This Entrepreneur Paid Off $32K In Student Loans In 8 Months, All Through Her Side Hustle

how to pay off student loans fast

Heather Scott

Drowning in student loan debt? We feel you. In this new series — Secrets to Paying Off Student Loans — we sit down with millennials saddled with various amounts of student loan debt to learn what it takes to pay them off in record time, while also thriving in life.

Heather Scott didn’t even realize what she was doing when she started her dog-walking and dog-sitting business. After graduating in 2012 with a degree in sales and marketing from DeVry University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, she had no idea what she wanted to do in life, yet still had $32,000 in student loan debt to pay off.

“I didn’t have a job and didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, kind of like everyone else when they graduate,” Scott told Swirled. “I was able to defer my loans and not have to pay them back six months after graduation because I didn’t have a path, direction or job at that point.”

With time to spare, Scott began taking very calculated steps in working to save the money she needed to pay off her student loans fast, many of which you can take, too.

Understand your student loans deferment policy.

Not all student loan companies are the same, so make sure you understand what yours offers when it comes to deferring your payments. Scott went through Great Lakes for her student loans, and the company allowed her to defer her student loan payments for six months at a time, which she continued to do for two years straight.

“Every six months, I deferred my loans,” Scott said. “I think I had an allowance of up to like three years of being able to do that, and I did it for two. Then, right before I should have deferred again, I didn’t and I actually paid everything off.”

Yup — Scott paid off $32,000 in student loans in large chunks over the course of eight months after deferring her payments for two straight years. This strategy may not be for everyone, but it’s something to consider.

Key Takeaway: Talk to your student loans provider and understand what strategies they can help you with when it comes to deferring your payments.

Start a side hustle to help save more money.

side hustle dog walker

Flickr Creative Commons/Alan Kotok

If you’re thinking, “How the heck did she save up $32,000 in two years and then pay off her student loans in eight months?!” you’re not alone. However, Scott didn’t win the lottery or inherit tons of money. She just worked really hard, while working a side hustle at the same time.

“I decided to start a pet business,” Scott said. “I walk dogs and pet-sit for a living now, but the first $30,000 of that business went straight to my loans.”

Scott actually started out working two jobs at the same time. She was a personal trainer for about 16 hours per week and then worked to build her pet business the rest of the time.

“The personal training job allowed me to live my life and pay my bills and not go completely broke,” she said. “And then the pet business — I literally didn’t save a dime in that business because everything went to my student loans.”

Scott’s side hustle, Heather’s Pet Care, LLC, is now her full-time business. Never expecting it to be a business, Scott told us that it just sort of happened. Before she knew it, she had enough to pay off her student loans and realized that the money she was making was decent enough for her to build it into a career. Of course, working a side hustle is a lot of work, especially on top of another job. However, the extra money you pull in could really make the difference in how quickly you pay down that debt.

Key Takeaway: Think of ways you can make some extra cash that solely goes toward your student loans. Don’t use this money for anything else but paying down that debt. This will allow you to keep your other personal expenses and student loan debt separate so that you have enough for both every month.

Hard work and motivation will go a long way.

Scott was working two jobs and saving every penny from her side hustle to pay off her student loans, but she was still living life as a 20-something should.

“I didn’t cut back,” she said. “I tried to make sure I at least did enough self-care with myself. I didn’t spend a lot or shop online a lot, but I just didn’t buy a lot because I wasn’t bringing in a lot. I’ve always been good with money. I learned at a really young age how to save and budget. I actually waited to even buy a car until I was done with my student loans. I said, ‘Nope, I need to wait to pay off my student loans first because I’m not having two payments at once.'”

Scott never took her eye off the prize of paying off her student loans. She continued to work hard as a personal trainer and dog-walker and dog-sitter, using her student loans as the motivating factor.

Key Takeaway: As Scott told us, get ready to work and stay motivated. Keep envisioning life without student loan debt and how great it will feel once you’re done paying it off.

Start early.

pay off student loans early

Unsplash/Jonathan Daniels

One thing Scott said she wish she did was start paying off her student loans while she was still in school.

“If [someone with student loans] is working and in school, start paying them off now,” Scott said. “Because you won’t have a ton of debt once you leave. I’m actually helping one of my friends do this. She asked me if she could pay them off while still in school and I’m like, ‘Yes! Get rid of them because you don’t want that amount of debt when you graduate.’ I did it a little bit, like three payments, but I should have done more.”

Key Takeaway: If you can, pay back some of your student loans while you’re still a student. Whether it’s $100 per month or even just $50 per month, over the course of a year, it can really add up. Better yet, start a side hustle while still a student and then work to save up the money you’ll need to pay back your student loans once you graduate.

Not every student or college graduate will be as fortunate as Scott to have only $32,000 in student loan debt. But regardless of your debt amount, hard work, motivation and a repayment strategy (like starting a side hustle and saving every penny for your student loans while deferring them for a year or two) can really reduce your repayment time and help you enjoy financial freedom that much faster.

Did you repay your student loans in record time? Join the conversation in our LinkedIn Group!


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