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I paid off my $55,000 student loan debt, and here’s how

Three years and four months ago, I was a janitor, a night web content producer and an adjunct. And I raised a litter of puppies and kept my dream endeavor alive.

At the same time.

The catalyst for that craziness is nuanced. It was mid-2013 and I sat at my mom’s dining room table and called my student loan people. I talked to Bob, an older gentleman.

I asked him how I could pay for groceries and make my student loan payment.

Something had to give.

In the years since I graduated college in 2006 and 2008, I’d had a meandering journey with my student loan debt – a heap of what became about $55,000 after deferment, forbearance and income-repayment plans. At one point, my payments were less than $30 a month. It was helpful then when I was one of the primary financial providers for a parent and siblings.

I told myself my student loans were an investment in myself and that they (and their accompanying interest) was a fact of an educated life.

Until I decided I would pay them off.

In an accelerated fashion.

Which I’ve accomplished.


And if you want to know how I did it, keep reading.

First Step: I reduced my living expenses

I lived in a travel trailer with my mom and two dogs for almost two years. Our rent (combined) was $500, including utilities. We split it down the middle: $250/month.

When I researched this idea of living in a travel trailer, I looked on Craigslist and the first posting was an RV for rent on six acres. A couple of days later, we signed the lease. (Sometimes it’s just that simple.)

We liked the experience so much that when the RV’s owner moved back, I bought my own RV off Craigslist, renovated it, and we lived in that one on the same six acres with our landlady a couple hundred feet away.

Second Step: I paid off smaller debts, then snowballed

Early on in my adulthood, I made mistakes with credit cards, so during the time that my monthly rent/utilities was $250, I slammed money into paying off those lesser debts. Once those were paid off, I snowballed funds into larger student loan payments.

Third Step: I looked for ways to simplify

How much more simple could life be – I was living in an RV, afterall. But I decided to look again at my expenses and see what could be whittled away. Ahhh, DirecTV. I divorced it. My eyeglasses – a necessity –  but I found cost-effective ways to purchase them.

This idea of simplification is something I come back to regularly. Why pay more than $100 a month for a cellphone plan, when there are $35-a-month plans that provide me the exact same thing?

When I needed a bookcase, I built one from scrap lumber in a burn pile.

When I needed a fence, I built one using free pallets that I hauled and assembled.

When I needed larger items, I looked on Craigslist first. (OK, I still do that.)

When I needed a new car, I bought one that was 10 years old and paid it off in 11 months.

Fourth Step: I said yes, and I hustled

In my quest to simultaneously unravel 10-year-old mistakes and pursue my current passions, I’ve said yes to varying responsibilities over the last 3.5 years.


  • Raised puppies
  • Scrubbed office toilets as a night janitor
  • Been a nighttime web content producer
  • Transcribed 15 hours of interviews from a personal injury law firm on the east coast
  • Edited stories written by techies for a training center in California
  • Managed corporate social media accounts
  • Written a book
  • Taught as an adjunct (and later full time)
  • Built my own media enterprise
  • Taken on course overloads
  • Created a role in a nonprofit

Fifth Step: I kept my eye on the goal

Despite my steady increase in income, I kept my lifestyle (mostly) the same and shoveled money to my student loans. Once I realized that paying them off was a real possibility (not to mention the amount of money I’d save in interest, thanks to the math done by my husband), I never lost sight of the end goal – freedom from debtors and the ability to spend my dollars the way I choose to.

And now, here we are.

Today.  Balance due: $0.00

Published in work


  1. Jan Seifert Jan Seifert

    Awesome! You must have been very disciplined to stick to it the way you did. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling? Thank you, Holly for sharing!!

  2. Holly! This is incredible. i am trying to do the same thing. Your post has given me so much fodder to think about. Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing!!

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