3 Real Life Student Loan Success Stories

Feeling defeated by your student loans? Tired of reading a bunch of articles that tell you the answer to your student debt woes is just to pay them off faster?

That advice is well-intentioned, but it's frustrating to hear. You're probably working hard to do what you know to do in order to manage your debt. You don't need more people telling you to look at repayment plans or put more money toward your loans each month.

When I'm struggling with something, I always find it helpful to get away from the how-to advice and look at have-done stories. I want to know how other people solved the problem and the exact steps they took.

It's not only motivating to see real people meeting challenges that I face, but it helps me think of solutions I might not have come up with on my own. Hearing about other people's stories helps me think more creatively and positively about how I can make my own story one of success, too.

That's why I talked to three Millennials about what they did to pay down their student loan debt, while also achieving personal goals important to them. Your life doesn't have to be limited to just student loan repayment. Here's how other people overcame their debt -- and built a better financial situation at the same time.

Create a plan and commit to it

Jen Smith was determined to do something about her student loan debt. But she wasn't going to put the rest of her life on hold to do it. She paid off $41,000 in student loan debt -- and also saved up enough money to pay for her wedding in cash.

How'd she do it? "I became obsessed with side hustles to earn extra money," she explains. She found odd jobs to do on the side of her full-time job. "I did data entry and categorizing online, mystery shopping, and respite care at a group foster home, which is literally glorified babysitting."

Jen also created a repayment plan so she could see every step she needed to take to get rid of her debt. "Sticking to your payoff plan is worth every cent of interest you won't have to pay on your student loans," she advises. It takes a lot of dedication and commitment, but it gets results.

Jen still has $35,000 worth of student loan debt to repay. She's sticking to the actions that got her more than halfway to debt freedom while achieving other financial goals. She also shares the details of her savings plan and actions on her blog, Saving with Spunk.

"Student loans can feel suffocating. I know they did for me," she admits. "But once you lean in and commit you'll see that they're just numbers on a screen and those numbers will go down if you stick with it."

Maximize your career advancement

Like Jen, Melissa Berry started a personal finance blog, Sunburnt Saver, to document her process of paying off $10,000 in student loan debt. And like Jen, she focused on a specific way she could increase her income to pay down the debt while also saving for retirement.

"Pursue a job you love, but always with an endgame in mind," Melissa suggests. She says she loves the work she does, but she constantly seeks out opportunities for upward mobility. "I've been promoted 3 times in the last 4.5 years," she shares, "and each time I get a raise, I take half the raise and put it to retirement and the other half to student loan repayment."

This strategy has allowed her to quickly pay down debt while also building a $25,000 nest egg for her future. She says this is possible for anyone to do -- but that doesn't mean it's easy or without sacrifices.

"I don't really buy new clothes or fancy gadgets, as much as I love both of those things," she shares. Melissa and her husband have a few set financial goals and pursue those relentlessly. And sometimes, that means not putting money toward other things that may be nice to have but don't help them achieve their goals.

Look for leverage through investments

Amber Masters turned to real estate investing to help give her family the leverage they needed to knock out a massive amount of student loan debt. Amber and her husband both have advanced degrees -- but those lead to $600,000 in student loan debt.

"We bought a rental income property that we live in. If you buy a duplex or other multi-unit, you can basically get your mortgage paid for by the rent paid by tenants," she explains. By purchasing a rental unit, Amber and her family gained an asset that they can use to generate more income to bolster their cash flow as they repay their student loans.

Amber and her husband are still working to pay off their balances. They track their progress on their blog, Red Two Green, and share what they learned along the way to help others who are in similar situations. But she recognizes that their approach is just one of many, and advises others with student loans to take all advice from personal experiences with a grain of salt.

"There are so many different strategies to paying off loans," says Amber. "Do and stick with what works for you."