3 Takeaways from Student Loan Debt Stories on Reddit
Stories about people successfully getting out of student loan debt offers motivation for others to do the same. That’s why we took to Reddit.
Everyone’s journey to becoming debt-free is different, but lessons are often similar! We found inspirational stories on Reddit from individuals who dug their way out of crushing debt. Let’s dive into how these Reddit commenters paid off their student loans, and the top takeaways from each.
- Spend less than you make. Use the leftover money at the end of the month for student loan payoff.
- Increase your monthly income through things like salary negotiations and side hustles. Add extra money toward your student loan debt.
- Create a budget to plan/track income and expenses. You can then dedicate a specific amount of money toward your student loans each month.
1. Live well below your means.
Spend less than you make. Use the leftover money at the end of the month for student loan payoff. For one Reddit commenter, this meant cutting back on expenses.
This individual went from a negative $90K net worth to a $100K net worth in three years with only $12K left to go in student loans.
“I live within my means,” the commenter says. “My vacations are back home to NY to see family and friends. My hobbies are simple and inexpensive (except for a ski weekend or two).” The commenter resides in the expensive city of San Francisco but lives in a rent-controlled apartment with two roommates for $1200 per month.
With this intentional strategy, the Reddit commenter is almost to the finish line with student debt payoff and creating successful financial habits at the same time.
Tip: Track how much you make vs. how much you spend each month. We recommend creating a spreadsheet and looking at your bank statements from the past three months. Use this spending information to decide where you can cut back.
Especially when you’re in a lot of debt, make sure you’re not overspending on things like
- Monthly subscriptions
- Phone bill
Ask yourself, “Do I really need to spend this much on “X” spending category?” For example, could you spend less on rent by living with your parents or more roommates for a few years? Could you trade in your car for something cheaper that saves on gas?
For Entertainment, do you need Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus? Consider cutting back to one streaming subscription or splitting the cost of one subscription with a friend.
Once you’ve cut back as much as you can on each spending category, determine how much more money you can contribute toward your student loans.
Related: 3 Steps to Avoid Lifestyle Inflation
2. Increase your income through side jobs or hustles.
Cutting back on expenses is necessary. But you can only reduce expenses by so much. It’s crucial to also increase your income. Contribute extra money made to pay off loans.
This is the story for one Reddit commenter. “I owed almost $150k in student loans but, having been a saver and worker for years, I’m now down to the last $15K (federal, holding payment until forbearance ends).”
The commenter worked as many as three jobs at a time, and increased income over time – $50K for two years, $72K for one year, and now one job making $90K per year.
The commenter combined increased income and decreased expenses to pay off so much debt. This individual isn’t living in total deprivation, but also not overspending on things like unnecessary trips or a new phone.
Another commenter, ConwayKelly, paid off $200K in three year. This commenter sums up increased income perfectly. “People love to act like paying off debt is all about budgeting and cutting things out of your life, but at some point, there is nothing left to cut.”
Tip: ConwayKelly continues, “Focus on increasing your income in any way you can. That’s the key. Change jobs, get promoted, get a side hustle, whatever you have to do and this will be over quicker than you know it.”
Here are a few side hustle ideas:
- Become a freelancer on Upwork (e.g., writing)
- Sell items on Facebook Marketplace or eBay
- Offer tutoring services on platforms like Verbling
- Create an online course on a specific topic
- Become a house or pet sitter
Even if you can only dedicate one hour per day toward a side hustle, every dollar earned can help with debt payoff!
3. Create and follow a budget that you’ll stick to.
Also called a spending plan, a budget helps you plan/track income and expenses. You can then dedicate a specific amount of money toward your student loans each month.
Hannah Lee on Reddit graduated with $81K in student loan debt and a $72K salary in 2018. Thanks to dedicated budgeting, she’s paid off almost $20K in student loans. Hannah has also paid off
- $23K in auto loans,
- $5K in credit card debt, and
- has $70K in retirement and investment accounts.
Her current salary is $93K.
“I don’t eat rice and beans. I still have one vacation/year,” she says. “It’s all about budgeting. And I don’t live a lavish lifestyle. My biggest spending is housing and food. I have minimal cost for subscriptions and utilities.”
Tip: Create a budget, but one that works for you. Otherwise, you won’t follow it. We recommend the 50/30/20 budget. This budget means that you allocate 50% of your money for needs (e.g., rent), 30% for wants (e.g., eating out), and 20% for savings or paying off debt. Check out our free 50/30/20 budget here.
But again, the right budget will depend on you and what you feel comfortable with.
Dedicate a specific amount of money toward your student loans within your budget each month.
Also, your budget shouldn’t be stagnant. It’s a live tool. Revisit your budget as you increase your income. Determine how much more you can pay off on your student loans. Plan to pay more than the minimum payment amount, and consider adding extra money such as from tax returns straight to your loans.
Related: 5 Top Tools to Automate Your Budget
Use these student loan debt stories on Reddit as motivation
As you can see from these student loan debt stories on Reddit, getting out of debt is possible! Another common factor to these stories is that, while these readers were getting out of debt, they also found ways to still enjoy life.
Paying off student loans doesn’t have to mean living on Ramen and unscrewing light bulbs to save energy. Be intentional with your payments, while also doing things you love such as planning an inexpensive weekend trip once a month. This helps you stay motivated and make payoff progress.
Here are a few extra ways to get out of student loan debt:
- Consolidate your federal loans to make them easier to manage.
- Use an app like Qoins to ensure extra change goes toward loan payoff.
- Make your payments automatic so you never miss a payment.
And remember – a little payoff progress is better than no progress at all! Even an extra $20 toward your monthly payments each month can make a difference in eliminating your student loan debt.
Want to learn more about getting out of debt? Take the Get Out Of Debt Fast—A Proven Plan to Stay Debt-Free Forever course on Udemy to learn proven debt payment strategies. Check out the course here.