How I Paid Off My Student Loans – Without Moving into My Parent’s Basement

I am a millennial. We are known for killing lots of things – everything from retail stores, restaurants,  the diamond industry, and cereal. We’re also known for having a lot of student loan debt. In fact, the average college graduate in 2015 graduated with $30,100. Many of us are working hard to pay off our student loans but studies still show that student loan debt is preventing millennials from buying homes, getting married, and having kids.

I graduated from an in-state school in May 2016. I had hopes, dreams, and a whole bunch of student loan debt. But as of March 2018 – all of my student loan debt is GONE! Here’s how I did it, using Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps!


  1. I had a small emergency fund
    • Part of Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps is having a $1000 emergency fund. This is step one and it seriously MATTERS! It helped keep my anxiety down and helped to silence the “what-ifs”. It ended up being my saving grace after my car needed $700 worth of repairs on my second day of work. I didn’t have to use anything else but my emergency fund and then I replaced it as soon as I could. It was the peace of mind I needed and I still use it today! And, with IBD, I need a safety net in case something happens (ER visits, expensive medicines, unforeseen procedures)
  2. I followed Dave Ramsey’s Snowball method
    • What’s the snowball method? You pay off your debts smallest to largest, disregarding the interest. It’s a mental game – not a math game. I paid my minimum student loan payment every month. Then, EVERY EXTRA DOLLAR I had went towards my smallest student loans. This helped me gain momentum and helped keep me motivated to pay off the next one. Here’s a link to better explain the snowball method!
  3. I challenged myself
    • I made it a game to see how little I could spend. My grocery budget got smaller every week and I would challenge myself to use whatever I had left in the pantry. I turned off every light, kept my apartment cold in the winter, warmer in the summer (but if you know me, it wasn’t that warm – I hate the heat), and when it was nice enough, I opened the windows. I budgeted my gas like a crazy person (Did I really need to go to Walmart 15 minutes away or could I get I get it from Kroger, down the street?) and was conscious about my driving habits. Challenging myself helped keep me accountable!
  4. I used cash
    • I used cash for most things. I used my debit card for gas but other than that, I carried cash around. I felt the sting when I had to pay for groceries and it also helped me stay within my budget. You spend more when you use plastic – debit or not!
  5. My “Why” was greater than anything else
    • This is the key. You NEED a “why”. “I want to get out of debt” is different than “I want to get out of debt so I can buy a house/have a dream wedding/have kids/adopt kids….etc” My “why” to get out of debt was huge. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and my medications were expensive. I also knew more hospital visits were potentially in my future and I wanted to be prepared financially. If my “why” hadn’t been HUGE, I would not have stayed motivated.
  6. I made a budget – and it wasn’t hard
    • I budgeted every single dollar I earned. I knew how much was coming in and I made sure every dollar had a purpose. I had categories for rent, food, utilities, student loan repayment, and misc (because LIFE HAPPENS). I know it sounds boring but it is SO IMPORTANT! Do it. Make a budget. If you need help, you can search for budgeting apps like this one.
  7. I budgeted for fun stuff
    • It may sound like I had no fun for two years but I wasn’t a complete hermit! I budgeted dinners out and rewarded myself at certain milestones. I didn’t spend hundreds but an occasional night out or small splurge really helped me from getting burned out! Plus, my fiancé and I got REALLY good at making steak at home – and really, we think we make it better than most nice restaurants.

I know – it sound tedious and boring. There is no secret formula. There is no magic money making ploy. It’s just a slow, steady process with lots of “wins” to keep you motivated! It just took determination, hard work, and a whole lot of faith. Truthfully, I paid the last payment and I felt so free. If I can do it, with everything else I had going on during this time (see About Me for more on that), you can too!


Me and Dave Ramsey – I was nervous and apparently, my shoes didn’t match my outfit. Nice. (Still loved meeting him!)


5 thoughts on “How I Paid Off My Student Loans – Without Moving into My Parent’s Basement

  1. Linda Turner says:

    Madison, you are such a neat, sweet granddaughter! I love what you have done in paying off your student loans! I know it took courage and determination, but you have both. You excel in everything you do…whatever you set your mind to do! Even if you have health obstacles, car repairs, etc. you tackle everything head on. We (Grandpa and I) are soooo very proud of you! Always stay true to yourself, you are on your way to reaching the stars!!


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