad and grad degrees and I am super pumped about getting rid of mine! Can’t wait to be financially independent and start building up investments.
Millennial Boss says
I purposely left $1000 in student loans for credit history purposes! My students loans are my longest open account and right now, when I am in grad school, the interest on those loans is deferred. Just a tip for any readers who were late to sign up for credit cards!
I am finding myself feeling deja vu reading through this, although I ran into a speed bump in my plan! I am currently 22 and have my undergrad, masters, and a teaching licensure that was added after the fact. 4.5 years of school is not too bad for all that! I currently have about 48,000 in SL debt and just recently created a plan to get rid of it all and purchase and pay off a new car by the end of 2017. It is a super ambitious plan, and I, like you expect to roll over a few months because a lot can happen in 21 months and I am certain there will be random expenses made that take away from our payments.
My husband just started his own company and therefore did not have an income from Oct-Jan and I just completed by student teaching and therefore did not have an income from Aug-Jan. As you can imagine our credit card debt piled up! Lucky, thanks to a big boost from our tax refund we were able to pay off 6,000+ in the last 2 months and finally have our CC balance at $0! This month I intend to pay off $4,000 of SL debt that is through a private lendor so that I can focus on my fed loans. I am hoping to make substaintial payments toward my fed loans before they come out of grace in June so that I eliminate 2 of my highest interest rates and pay off my current interest so that I don’t end up paying interest on interest! I also really want to start saving for a downpayment on a new vehicle so that I can stop praying my car will start each morning!
Your post has shown me that I am not crazy! Although living without an emergency fund is scary, being out of debt will be worth it. And paying off my loans by the end of 2017 will save me $8,000-35,000 in interest based on the standard repayment plans. $35,000 is a whole vehicle! Brand new!
I also just started a blog, which I have wanted to do for a very long time. Not really as an income source, but mostly just to kind of have a journal of my life. I’d love to learn more about how I can use this as an extra income source and make my goals even more attainable.
CONGRATS! I cannot wait to be done with my debt and feel in control of my money!
Andrew Rocco says
I absolutely know what you mean when you say the huge balance on a student loan can make you want to throw up.
I spent 8 years in college and at the end of it I’m left standing here with over $200,000 in debt.
I have a pretty good paying job but I’m not satisfied with any of the repayment plans. The repayment plan I’m going for is the “Pay It Off As Fast As You Can” plan.
Also a question: With Credible, is it possible to consolidate federal unsubsidized loans?
Sarah | I Heart Frugal says
What an awesome feeling to be debt free! It took me years to pay off my student loans, but as I earned more, it became easier! Congrats on your success!
Thank you for inspiring me to start my blog (again)! I love reading your posts and always look forward to the next one.
Congrats on nailing your students loans off 2 years after you started your side hustle millionaire blogging career Michelle. Hats off to you! 🙂
I stumbled onto your blog not long after I started my own. I love your blog and your inspiration. Thanks a million for all you do! 🙂
My husband and I paid off $65,000 in 2010 in just 17 months by FOCUS, a written plan, side hustles and sheer grit! Getting out of debt is NOT for the pansies!!! Although anyone can do it, it will only belong to those who are seriously determined.
Thanks again Michelle. You are a rock star! 🙂
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
College is a privilege and not a right, at least in this country. I offered to pay (towards) the first 2 years of my kid’s college. I gave them a budget of $10K a year. That only left state universities and community college. I also told them that they had to do the 1st 2 years in Community College and finish to get an AA degree for transfer and whatever was left over, would go to paying for the 3rd year at a 4 year school. I walked them through accessing their major, seeing what jobs that major would get them, setting a budget for AFTER COLLEGE and see if what they invested in their education > how many years it would take to pay off their college investment. This was an eye opener for my kids.
Jay Green says
I’m currently going to through the struggle of paying off debt and I found this post VERY motivating, especially since I’m starting my own blog. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing!
Congratulations on paying your loan.
David Adegbenga Ogunlana says
Yes I need cash
it’s surely a good feeling when you know all that, whether it’s student loan, credit cards, or even a home equity loan or home mortgage is absolutely paid in full. keep that affiliate-blogging-side hustle life going, Michelle. 🙂