Student Loan Debt Sucks But It Can Be Destroyed

student loan debtWhen my wife graduated from college with her four year nursing degree in 2011 she graduated with over $80,000 in student loan debt. It was a heavy burden for both my wife (girlfriend at the time) and myself. We knew it was a ton of debt and that it’d likely take a super long time to pay off.

Back then our minimum payments were right around $700 a month which was a ton of money. In fact, it was even more than our first ever house payment. We knew we wouldn’t want to pay that debt off for over a decade or longer, so instead of wallowing in our sorrows of our massive debt load we made a plan to pay it off as quick as possible.

Made A Budget

The first thing we did was make a budget. Since we weren’t married at the time, we actually made two budgets, one for myself and one for my wife. Our budget was pretty strict but it was in line with our #1 financial goal of destroying her student loan debt.

Any money that we ran into, whether it was a cash gift or our paycheck, that wasn’t in our budgeted spending got put immediately to pay off my wife’s student loans. The surplus in my budget got put into a savings account to pay her loans down once we got married. Sometimes we’d make as many as four payments to her highest interest rate student loan in one month!

Unfortunately, with just the income from our jobs it would still take many years to pay off the massive amount of student loan debt so we looked at ways to speed up the process. We found a couple ways to make more income that ended up helping us out a ton.

Finding Extra Income

We wanted the debt gone and the quickest way to pay more money toward that debt was to find extra income. Once Tori finally got a job we had her base income to put toward the student loan debt. I already had a job, but I was a salaried employee so I couldn’t work extra hours to earn more money.

Tori, however, was an hourly worked which meant she could pick up extra shifts at work to earn some more money. On top of that, if she worked over 80 hours in a pay period she earned overtime at 1.5 time her base pay which was pretty sweet. Tori picked up extra shifts when she could and we put all of the extra money toward extra student loan payments.

I wanted to help in the debt pay off journey, so I brainstormed some ways to earn some extra money. I got a new job that resulted in a higher salary and less hours which was pretty sweet. Working less allowed me to start doing something I had always wanted to do, start a blog.

I never thought it’d end up making money from my blog, but with a lot of hard work and a bit of luck we started making money! It was exciting because it meant I had found a way to contribute toward paying down the student loan debt.

Both sticking to our budget and finding extra income helped us to pay off Tori’s debt very quickly. In fact, we managed to finish paying off her student loans this year in less than 3 years total!

Did you graduate with ton of student loan debt, or did you graduate debt free like I did? Either way, I’d love to hear your stories about your money adventures. Shoot me an email (adventuringdollars at gmail dot com) or leave a comment below!

Photo courtesy of jscreationzs via

About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern is the founder of Adventuring Dollars and Money Manifesto. He has a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license from the Commonwealth of Virginia. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. I graduated from undergrad debt free but after grad school I owed about $30,000 and what a difference in your outlook it makes! I felt like I could pretty much do anything after I finished my B.A. and I felt like I was drowning and trapped in any job that would take me after getting my M.A.

    I managed to pay it off in 2.5 years, but even that required a lot of lifestyle sacrifices (I worked for a cruise line and then the circus, so room and board were covered and I could pretty much just turn over every paycheck).

  2. Hello Mr.Cothern,
    I just read your article and it hit home with what my husband and I are going through. I am a school teacher who has about 10k worth of student loans. When I went to college, I chose a small state college and my parents always reminded me that my actions at school were an investment. If I changed my major and had to attend college longer, it would cost me. If I partied too much and my grades reflected this , I would have to take more classes to raise my GPA. I understood that college was costly. My husband on the other hand attended a private college after completing his undergraduate degree, he went to law school. He attended law school for a year and decided that it was not in the stars for him to be a lawyer so then he went to another college to become an elementary teacher. Once he graduated with that certification , he attended (and just graduated) graduate school as a Speech Language Pathologist. Anyhow his educational journey has cost him over 100k and has put a lot of stress on our marriage. We are the proud new parents of a 4 month old little boy and each dollar of that 100k that we must pay back feels like we are taking from his future. Do you have any ideas for us and how to help relieve some of our financial stress? Thank you so mixh!

    • lcothern says:

      Hi Nicole,

      Just saw your comment. Unfortunately you’ll have to pay the debt back sooner or later. The sooner you pay it back the less you’ll pay in interest. That’s why my wife and I paid her student loans off as fast as we did. We cut our spending back as low as we could and tried to earn extra money, both at work and doing side projects.

      Good luck paying off your debt! It can be done!


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