The 10 Best Ways to Pay Off Student Loans (That We Used to Pay Off $200,000)

If you have never had to deal with multiple six-figures worth of student loan debt then I will be honest… I envy you.

I can tell you from marrying someone with over $270,000 in student loan debt, there is no easy way to get out of student loan debt with an amount that high!

However, from the start of 2016 to today, we have reduced our student loan balance over $200,000. Now I get it, you might be asking yourself,

“How is it possible to pay off that much in student loans that fast.”

The answer, believe it or not, is pretty simple. You start making all decisions around getting debt free. By doing that, we figured out some of the best ways to pay off student loans… that we share below.

The Best Way to Pay Off Student Loans:

Without sugar coating anything, if your goal is to knock out six figures worth of student loans, the best way to pay off student loans is very simple:

  • You must make more money and you must delay your gratification.

Whether it is what you drive, what you wear, or what you eat, chances are your spending habits will need to be adjusted if you want to pay off your student loan debt.

Additionally, adjusting the lifestyle you currently live will need to be altered, and really, all of that starts with what you're willing to sacrifice (short term) to meet your goals. 

That being said, it all starts with learning how to delay the good now, so you can enjoy the great for later. 

Learning to sacrifice or delay the good is actually something you should do whether you have $1,000 worth of student loan debt or $100,000. Delaying your gratification is how you get ahead financially in any area, not just student loans.

Saying no to what you want now, to get what you want later is something you need to quickly come to grips with!

So now that you know that, start by grabbing a copy of my Free Debt eBook below and use these 10 practical tips to help you crush your student loan debt!


10 Tips to Pay Off Student Loans

Here are 10 best ways to pay off student loans centered around (short-term) sacrifices and delaying gratification.

1. Vacations

In 2015 we went to the Outer Banks with 6 friends and we got engaged. Since that summer we haven't hit the sand, not even for a honeymoon.

While this might seem crazy not to take the annual one-week beach trip, we will ultimately miss out on 4 trips since our goal is to be student loan debt-free by the end of 2019.

After that, our new goal is to take 1 4-5 day trip a month for 12 months. So is delaying for 4 years worth taking 12 trips in 2020?

You bet!

Consider taking your travel money and investing, saving, paying off consumer debt or something of that nature for 2-4 years. Come up with day trips or cheap overnight excursions in the meantime.

If you really need to travel – get really good at travel hacking so you can travel for free. 

Vacation Options: To celebrate our three year anniversary we saved up and budgeted and took off for a quick beach trip. If you budget and cut back for some time, it's ok to travel – just don't go all out!

2. Entertainment

millennial money

Entertainment, eating out, and lifestyle are killing millennials as a whole.

Already overwhelmed with student loan debt, many millennials have “Financed” their life on credit.

However, to get ahead financially you must first pay yourself first, or “Reverse Budget“.

  1. Figure out your monthly net income
  2. Subtract your fixed expenses from your income.
  3. Use the leftover amount (Discretionary Income) to then pay off student loans/debt.
  4. THEN spend money.

Unfortunately, many adults reverse the order from the list above and spend first – especially millennials.

For millennials, one of the highest spending categories is nights out or entertainment. Dinner, an uber ride, and a few drinks can easily exceed $100 for a single, $200 for a couple if you are not careful.

Since entertainment budgets are discretionary, have a set amount to spend each month and don't exceed it!

Related: Millennials – Your Social Life is Why You're In Debt

3. Kids

Ok, this is a hot topic for the millennial generation- when to have kids. With more emphasis on education, careers, the fact that most millennials have student loans, more and more people born after 1984 are delaying on kids.

We have delayed on kids too. Conventional wisdom- you can never be ready for kids – is just that, conventional. That is general wisdom.

Paying off $300,000 in student loans in a 4-5 year time period is not conventional. So, therefore, in order to accomplish this, we have had to do some unconventional things like delaying on kids.

No doubt – this is the hardest to delay for. BUT it also keeps us motivated. You can be in a better financial position when you have kids. It is never perfect, but it can be planned.

>>Related Content: Millennials Can't Afford Kids

4. Weddings & Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties

josh wedding day with lauren

Weddings and bachelor parties, they're tough to say “No” too, but you will most likely have to get used to saying it if you're serious about crushing debt. 

The last bachelor party I went cost over $1,000. The flight alone was $300. Throw in entertainment, hotel stays, food and it adds up quickly.

Today.com had a great piece about how bachelor parties are standing in the way of homeownership. Basically, taking 9 bachelor party destination trips puts you in the neighborhood of spending $14,000. AKA a home down payment.

So while they are extremely fun, saying YES to every destination wedding or bachelor/bachelorette is something to reconsider if you have some financial goals.

Have you heard of TRIM? Consider using Trim in 2022 to help you save money on your monthly bills and subscriptions. I used TRIM to help cut out unnecessary spending and negotiate our bills. It's how I am now saving hundreds on car insurance this year!

5. Sporting Events

Admittedly, I am a huge college football fan. I used to hold season tickets right after college for West Virginia football games.

However, 7 home games and about $2500 later in travel, tickets, food, gas, I realized making every other week trip was costly. So for the last few years, we have only gone to one game, if any.

I really enjoy going to MLB games as well, but it also something I have put on hold. If you do plan on going to sporting events, have a planned out strategy.

