To many people, paying off student loans is a distant dream but I’m living proof that a student loan payoff doesn’t have to be decades away. I graduated from my MBA program in 2010 with $40,000 in student loans and paid them off 736 days later.
I didn’t use any magic tricks to make it happen. Instead, I stuck with tried-and-true strategies that work on any debt payoff — student loans or otherwise. Follow along to learn the methods I used to pay off my $40,000 MBA just over two years after graduation.
Click to read more about passive income streams that can help you pay off debt.
Start Making Student Loan Payments While in School
The first step toward paying off my student loans was to start paying for them before graduation. I kept a full-time job as a financial analyst while going to school full-time in the evening. That gave me some cash every month to help pay for school costs without borrowing more, and it enabled me to start paying my loans off before graduating.
I started by paying enough to avoid interest from growing in my unsubsidized loans and grew the monthly payment as I felt comfortable doing so throughout my time in the University of Denver program.
More on Debt Payoffs: Creating a Budget and Other Ways to Dig Yourself Out of Debt
Put Every Tax Refund and Bonus Toward Your Debt
At least once every year, most Americans get a big lump of cash in their bank account. According to IRS data, the average refund was $2,782 for the 2017 filing season. When I got my refund, it went right to my student loans.
I held to that rule for any lump of cash I got at any time. That included one bonus from work, birthday presents and anything else. I was used to living without it, so extra income beyond my budget could all go to my loans.
Did You Know? How to Get Student Loan Interest Tax Deductions
Increasing Payments With the Debt Avalanche
I followed the popular “debt avalanche” method of debt payoff. That means I paid off my loans with a higher interest rate first and continued until the lowest rate loan was paid off. This is mathematically the best way to prioritize a debt payoff.
I also lived on a relatively tight budget, had a side hustle and did everything I could to squeeze out extra money for my student loan payoff. My job did bi-weekly pay, which meant that every other week I was having automatic payments come out to go toward my student loans. I slowly increased these payments as well, until I was paying well over double my minimum payment every month.
A Laser Focus on Your Loans
Once my debt was paid off, I had the financial freedom to do things like buy a home, travel and max out my Roth IRA every year. I still enjoy these luxuries due to my debt-free (aside from my mortgage) lifestyle.
Fear Not Though: You Can Still Buy a Home With Student Loan Debt
Following these steps may not lead to a two-year payoff, but they will put you on track to get out of debt as quickly as possible. Once your student loans are paid off, it feels like a big weight off of your shoulders. But more importantly, it opens up opportunities for a more successful financial future. And that’s what paying off student loans is all about.
Click through to read more about qualifying for student loan forgiveness.
This article originally appeared on GoBankingRates.com.