How I Paid Off $40,000 In Student Loans in 7 Months

Want to learn how to pay off student loans? With my student loan repayment plan, I was able to pay off $40,000 in student loan debt in 7 months! One of the best ways to save money is to finally get rid of those pesky loans that are hurting your financial situation. Learning how to…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: January 17, 2024

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

Want to learn how to pay off student loans? With my student loan repayment plan, I was able to pay off $40,000 in student loan debt in 7 months!Want to learn how to pay off student loans? With my student loan repayment plan, I was able to pay off $40,000 in student loan debt in 7 months! One of the best ways to save money is to finally get rid of those pesky loans that are hurting your financial situation.

Learning how to pay off student loans can lead to many positives, such as:

  • You may finally feel less financial stress.
  • You may be able to use that money towards something more important, such as saving for retirement.
  • Getting rid of your student loans may allow you to pursue other goals in life, such as traveling more or looking for a better job.

I know these things are true because learning how to pay off my student loans is one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.

No, it wasn’t easy to pay off my student loans that quickly, but it was definitely worth it. No longer having those monthly payments hanging over my head is a HUGE relief, and it allowed me to eventually leave my day job and travel full-time.

Related posts on how to pay off student loans:

How to pay off student loans and create a great student loan repayment plan:

 

Total how much student loan debt you have.

The very first thing that I recommend you do if you want to learn how to pay off student loans is to add up the total amount of student loans that you have.

When you total your student loans, do not just estimate how much student loan debt you have.

You should actually pull up each student loan and tally everything, down to the penny. By doing so, you will have a much more realistic view of exactly how much you’re dealing with.

Plus, the average person has no idea how much student loan debt they have! Usually, they have far more than they originally thought.

 

Understand your student loans better.

There are many people who simply do not understand their student loans. There are many things to research so that you can create the best student loan repayment plan, and this will also help you understand your loans and interest rates.

You should understand:

  • 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.
  • What a monthly payment means. Many people believe that a monthly payment is all that you have to pay, are allowed to pay, or that by paying just the minimum monthly payment you won’t owe any interest. These three things are so incorrect! Even if you pay the minimum monthly payment, you will most likely still owe interest charges (unless your interest rate is 0% – but that is very unlikely with student loans).
  • 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 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-payment plans. 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 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 also connect accounts, such as your mortgage, bank accounts, credit card accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and more. Plus, it’s FREE.

 

Determine if refinancing your student loans is right for you.

Student loan refinancing is when you apply for a new loan that is then used to pay off your other student loans. This may be a good option if your credit history or credit score is better than when you originally took out your student loans.

By refinancing your student loans, you may qualify for better repayment terms, a lower interest rate, and more. This is great because it may help you pay off your student loans quicker.

The positives of refinancing student loans include:

  • One monthly payment to simplify your finances.
  • Lower monthly payments.
  • Lower interest rates, and more.

Some companies, like Credible, allow you to refinance your federal student loans as well as your private student loans into one. On average, refinancing can save you thousands of dollars on your loan, which is amazing!

However, before refinancing a federal student loan, you will want to think about different federal benefits that you may be giving up. You may give up income-based repayment plans and loan forgiveness for those who have certain public service jobs (such as jobs at public schools, the military, Peace Corps, and more). By refinancing federal student loans, you are giving up any future option to these.

 

Reduce your interest rate for your student loan repayment plan.

As I stated earlier, if you automatically pay your student loans each month or consolidate them, then sometimes you can get an interest rate reduction.

With Sallie Mae, I believe the reduction is 0.25%.

That may not seem significant, but it is something! Remember, every little bit counts when it comes to having a good student loan repayment plan.

 

Create the best budget.

If you don’t have one already, then you should create a budget immediately. This will help you learn how to pay off student loans as you’ll learn how to manage your money better.

Budgets are great, because they keep you mindful of your income and expenses. With a budget, you will know exactly how much you can spend in a category each month, how much you have to work with, what spending areas need to be evaluated, among other things.

Learn more at How To Create a Budget That Works.

 

Look for more ways to earn money.

Making extra money can allow you to pay off your students loans quickly because there is no limit to how much money you can make.

Finding ways to make extra money is how I was able to pay off my student loans so quickly!

And trust me, you probably do have time in your day to make extra money.

Just think about it: The average person watches 35 hours of TV a week and spends around 15 hours a week on social media. If you could use that time better and make more money with those extra hours, you’ll be able to pay off your student loans in no time!

