Paying Off Student Loans: A Personal Perspective

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I had the pleasure of getting to know a SaveUp member who has had a lot of success paying off her student debt. She was kind enough to share her inspirational story with the hope that it would motivate others to do the same!

Abby’s Story

Abby graduated from college in December of 2008 with $30,000 in student loans. She had six different loans with interest rates varying from 1.17% to 6.55%. One day she had an epiphany that she didn’t have to be in debt and could grow her net worth. Abby says, “I got serious about tracking my spending in July of 2011 but didn’t begin accelerated pay-down then because I was in graduate school and only working part time. Once I was hired full time in June of 2012, I threw everything I had at the loans.” She set the goal of paying off her student loans by November 2012. 

Her Plan of Attack

Once Abby made this commitment, she stuck to it by paying off the highest interest rate loan first. She also meticulously tracked her spending. Abby made this a priority, checked it every day and played SaveUp for additional motivation. She made adjustments to that goal and paid them off in full earlier this month. She paid off $28,000 of debt in 7 months!

Here’s how she describes the process, “I use to track my spending and have a spreadsheet with a monthly budget where I fill in every cent I spend.  I also began tracking my net worth in July 2011. I started with a negative net worth at -28,677 on July 23, 2011 and as of June 23rd, 2012 I was at -14,382.” Now Abby has a net worth of $1,670, “and growing!” This was a sizable commitment, but she tailored it to what she thought she could accomplish and what she was willing to do to get there.

Staying with It

The process wasn’t always easy. Abby made her goal a priority even though she got sick of putting two thirds of her paycheck toward this debt, especially toward the end. From playing SaveUp, she won $50 right at the end of her journey (she was down to $3000). She said, “it was the extra mental boost I needed to keep me on track.” Accomplishing her goal was a feeling of “huge relief and disbelief!” She is now rewarding herself by putting some of the money that was going toward student loans into an account for travel.

An emergency account was also part of this plan. Abby set aside $4,000 in a separate account that she never touches. Now that her loans are paid off she is adding to it, so that she has a full six months of expenses available to her if something unexpected happens.

Future Goals

Abby’s not done yet! She recognizes that her financial plan is ever changing and that improving her finances is an ongoing process. Here is what she said about what she would like to accomplish next, “My audacious goal is to have a net worth of $250,000 by the time I am 30 (in about 5 years).”

I presented two webinars on SaveUp to help you with goal setting and debt payment. You can log into SaveUp to view them. A big thanks to Abby for sharing her story. I hope you found her accomplishments as inspiring as I did and that you continue to SaveUp!

This post was written by SaveUp’s personal finance contributing writer, Catherine Hawley, CFP®.

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Written by Catherine Hawley

Catherine is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (TM) who offers accessible and objective financial advice to individuals and families. Her aim is to help clients gain clarity and confidence so they can pursue their definition of financial success. You can find more information about her independent practice at She has worked at Rhodes & Fletcher, LLC as a Personal Benefits Specialist and at the firms of Bernstein Global Wealth Management and Barclayʼs Global Investors. Catherine has a bachelors degree in communication studies from the University of California, Los Angeles where she was a scholarship athlete and captain of the womenʼs tennis team.