How a Millennial Paid Off $40,000 of Student Loans in 8 Months

He graduated with $40,000 in student loans. He put every windfall, no matter how small, toward his debt, and scheduled extra payments.

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An estimated 92% of student loans are federal according to academic data firm MeasureOne. Of the 44.7 million borrowers with student loan debt, 43 million owe money in federal loans.

Angelo was another one of those borrowers, and the creator and author of Conquering Credit, a finance and lifestyle blog started after paying off $40,000 of student loans in just 8 months.

With professional experience in business consultation, he writes with the intent of making personal finance an approachable and interesting subject. Though geared towards Millennial readers, Conquering Credit is accessible toward a wide audience.

Most young adults have a story to tell about paying off student loans, and I wanted to share Angelo's story with our readers. Talking about student loans and money has been considered taboo in the past but Beat Student Loans is here to change that.

Here is the interview I had with Angelo, about him paying off $40,000 in student loan debt.

How to Pay Off $40,000 in Student Loans

Are you wondering if $40,000 in student loans is bad? If you are in $40,000 in debt and wondering what to do. Hopefully you can shed some light on the subject when you hear the interview I had with Angello. He paid off $40,000 in student loan debt, and you can to, here is how:

How did you pay off $40,000 in student loans?

I took something of an unorthodox approach to paying off my student loans.  In short, I wanted to be fully paid off in a year from the time I started making payments.  The loans compounded daily so I figured the best way to save was to make daily payments.  After breaking the outstanding balance into daily payments (250 per calendar year) I never looked back.

As the triple-digit mark approached in some of the loans, I made lump-sum payments just to get them out of the way.  A combination of avalanche and snowball methods, if we’re putting a name to it.

How would you describe your current financial situation?

Couldn’t pick a better question to start with tax season around the corner!  By far the most I’ve spent on in the recent months has been ski-related.  Buying a season pass, new skis, and paying for lodging adds up very quickly.  Other than that my main expenses are just gas and dining out but I’m not spending anything exorbitant.

Budget-wise, I’m practically laissez-faire at this point.  My go-to budgeting app is Mint which runs flawlessly after an initial few weeks of correcting transactions.  As an aggregator, nothing slips through the cracks and as an analytical tool it has a lot of trend and expenditure reports that are simple to use.  As a rule of thumb, I set a budget for something and try to come in 10-20% below it for the month.  Ex. $120 on gas for the month, try to spend $105.

Do you consider yourself to be money-savvy?

Yes, absolutely.  I work in corporate finance and am always amazed at how out-of-touch consumers and business owners are when it comes to personal finance.  It isn’t just small mom-and-pop shops either.  There are professionals in finance that can’t tell you what a 401(k) is or still believe that you need to carry a balance on your credit card to “build credit.”

I began writing in part because of my frustration with all of the misinformation surrounding the fundamental concepts of personal finance.  My Back to Basics series focuses on easy-to-learn financial skills and knowledge that are missing from most schools.

What financial advice would you have wished to hear when you started working?

Going back a bit earlier while I was still in school, I wish I’d understood how student loans actually worked and how much they’d cost in the long run.  For some reason it just never clicked that this forty-thousand-dollars needed to be paid back until I got the first bill in the mail…

I really don’t have any gripe with how I handled my finances after starting work since I’ve done a decent job avoiding lifestyle creep.  My suggestion would be that readers new to work take some time to evaluate their situation before diving in.

  •  How much more will you spend in gas on a longer commute?
  • For a salaried position, how many hours are you actually going to work a week?

Take the time to calculate your hourly basis to determine if a seemingly higher-paying job is actually worth the schedule needed to accommodate it.

What financial achievement are you most proud of?

Paying my student loans off in eight months was a serious feel-good moment.  More than anything else it gave me confidence knowing that I had zero-debt and my net worth was positive for the first time in the seven years since I’d started college.

Creating a dedicated payment plan and setting myself up on a timeline allowed me to tailor my budget with the purpose of paying the loans off.  Once they were paid off—and you should do this auto loans or lease payments, too—I took the amount that I was paying towards the student loans and put it right into savings and investments; this helped them skyrocket over the past year.

What expense can you not live without?

Commuting to work, there’s not much that can be one without a car in my area since public transit is useless.  My car is about a decade old this year but I know enough to handle most maintenance and repairs on my own so I haven’t spent more than I need to keep it running.  The idea of a cheap lease creeps up on me every time I need to do the brakes or get a new set of tires.  I’ve held out this long without getting a new car so my plan is to drive it into the ground then buy something 3 or 4 years old outright.

What expenses could you cut down on?

DJ Sawchuk over at My Frugal Life hosted me on his podcast last week, where he posed the same question.  After giving it a little thought I came to the conclusion that, although I’m pretty content with my current expenses, I could benefit from looking over my budget.

It would probably stand out that restaurants and bars are my main spending areas since I go out to dinner or to drink two or three times a week.  My year-end credit card summary just came in and I was kind of shocked at the amount I spent at my local dive bar.  There’s no doubt it could be better for my wallet, and most likely my health, to prepare more meals at home.

What are your long-term financial goals?

Within the next 5 years:

  • Develop passive income streams that comprise most of my income
  • Renovate and flip a rental property to cash out
  • Own 5 rental properties

Within the next 10 years:

What are your short-term financial goals?

My goals for 2021 are:

  • Renovate a live-in duplex or triplex
  • Purchase a student rental property
  • Invest in consumer credit (P2P and P2B lending)
  • Advance skills in trading options

Somewhat related, you should check out Year Compass.  It’s a self-improvement booklet designed for New Year’s resolutions but applicable anytime.  As someone who doesn’t sit, think, or reflect often, it was useful to consciously take the time to put my goals into words.

Do you have any side hustles or ways to gain supplemental income?

If 2016 was laying the foundation, 2017 is putting up the walls and decoration.  The savings I’ve been amassing that would have gone to the loans are going straight into the market.  More recently I’ve moved away from side-jobs and replaced them with passive income—mostly investments (stocks, mutual funds, and P2B lending).

Once the passive streams start to add up I’d like to do more active work as a private consultant or business coach.  More so because I enjoy the work.

What career path would you choose if money was not an issue?

This immediately brought Alan Watts’ speech to mind, What If Money Was No Object.

If money was not an issue I like to imagine I’d just be a world-traveling bartender.  Some of the best memories I have are from my nights tending bar; the desk jockey thing doesn’t bode too well with me.  Travel is my passion; I’ve been to somewhere around 15 different countries and like to think that I’m just getting started.

Closing thoughts?

I just want to thank you for the opportunity to participate in telling your readers how I managed to pay off $40,000 of student loans and talk more about personal finance.  Taking the time to complete this write-up was an incredibly introspective experience.

Hopefully, my answers have given some insight to the audience and can inspire the readers to effect change.  More importantly, rather than using this as a comparison, my suggestion would be to take a few moments to reflect and answer these questions on your own.  It was a helpful tool that got me to affirm some goals that I was unsure of.

Brian Meiggs
Brian Meiggs
Brian Meiggs helps you discover clever ways to pay off student loans, make extra money, save money, be resourceful and stay curious. With over 10 years of experience in the financial industry, Brian has developed a reputation for his in-depth knowledge and practical approach to personal finance. He holds a bachelor's degree in Finance and has been recognized by several industry organizations for his contributions to the field. Brian is passionate about educating people about personal finance and has been featured in several national media outlets, including Insider, AOL, Discover, and Yahoo! Finance. With his unique perspective and proven track record, Brian Meiggs is a trusted voice in the world of personal finance.