Here are some ways to make more money so that you can learn how to pay off student loans:

  • Start a blog. Blogging is how I make a living and just a few years ago I never thought it would be possible. I earn around $100,000 a month through blogging. 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.
  • Start a business. There are many business ideas that you could start in order to make extra money.
  • 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.
  • Rent an extra room in your home. If you have extra space in your house, then you may want to rent it out. Read A Complete Guide To Renting A Room For Extra Money.
  • Answer surveys. Survey companies I recommend include Swagbucks, 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.
  • 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.

Related articles that will help you learn how to pay off student loans:

 

How to pay off your student loans – Find ways to reduce your expenses.

The next step is to cut your budget so that you can have a faster student loan repayment plan. Even though you may have 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 you’re wasting your money on.

Until you write it down in your budget, you may not realize how much money you are wasting on things you don’t need. And, remember, it’s never too late to start trimming your budget and to put your money towards important things like paying off student loans!

Even if all you can cut is $100 each month, that is better than nothing. That’s $1,200 a year right there!

Some expenses you may be able to cut include:

  • Lower your cell phone bill. Instead of paying the $150 or more that you currently spend on your cell phone bill, there are companies out there like Republic Wireless that offer cell phone service starting at $15. YES, I SAID $15! 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. If you are interested in hearing more, I created a full review on Republic Wireless. I’ve been using them for over a year and they are great.
  • ATM fees. You don’t need to pay ATM fees, but for some reason so many people do!
  • Sign up for a website like Ebates where you can earn CASH BACK for spending how you normally would online. The service is free too! Plus, when you sign up through my link, you also receive a free $10 cash back!
  • 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. The last time we were shopping for car insurance, we found that our old company wanted something like $205 to insure one car for one month, whereas the 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) and they send meal plans straight to you along with the exact shopping list you need in order to create the meals. Each meal costs around $2 or less per person. 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 that you need to 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.

 

See if your employer will reimburse your student loan debt.

Some companies will pay your student loans quickly if you work for them. I even know of someone who receives a $2 bonus for each hour that she works to put towards her student loans.

$2 may not seem like a lot, but if you work full-time, then that’s over $300 a month. $300 a month for student loans is a good amount! And, because it’s free money, it can all be put towards paying off your student loans quickly.

 

Create a plan to pay off your student loans.

After you have completed the steps above, you’ll want to put it all together and create a plan.

Without a plan, you would just be all over the place, making it difficult to reach your goal of learning how to pay off student loans.

You should create a plan that details the steps you need in order to pay off your student loans, what will happen as you reach each step, when and how you will track your progress, and more.

Being detailed with your plan will help you reach your goal and become successful.

 

Stay motivated with your student loan repayment plan.

Finding motivation can be a hard task for anyone. Motivation is important because it can help you keep your eye on the goal even when you want to quit. Motivation will help you continue to work hard towards your goal, even when it seems impossible. Motivation is what keeps you going so that you do not quit.

Yes, student loan repayment methods can seem very stressful when you think about it. Many people owe thousands and thousands in student loans.

And, no matter how young or old you are, learning how to pay off student loans can seem difficult or even near impossible. However, think about your goal and how good life will be once all of your student loan debt is gone.

Please try to not let your student loans get you down. Think positively and attack that debt so that you can pay off your student loans fast!

Trust me, once you finally pay off those pesky student loans, you’ll be happier than ever!

 

Pay more than the minimum if you want to learn how to pay off student loans!

The point of what I’ve written 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 speeding up your student loan repayment process is that you will need to pay more than the minimum each month.

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!

What other ways can a person learn how to pay off student loans? What’s your student loan repayment plan?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. My wife and I had over $100K in student loan debt when we graduated and got married. It’s definitely a huge burden on becoming financially independent. It took a lot of the tips you highlighted above to finally shed all that debt. The faster people get rid of it, the quicker they’ll be able to use those savings to build wealth. Lots of original ideas in this post!

    1. All of that debt is gone now, I’m assuming? If so, great job!

  2. Mrs. BITA

    I was lucky enough to have my parents pay for college (4 years of a computer science degree for $3200 in India). I think back to how financially irresponsible I was when I graduated college and I am filled with admiration for those of you who managed to kick down such enormous debt when you were still so young. Well done!

    1. Stephen

      I had a similar situation, terrible habits in university and some carried over but now I’ve got my finances locked down and am doing great

  3. You briefly mentioned loss of benefits when refinancing federal student loans.
    Thank you for including this section, often this truth is lost. In addition to income-based repayment and forgiveness, borrowers will also lose access for forbearance.

