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Tales of individuals who have successfully managed to pay off their student loans by their 30s are an enigma to most. However, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner is one such person. She has a personal finance and lifestyle blog called Making Sense of Cents, in which she offers advice to her readers from the perspective of a financial analyst.  One of her most impressive accomplishments is her ability to successfully pay off $38,000 of student debt in 7 months. Through her blog, she documents her experience, tracks her progress, and provides financial advice for her readers on how they can successfully pay off their student debt too.

Michelle’s tips seem relatively straightforward and rather minuscule, but she is living proof that cutting a couple of dollars here and there can end up saving tons of money.  She suggests the first step should be to sit down and actually figure out the total amount of student loan debt to the exact penny. Michelle said after she added up each loan she was shocked at the amount she owed. However, she found it to be a good source of motivation and believes most people will agree. There is a free personal financial dashboard called Personal Capital, which comes highly recommend as a way to aggregate financial accounts and easily manage them.

In order to create the best repayment plan, it’s important for individuals to do some research and come to understand their loans. The second step outlined in Michelle’s blog is to research interest rates, student loan reimbursements, and auto-payments. These features differ depending on the lender and employer, but it can’t hurt to look into it. Firstly, figuring out the loan’s interest rate and type—fixed or variable—might impact the repayment plan course of action. Secondly, some employers will offer partial or full reimbursements for student loans with certain terms and conditions. Student borrowers who are able to take advantage of this feature will benefit immensely. Lastly, auto-payments are a feature offered by your lender. Auto-pay might qualify debtors for a discount or a lower interest rate.

However, none of these repayment plans would be possible without establishing a budget. According to Making Sense of Cents, creating a budget is the third and most important step. Michelle suggests the best way to do this is to make a spreadsheet that first includes an individual’s actual income (after taxes) and expenses for each month. After tallying the costs, this will give an accurate summary of what’s leftover each month, and from there, borrowers will be able to determine what they can afford to put towards their student loan debt.

Besides budgeting, another important step is to cut expenses in order to free up some extra money. Having more money available to go towards student loan debt will result in a better student loan repayment plan. It would be wise to go through the budget that was just created and see if there is any fluff that can be cut. Examples of expenses that can be cut or lowered are switching cell phone companies, no longer using ATM’s those charge fees, cutting cable/satellite/Hulu/etc. and buy an antenna for free TV, shop on sites like Ebates and get rebates, deals, promo codes, and discounts, pay bills on time to avoid late fees, save money on food, save money on fuel, trade in a car for a cheaper one, live in a cheaper home, be more thrifty on entertainment, DIY projects, and utilize coupons for everything.

Earning extra income to enhance the monthly student loan payments might be simpler than it sounds. Michelle identifies the strategies she used to bring in more income and revealed that she ended her upbringing with an extra $11,000 the month she paid off her loans. There are many ways to earn extra income, which include finding a part-time job, starting a blog, selling stuff, renting out an extra room in a house, answering surveys*, and investing. A couple more avenues are to test websites and surf the web using Digital Voice. There are lots of ways to earn extra money from home, just get creative with it and do it during downtime.

The culmination of all of these steps should make it possible to pay more than the minimum monthly payments on student loans. Paying more than the minimum is the last step and will speed up the student loan repayment plan process. The best piece of advice to take away from this article is to put as much money as realistically possible into the student loan payments and that will help shave off years of payments and tons of money in interest.


Student loan debt has reached an all-time high, and according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the total amounts to around $1.2 trillion. Goodbye Loans can help determine if you qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness.

Goodbye Loans matches thousands of graduates with federal programs that are offered by The Department of Education to consolidate and lower their current Federal student loans. We help you take advantage of the latest regulations put in place by Congress and President Obama and potentially save thousands of dollars. Debt is hard to ignore. When you’re staring down a ballooning credit card balance and fending off insistent phone calls from angry creditors, it can be an all-consuming enemy.



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