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Student loans: $30,000 paid off in 9 months


In June 2011, my husband (Dave) and I made our first payment toward my $30,000 of student loans. In March 2012, just nine months later, we made the last payment and celebrated becoming 100% debt free! Friends, family members, and my readers asked how we did it so quickly, so I thought I’d share some of the main contributors that helped us demolish our debt.


I attended Michigan State University to become a Registered Dietitian. My three sisters and I did not have to pay a penny for our first year of college since our parents committed to paying it for us. I didn’t think twice about taking out loans since they were just numbers on paper, so I racked up $30,000 to cover my last three years. It would have been $24k more but I was a mentor/RA in the dorms and saved $8,000 a year since I got housing and a meal plan for free- one of the best decisions I made in college! Dave’s parents had saved up and paid for his degree in mechanical engineering, so my student loans were our only debt when we got married after I graduated in May 2010.

How did we do it?

To put it simply- we kept living like broke college students. We read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover as part of our pre-marital counseling and set up a budget using Microsoft Excel. We made a goal to pay off my student loans in a year because we both agreed we wouldn’t be as motivated to tackle our debt if our goal was any longer than one year. As for the specifics…

We share a car

We chose the one-bedroom apartment we currently live in because it’s right next door to Dave’s work. He walks and I take the car for my job. Our apartment is also a short jog away from Dave’s gym and a grocery store, so that also cuts down on gas.


No TV means no cable bill. Our local library has a great selection of movies we rent for free and watch on the laptop. We can watch most TV shows on and occasionally mooch off of my parents’ Netflix account.

No air conditioning

It got over 100 degrees last week in Southeast Michigan! Our apartment also faces West so it turns into an oven just as we are getting home from work. We’ve dealt with the heat by keeping the blinds closed, not using the oven/stove during the day, and open the windows at night so our box fans pull in the cool air. Occasionally we bring our mattress in the living room and sleep on the floor! Our monthly electric bill has not been over $25.

We kept the dumb phones

We’ve never had smart phones, so I’m glad I didn’t have to feel the pain of downgrading even though it is annoying not having luxuries like a GPS at our fingertips. My dad’s employer provides a great discount through Verizon, so we added Dave to the family plan and write my parents a quarterly check to cover the upcoming 3 months.

Family freebies

Dave interviewed with companies all over the country but thankfully he got an offer from his top choice in Michigan! We now live 40 minutes from my parents and 2.5 hours from Dave’s. About once a month, we bring our loads of dirty laundry to my parents and spend the day with them. Sure it costs $10 in gas to drive to and from my parents but we end up bringing about 8 loads of laundry each time which would have cost $24 to do since the washer and dryer in our apartment building are both $1.50 per load. We do buy our own laundry detergent so we’re not complete moochers! On top of this, my mom loves to feed Dave so she always makes a delicious dinner and sends us home with plenty of leftovers.

So where’s the money going now?

Now that loans are paid off, we’ve reallocated that monthly payment to different categories. We increased our entertainment budget from $40 to $100 per month, bumped up our tithe to 15% of our gross income, added a budget for some new clothes, and put the rest of that monthly payment chunk toward a 6-month emergency fund. Our last two goals we’ll be working on in 2012 is saving for a new(ish) car and a home sweet home. We love being debt free and seeing our money work for us instead of flushing it away each month!

Do you have any debt you’re working on paying off? What tips and tricks do you use to demolish debt sooner?

This has been a guest post from Jessica. She is a Registered Dietitian and shares practical, useful tips on food, fitness, and finance. Be sure to subscribe to her blog, Budget For Health.



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. Congrats! And welcome to the world of the debt free 🙂 I didn’t know that your husband is a fellow mechanical engineer. Is he shooting for a P.E. license?

    • We’re only our first year into our careers, so he just passed his FE/EIT exam last October. He’s a couple years away from being eligible to take the PE exam but plans on taking it. I love being married to an engiNERD 😉

  2. Congratulations! I guess this can be an inspiration for all of us.. A lot of people have debts and I am sure this is a help..

  3. Congrats on paying your loans off! I bet it is a great feeling. Best of luck to you with your savings goals. Hopefully you reach them just as fast.

