How I Paid Off $25,000 In Student Loans In 15 years!

It’s true. I’m going to tell you my secret for how I paid off $25,000 in loans in a mere 15 years. I hope you detect the sarcasm. When I graduated college in 2002, I walked away with a degree and student loan debt totaling $25,000. I made most of the right moves when it came to getting my undergrad degree by paying out of pocket for a community college and transferring to a private school that offered me one heck of a scholarship to finish up. All told, I borrowed only $14,000 to complete the entirety of my education. The bump up to $25,000 happened because I borrowed extra money to live on during my higher ed tenure. And with that, I’d love to tell you a story about how I paid off $25,000 in student loans in 15 ridiculous years. 

Let me start by saying that you shouldn’t be impressed with my achievement. 15 years is way too long to carry student loan debt with such a paltry balance. I’ll go ahead and put it into perspective for you. Yes, I walked away with $25,000 in student loans and an additional $12,000 in credit card debt. Because I got a high-paying job right out of the gate, I concentrated all of my efforts on eliminating that credit card debt – since credit card debt is bad debt and all. I annihilated it in 6 months. Yes, 6 months. Now, if I could eliminate a balance of $12,000 in 6 months, why on earth did it take me 15 LONG years to knock out my $25,000 in student loan debt? The answer: It was good debt, so I didn’t make it a priority.

We Didn’t Do Everything Right

Yale Tower - Student Loans

Pinterest Ready – Pin Me 🙂

Like most people out there, we didn’t do everything right when it came to our money. Shocker, I know. In fact, not only did we not do everything right, we screwed up. A lot. So, if you’re beating yourself up because everyone else seems to make perfect decisions – Stop It. It’s not too late to start on your own remarkable financial journey. Remember, the social media accounts of your friends, The Joneses, is probably not an accurate portrayal of their actual life.

Off-Topic Rant (Enjoy)

The great thing about reading personal finance blogs (like this one) is that they’re motivating. The crappy part about reading personal finance blogs is that they can make you feel like you’re the only person in the world who made money mistakes. I want you to know you’re not!

And, our blog is not one of those blogs. Our blog is chronicling our journey from rags to riches, with plenty of errors in the bag along the way. We want you to know you’re not alone, it’s not too late, and that you, too, can reach financial independence after the age of 30, 40, or even 50! Trust me, no one around here will be retiring before 30! Unfortunately, we will never qualify for that Yahoo headline. And that’s okay. We’re still going to retire a decade or two ahead of schedule. And I’d say that’s one hell of an accomplishment!

Student Loans Are Good Debt

Statue in Philly - Student Loans

Debt stinks, regardless of variety.

Let’s get back to my most ridiculous money story that allowed me to pay off $25,000 in student loans in 15 years. By the way, I was single when I accrued this debt, so there’s no dragging Mr. MMM into this mess. Nope, this is all on me.

First, let me explain that I took on an additional $11,000 of debt because I didn’t want to work during those last two years so I could concentrate on maintaining my near-perfect GPA. This was important to me because I was still on the med school tract. Hence, I borrowed the extra money to free up my time to study and to subsidize my living expenses those last two years. Granted, even with the additional money I borrowed, I still escaped higher ed with a tiny loan amount, compared to some of the extraordinarily high balances I read about these days. Two thumbs up on that one.

Thankfully, yours truly was awesome enough (joking) to receive an academic scholarship to finish my undergrad at a private school after the community college. The scholarship required me to only pay $7,000/year. Wow! That was quite a discount off their then $35,000/year price tag. I jumped at the chance. So far, so good, right? Right.

Don’t ask me what I used that extra $11,000 for. At the time, I was living with my boyfriend, so I can’t even blame it on rent or anything super important.

Things I used that extra $11,000 on:

  • Car Repairs
  • Insurance
  • Gas
  • Inspection
  • Mobile Phone
  • Clothes
  • Hair Highlights
  • Pizza
  • Beer – Ha! Just kidding. I wasn’t a beer drinker. I bought Wine 🙂

Despite having borrowed a total of $25,000, as I’ve already stated, it really wasn’t that much money. And, there is no way I couldn’t have paid it off within a year or two, post graduation.


Mad Money Cat

Mad Money Cat is disgusted with my prior $ decision.

After a few years of paying several student loans that equated to just under $600 EVERY month, I decided to consolidate to one payment. I went through Sallie Mae. I’m sure you know her 😉 Not only was I able to consolidate, but they also gave me the option to stretch out my payments (so nice of them) so that my monthly bill would hover around $200 for all the loans! Obviously, as a young and dumb grad (again, this isn’t one of those ‘we did everything right blogs’), I went ahead and signed on the dotted line. Needless to say, I was ecstatic with my new payment schedule and just kinda ignored HOW FAR those loans were going to stretch into my future.

Well, we got this far together, so I might as well go ahead and tell you how far those loans stretched. Drum roll…

If I would’ve continued to allow those loans to invade my personal financial space for the entirety of the term, I wouldn’t be hitting submit on that final payment until the year 2028! Not a typo.

The Final Payment

Ever since Mr. MMM and I started our financial independence adventure, we set out to eliminate ALL debt – including those pesky consolidated student loans I had sitting around. At the start of 2016, those loan balances still totaled $10,000. I’m happy to say that those current balances are Paid In Full. No way were we going to have that debt lingering around until the year 2028. No way.