Instead of spending $200 a game, I should have been focused on making $200 fast each week! A little less YOLO would have done me good.

Spending less is always key, so if you have to go to games, go on nights when they have promotions. Or see if you can even get free tickets – just ask around you will be surprised how easy it is to get free tickets to sporting events!

6. Home Upgrades

home upgrades remodel cost money

Be mindful when considering major home upgrades. Furniture, new appliances, remodel's new fixtures, painting – you name it, can become very costly.

Always have a budget and a plan when completing home remodel projects. 

(Personally, we recently made the mistake of not following our own advice when it comes to home upgrades and we didn't have a budget or price it out well. If we did it again, we would price EVERYTHING out). 

Like most men, I am a project guy, but sometimes I bite off more then I can chew. Tearing down a non-load bearing wall in our home turned out to be a $1500 expense and a new kitchen.

With intentions of selling in 2021, when our house is paid off, it will be great to market a new kitchen. But because we didn't budget or really even know how much things would cost, we ended up spending more than we probably should have.

Need a project on a budget? Create a pallet wall for under $50.

7. Cars

This is an easy one. Straight up – if you have student loan debt or consumer debt, or if you rent an apartment you should not be driving around in a brand new car or a leased vehicle.

My car philosophy – if you can't write a check for it then you shouldn't drive it.

In my lifestyle inflation post I wrote about how people will drive cars they can't afford to impress people they don't even really like.

Dave Ramsey coined the phrase and talks about car expenses here. Simply put, cars are depreciating liabilities and the sole purpose is to get you from A to B. Don't spend a fortune in doing so.

When you are 75 you won't remember half the cars you drove, but you will remember the trips and memories with family!

Here are some ideas we have used to make extra money:

Delaying gratification is very helpful, but so is making extra income. Here are some of the best ways we have used to make money outside of our careers:

  1. Fill out surveys with Survey Junkie during downtime – earn up to $50 per week.
  2. Start a blog and make $100 per month in 9 months with ad revenue. Learn more here.
  3. Walk some dogs for your neighbors independently or with companies like Rover!
  4. Use this article that contains over 41 proven ways to make more money

8. Clothes

Clothes are not that expensive are they?

Considering some estimates say the average 20-30 something year old is spending around $2,000-$2,500 on clothes each year I would say that it is pretty expensive.

Line up all the clothes and shoes on the left, set $2,500 on the right. Which one are you choosing?

Once again, I am not saying don't buy any clothes, but have a budget and be strategic.

Shop for season-ending sales and stay away from big brand department stores.

See Also, Credit Card Mistakes to Avoid

9. We learned to love saying “No”

Perhaps the biggest challenge most adults will face in their lifetime is using the two-letter word “No” that they heard 40,000 times before the age of ten.

Something about social prestige and fear of missing out causes short term memory loss and the inability to use the word “No.”

I make light of a somewhat serious topic, but truth be told, it is hard to stop comparing yourself, making it harder to say no!

But when you have financial goals, sometimes the word no is your biggest ticket to financial freedom!

  • Want to go to the movies? No.
  • Want to go to the game? No.
  • Want to take a trip to Vegas? No.
  • Can you pitch in on this gift for a co-worker? No.

While the list can go on, in life it is all the little things that truly eat up our money. Sure big-ticket items like cars, homes, and debt can consume most of our income – but some of that can be out of our current control.

However, we can all learn to say “No!” to avoid the bleeding of our bank accounts!

10. Don't buy Christmas gifts

This might seem really weird, but when you're dating and you don't share bank accounts – buying Christmas gifts is fun.

When you're married and you merge your bank accounts, all of a sudden exchanging Christmas gifts aren't so glamorous.

For example, when I scroll through the bank statements and see a Fanatics.com order – I know my wife got me some new WVU apparel. And she knows when she sees Ann Taylor – I got her a gift card!

So with our student loan debt totaling $300,000 at one point, we decided that exchanging Christmas gifts was just kind of pointless! While this might seem insensitive, our real gift will be student loan debt freedom!

Saving the extra $200 each added up over time!

Note:If you have to buy gifts for one another or you would like to, agree on a spending limit such as $50 or save some cash each month for the Christmas season!

Final Word on Paying Off Student Loans

At the end of the day, most of your finances boil down to your behavior.

Learning to delay your gratification, figuring out ways to make extra money to pay more towards your debt, and thinking long term is the recipe behind the best ways to pay off student loans!

However, with focus and over time, one thing we got really good at to make paying off over $150,000 in debt even possible is delaying our gratification.

We learned and still say no… all the time.

Like those friends who always find a way to spend money, we were like that – only we found ways to NOT spend money.

Now I get it. At times it might seem hard to say no to vacations, trips, entertainment, new things, nice cars and you name it. But honestly, if you find out how to implement just a few of these each year, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish!

Some bloggers, financial experts, or writers will skirt around what it sometimes really takes to seriously hit financial goals in fear of being “Too straightforward.”

But truth be told, it is not some special strategy or crazy secret that gets people ahead financially.

It is usually a steady source of income with disciplined money management skills to free up money to attack debt!

Make the sacrifice now, so you can reap the rewards down the road forever!!! Along the way, you will actually have lots of fun too!

best way to pay off student loans

Q: What do you think is the best way to pay off student loans?