Debt Free Story: Creative ways to destroy $220,000 in student loan debt

Pay off student loansI’m so honored to share Ebony’s debt free story with you today. Her and her husband were able to pay off student loan debt in just 3 years. It goes to show how creatively lowering expenses and a having a willingness to make big changes can lead to debt freedom.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Ebony S. Horton and my husband I recently paid off over $220,000 in student loan debt.

How much debt did you have?

All of my debt was from student loans. It was a combination of both private and federal loans and I had interest rates ranging from 5-15%. After graduating with my Masters degree in 2011, I owed about $130,000 of debt. I didn’t pay anything towards the debt in school and I deferred the loans for two years after I finished school. The debt ballooned to $220,000.

What was the defining moment that made you decide to tackle your debt?

After I graduated with my bachelors degree I relocated to DC where the cost of living was dramatically different from what I was accustomed to. There was a time when I literally didn’t have any money to eat. I was use to living in St. Louis where my rent was only $430; however, in DC it was over $1600. In order to save money in DC, I moved to a neighborhood that wasn’t as nice but then my house was broken into. Everything was stolen, even our groceries.

Deciding to move back home was really what helped for me to pay more money towards debt; however, I didn’t only move home to pay off the student loans. My father had a stroke and my grandparents were sick. By moving home I was able to help my mom take care of family as well as pay off the debt a lot quicker.

What was your plan for paying off the debt? How did you prepare?

I began educating myself, I started off using the snowball method with the assistance of my husband, paying the smallest loans first. Then we began paying off the loans with the highest interest rates. We switched fairly early on, I believe I paid $30,000 before switching to the other method.

Where did you find the extra money to put toward the debt?

There were a lot of sacrifices that were made in order to get out of debt. A lot of relationships were severed including a 16-year friendship because I didn’t have time to nurture the relationships that I once did. I stopped going out, traveling, and purchasing new makeup/clothes..

In 2013, I moved back to my hometown, which was a significant reduction for my cost of living. My husband and I chose to rent out the condo my parents gave us. We chose to move in with my elderly grandparents down the street who were no longer able to live alone. We stayed with them for a year and then used all of our resources to purchase a two-unit building; we then used the rental income from both properties, along with our incomes, to pay back my student loans.

How long did it take you to pay off the debt?

It took 3 years to pay off the debt.

How did you stay motivated to continue on your path to debt freedom?

Reading every book I could get my hands on from self-help, real estate, to personal finance. Also listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos.

Did you make any mistakes or hit obstacles that slowed or stopped your progress? If so, how did you deal with them?

When my husband and I purchased real estate we put everything else on hold (specifically paying off my student loans), but over the long-run it helped us significantly. Also my 16-year car went out, I began walking 4 mile to and from work. I did this for 2 years to avoid buying another car.

How is your life different now that you are debt free?

I’m a lot more carefree, I sleep a lot easier, and I travel a lot more. My husband and I are a lot happier overall.

What advice or actionable tips can you give people who want to pay off their debt?

• Lower housing by renting a room, getting a roommate, or subletting
• Move to a more affordable neighborhood or smaller space
• Apply for scholarships or grants to pay for school
• Work multiple jobs
• Be entrepreneurial
• Cut back on entertainment

Congrats on debt freedom, Ebony! Thanks for sharing your motivational story!

Check out Ebony’s website at and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram at @imaximizeucan2. And don’t miss her ebook: Maximizing My Future By Eliminating My $220,000 Student Loan Debt.

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5 thoughts on “Debt Free Story: Creative ways to destroy $220,000 in student loan debt

  1. I have to admit, I tend to sigh a bit when I see stories of major debt payment where a major catalyst was gifted, whether a rental property, inheritance, or something else (like nepotism in the workplace). It’s a very impressive number and sticking to a plan of sacrifice like that for 3 years is a major accomplishment, I just don’t know how relatable it is to the majority of people on a debt-free journey. Thanks for sharing!

  2. 3 years to kill that staggering amount is amazing!!! Amazing!

    *A lot of relationships were severed including a 16-year friendship because I didn’t have time to nurture the relationships that I once did”
    I absolutely relate to this because I had done the exact same myself in order to be more frugal. It’s quite painful really. I’m happy Ebony’s story had such a lovely ending!

  3. The D.C. suburbs are where my parents live and where I had originally planned to live and get a job. Until I realized that I would have struggled to make ends meet because of my student loan balance unless I stayed with my parents or had several roommates. Neither option was appealing and it is one reason I moved to the mid-south.

  4. What an awesome story!! It shows what can be accomplished when you’re willing to really make extreme sacrifices. Congrats, Ebony!

  5. $220,000 in three years is amazing! You make investment in real estate seem like a very good option. Well done! (I hope that you are able to reconnect with that friend. I hope he/she will understand your stress and priorities for that period of time.)

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