What about you? Did you attack your student loan debt right after graduation? Or, did you let it linger for way too long?


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  • Jane @ Cash Fasting Apr 20, 2017, 11:21 am

    What a story! I think many of us are told that student debt is “good debt”… I think that’s one of the big misconceptions that many people have around debt. After all, if you can get rid of it, get rid of it! Good to see that once you decided to tackle it, it didn’t take much time at all. I graduated in 2014 with $35K in debt… I’m on track to wrap up the final $5K of that by this August! Everyone has their own pace when it comes to paying off debt. The only thing that really matters is that it gets paid off. 🙂

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 20, 2017, 11:26 am

      Absolutely! I certainly wasn’t bragging or proud that it took me 15 LONG years to pay off such a small amount of debt – I think I wanted to resonate with people who didn’t make the “right” decisions right out of college.

      It sounds like you actually DID make the right decisions! That is totally awesome! I wish I had your insight back when I graduated.

      Unfortunately, inspiration personal finance blogs were not all the rage back then 😉

  • Matt Apr 15, 2017, 2:46 pm


    I’ve flip flopped on this issue so many times – I had a mix of both federal and private loans, the private loans had interest rates of 6-7% so I paid those off as fast as I could but am slowly chipping away at the private loans (interest rates on those is around 3.5%).

    I go back and forth month to month on whether I want to really go after them. Any extra cash flow after debt payments has gone towards investing, which has given me a better return than paying off the loans – in hindsight. But I’m still anxious about that debt. Last year I attacked a 2% car loan with lightning intensity and paid it off way ahead of schedule – I think it was the physical, deprecating asset attached to it that motivated me.

    At any rate (pun intended!), I’ve found that, without any real plan, I split my extra cash flow between investing and extra debt payments over time. Right around 50/50. I guess that makes two of us who won’t get a Yahoo debt free article anytime soon 😉

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 17, 2017, 2:06 pm

      Haha…thanks for sharing! I think your plan is a good one. Personal finance is just that – personal. There are many reasons to do this or that; in the end, doing what’s best for you is the best option.

  • Ethan Jones Apr 9, 2017, 5:24 pm

    Moving to Lancaster allowed us to start saving big (vs. Seattle) and we have paid off half our student loans so far while saving aggressively and leaving room to scratch our home improvement itch while still looking at FI early. We are still looking for others like us since moving here, so we just keep quiet about our savings habits.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 9, 2017, 5:45 pm

      Yep. That’s what we do, too. Congrats on the move! Lancaster is a fun little town. Most people just think of the Amish – but it’s so much more than that. 🙂

  • Pamela Apr 9, 2017, 11:49 am

    Congrats on paying of your debt. We paid off our debt aggressively about 2 years after university. However I think part of the motivation was because the debt was so high. Six figures. We managed to clear it in 2.5 years. However, I don’t know if we would have been as aggressive if our debt load was low. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 9, 2017, 5:00 pm

      Thanks. Despite making fun of myself in this post for taking so long, I’m sure it did have something to do with the “low” balance. Nice work on annihilating your 6-figure debt! Now that’s an accomplishment. #Imnotworthy 😉

  • MrWow Apr 7, 2017, 9:19 pm

    Hey! You make me feel better. I graduated in 2002, and then went to grad school, like you with a scholarship that knocked the tuition in Half. Half off??? How can I not?
    Well, 15 years later I still have a good amount of debt. I’ve been paying above the minimum balance, but with the rate’s so low (~2%), I just can’t bring myself to pay it off at the moment. I feel like the money is better off invested.
    I don’t know if it’s good debt or not, but yeah… it’s there and the rate is pretty low, so what can you do? EHHH… it’ll be gone in the next few years.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 8, 2017, 7:10 am

      I wasn’t so lucky with my rates. They were 5% and up. I do agree with the theory of keeping the lower interest debt in exchange for a chance of higher returns if invested – but my personality is against monthly payments and debt of any kind – regardless of rate. 🙂 But, financially, it does make sense to keep it.

  • FinancePatriot Apr 7, 2017, 1:08 pm

    I am a big proponent of NOT paying off low interest student loan debt. I think we paid it off at just the right time. We paid off my loan early, first, since it was the higher rate debt. It wasn’t a ton left over, but it did take over 10 years to pay this back. Instead, we saved money for retirement and made minimum payments, saved for a down payment on a house, and did other things.

    Since student loan interest is a direct deduction of adjusted gross income on tax forms, this is some of the cheapest debt to have. We paid off my wife’s student loan later, because her’s was at a lower rate than mine was.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 7, 2017, 1:11 pm

      I know not paying low-interest debt off is a popular option, especially when using the difference to invest and make more money. These loans, however, were 5%+ and keeping 25k in debt around for 15 years is absurd, in my opinion. I would’ve been in my 50s before paying it off had I stuck to the schedule. No way that was gonna happen 🙂

  • Erik @ The Mastermind Within Apr 7, 2017, 10:21 am

    Congrats! I can tell you are very excited and must be feeling great!!

    I had about $8k in student loans when I left school. I paid them off the next year… I hate debt!

    Thanks for sharing – very inspiring 🙂

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 7, 2017, 11:09 am

      Haha…well, I was kinda making fun of myself. There is NO WAY it should’ve taken that long. But thanks for the congratulatory response, in any case 🙂

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