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I’ve paid off almost $200,000 of student loans in 3 years: Here’s my best advice for becoming debt-free

In 2015, I graduated law school with six figures of student loan debt. Since I had no idea how I'd ever pay them off, I resigned myself to the fact that these loans would be with me for the foreseeable future. 

When my first payment came due in 2016, I put my loans on auto-pay and tried not to think about them and, for years, I didn't.

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In 2018 I stumbled upon a YouTube video with the title "I Owe $200,000 in Student Loans." It was made by a woman about my age and seeing how distressed she felt hit home. I could easily see myself in her, and the harsh reality of having a mortgage's worth of student loan debt finally sunk in.

I realized that as long as I had this massive debt hanging over my head, it would impact my ability to buy a home, save for retirement, and prevent me from leaving my well-paying but unfulfilling career

Determined to free myself from the financial hole I had put myself in, I set a goal to tackle my student loan debt once and for all. I haven't looked back since. 

Now, just three years later, I'm almost debt-free and I've been able to share my story with thousands of people with my Instagram account Babe on a Budget Blog. Here is my best advice.

Figure out what you owe

This may seem obvious, but ignoring your student loans won't make your student loans go away. I shied away from adding up my student loan debt for years. Figuring out what I owed and getting organized was the first step to getting my student loans under control.

Luckily, you can do this pretty easily by going to StudentAid.gov for federal loans or by pulling a credit report if your loans are private. The hard part is ripping off the band-aid and actually doing it.

For those just getting started, I recommend using a simple spreadsheet where you can input all your loans, their corresponding interest rates, and your total debt balance. This will help you track your progress as you go, and also help you figure out which loans to prioritize.

Take the time to learn about your loans 

Once I figured out how much I owed, I was overwhelmed. All I knew was that I had this huge balance, but no idea how my loans worked or why my balance had ballooned even after years of making payments.

So I started to do my research. I called my lender, I read articles and blogs, I watched videos, and really invested the time to understand my student loans, so I knew how to best approach them. If I had known what I know now — that interest accrues daily, or that all my unpaid interest would be added to my principal balance at the end of my grace period — I could have saved myself thousands of dollars, and a lot of frustration. 

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