    • Thanks! It was funny how excited our countdown was (“YEAH 2 months till we’re debt free!”) and then when we finally submitted the final payment it was more of a “woo, sweet.” I was hoping for fireworks to go off and Dave Ramsey to show up at our door, but nevertheless we were still relieved to have paid off debt!

  4. An excellent example of how buckling down and being serious about a goal pays off. Many congrats!

  5. You both showed great determination and it paid off well. And you spent time with both of your families – a bonus!

    • I do love that part. Now would have been the best time to move away and experience life in another state since we don’t have any kids but I’m grateful we ended up in Michigan and close to family.

  6. That’s a cool think to post. You should be proud of all your hard work.

    • Thanks Jai, I think finishing Insanity is quite the accomplishment too! Dave and I did P90x for a couple months and it kicked my butt.

  7. I use a dumb phone too. I’m sure I’ll upgrade one day, like when the service is faster and the price is cheaper. I have a $10K investment loan I’m going to pay off in one year. Congrats paying off so much and becoming debt free. Now just watch your savings grow.

    • I think we might get a cheap GPS off Craigslist because that’s the most frustrating part about not having a smart phone. We travel to new places often and Google Maps can only do so much when you hit detours!

  8. Wow, I am impressed! You did not mention what you are doing for savings for retirement. Allocate some of those funds to that too. Congratulations.

  9. Good point, I did miss that. Dave has a 401k through work, I have a pension plan (not that great) through the health department, and we’re about to open a Roth IRA for both Dave and myself this month (not sure where-recommendations??). We’ll max out at least one for sure. It comes out to 15% going toward savings.

  10. That is so cool and I’m glad you mentioned tithing as well.

    It’s good inspiration to see a goal and tackle it, writes the woman who’s almost done paying off her college student loans — 22 years after I graduated!

  11. Way to go – paying off $30,000 in less than a year is impressive! It’s great that you didn’t fall into lifestyle inflation in order to take down your debt. A 6 month EF should be no trouble for you.

    • Thanks! We wanted that debt out of here ASAP- I have a few friends who have much nicer things than us but will be paying the minimum payment forever which will result in 3x or more the initial amount the took out! We finished off the 6 month ER in March and thanks to a 3rd paycheck in June we now have $1,000 toward the car and $2,000 toward the home 🙂

  12. Awesome accomplishment! We’re on the verge of paying off my student loans…about half the size of yours, and also in about 9 months. I’m the accountant of the household, so I’m tracking our net worth (finally in the black!), and I’ll be refocusing our efforts on our other debts. We’re a long way from debt-free, but the further we get into the black, the happier I get!

  13. An AMAZING story!

    Did you and your husband do anything special to celebrate your accomplishment of paying off the loans?

    • Thank you! Dave’s sister is getting married in Ireland this August, so the amount we had to save and spend for that trip is going to be our celebration! Other than that, ice cream of course 🙂

  14. That’s an impressive accomplishment! I’m working on paying off my student loans and setting a goal of 3 years. I should be able to make that!

    • Thank you. Did you come up with 3 years based off the montly payment you plan to make? It helped deciding a set payment we’d make each month and then throwing any additional income toward the loans as well. I’m glad to hear you’ll be tackling debt!

  15. This is a feat to be celebrated, I don’t know how you were able to support 1 year with so many services people take for granted. Congrats!

    • I was pretty good at being a broke college student, so I just used my learned skills to find cheap entertainment and budget wisely 🙂 It’s helped keep my priorities in line and not have so much stuff distracting me from the important things in life.

  16. Sounds like you guys are doing a really fantastic job of controlling your finances! I’m keeping myself on a pretty strict no-spending budget until I have a solid emergency fund built up and then I’ll work on paying off my student loans. Yes, there are sacrifices I have to make now, but it will be so worth it on the day that I become debt-free!

    • absolutely true- plus you’ll save a lot of money by paying them off sooner and not accumulating all the extra interest over time!

  17. Congrats on becoming debt-free! You’re off to a great start in life together.

  18. Congratulations! That’s an amazing accomplishment and it must be such a great weight off your shoulders!

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