    Forbearance allows you to temporarily postpone making your federal student loan payments or to temporarily reduce the amount you pay

    1. Thanks for adding to that. Great advice!

  4. Financial Panther

    This is a terrific roadmap, and really, was exactly what I did to pay off my student loans fast as well. The key really is getting that gap between income and expenses as high as possible. Side hustling is a great way to increase that gap because there’s no limit to what you can bring in side hustling. Plus, if you’re doing fine with what your regular income is, that means that every extra dollar you bring in can be put right towards your student loans. It’s not that hard to make a few thousand bucks in a year on the side, especially considering all of the ways to make money these days.

    1. Thank you so much! 🙂

      How much student loan debt did you have, if you don’t mind me asking?

      1. Financial Panther

        Hey Michelle,

        I graduated law school with $87,000 of student loan debt. Ended up paying it all back in 2.5 years through a combination of side hustling, living frugally, and mainly, avoiding lifestyle inflation.

  5. Will

    Something that helped us (and is still helping us) is the budget program You Need A Budget. It has really helped my wife and I tracked down the leaky places in our budget because every dollar gets assigned to something.

    1. I’ve heard great things about YNAB 🙂

  6. I think a lot of people don’t really understand student loans and don’t think about how they have to pay them back later. There are more affordable options of going to school – such as starting with community college.

  7. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    These are AWESOME ideas. We’re paying off our $60,000 student loans in 18 months. In fact, the ones in my name should be finished in May. Hollahhhh!!

    It wouldn’t have been possible without eliminating a car payment, $14,000 of credit card debt, and halving our grocery expenses from $1,000/mo to $500/mo. It’s doable, y’all!

  8. Just think! These days you could pay that off in a month…or better yet…not have to take any at all! 40k is actually a pretty reasonable amount. I had less student loans than anyone I know. Thanks goodness!! BUT, it took me ten years to pay off.

    1. Good job on paying them off though!

  9. Erica Holland

    Love this post, Michelle. Such important and relevant content, and your advice is always sound!

  10. Ismael Brown

    Loans, oh I am sick of paying that every month!

    1. When do you think you’ll be able to pay yours off?

  11. Congratulations. That is really a big sum in 7 months. Great article. Good tips also – I will check my expenses in the next days and will reduce it, wherever possible. Thanks for this!

  12. Thanks! It’s crazy to think that I paid them off over 3 years ago.

  13. I think more should be done to educate people on exactly how a student will effect them in later life. When you’re young and have faith in your career choice, you tend not to think about the amount of debt you’re putting yourself in. Young people by their nature have that “deal with it later” attitude but for some being lumbered with a huge student loan debt can leave them with pretty much no spare income to have any sort of life outside paying their debts. Loans of any type seem affordable at the time but when those repayments start being made and you’re left struggling to make ends meet it’s a very different story.

    1. Yes, more people need to think about repaying the debt!

  14. I also once was a student and took a loan for my higher studies. I was really tough for me to pay off those loans due to the unemployment. Then I started working from home and step-by-step, I paid off my student loan. This is a good read and will guide students to pay off their student loans.

  15. Lisa

    I would also add that if you plan on paying extra each month, make sure it’s actually going to principal. A lot of student loan companies will just apply your overage payments to the next month’s payment.

  16. Denell

    hi Michelle,

    i have about $42,000 student loans. I have a pier diem job. Can you tell me the steps I should take pay off my loans. Also, would you prefer I should pay off my student interest first?

  17. It’s reported that students in the UK now leave university with a whopping £40k of debt. The only saving grace is that you don’t make repayments until you earn at least £21,000 – the downside is that it’s going to take a lot of years to clear it off at that level of salary, and with an extra 9% on top of tax and national insurance, it’s doesn’t leave a lot left to fund the important things – such as a place to live.

  18. Kim

    You earn $100K per MONTH blogging? I’m definitely in the wrong field lol.

  19. Rich

    I am 46 and plagued with student debt that I will probably die with. I am trying everything listed here and other sites. It takes time and patience. My biggest mistake was using the grace period and not taking advantage of extra payments when I was single. I cannot imagine a day I am not paying Navient. I did find a fun way to try to shortcut the system a little. I know this sounds like a sales pitch but it is not. It is a crowdsourcing model that has a community of trivia players who play to pay off a loan one person at a time. Anyway, it is legit otherwise I would not be on it. Yes it takes patience but at least it is fun and you are helping others while you work for your turn. If you try out Givling, I would appreciate it if you use invite code RB472085. You dont have to use it but it will help me move up the queue. Hope to see you all there and good luck. Thanks.