How This Couple Paid Off $124,000 in Student Loan Debt

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Kristen Kuchar

By Kristen Kuchar

February 11, 2020

When Travis Hornsby sat down with his wife to make a game plan for her student loan debt from medical school, they realized they had made mistakes when it came to seeking forgiveness for her student loans. 

“It was a six-figure mistake,” Hornsby says, of wrong information his wife had received during her residency. He points out how easy it is to make a massive mistake when it comes to managing student loans. 

Instead of getting discouraged, the couple became determined to pay off student loan debt as soon as possible. Their journey also led Hornsby to create his business, Student Loan Planner, to pay it forward helping those with student loan debt.

How They Paid Off $124,000 in Student Loan Debt

It took the couple only one year to pay off their large amount of student loan debt.

The couple decided to refinance their student loans not once, but twice during their repayment journey. Travis chose a five-year variable interest rate, which was a lower interest rate than for a loan with a fixed interest rate. “Almost all of our money was going to the principal,” he explains. 

Unlike a fixed interest rate which will stay the same, a variable interest rate can increase. “We took that risk because we were planning on paying it down really fast,” he says. 

When it comes to refinancing student loans, Travis says to compare lenders. “You don’t know who is going to give you the best deal unless you shop around,” he says. Credible allows you to compare interest rates from several lenders at the same time.

Besides the interest rates, he says to also compare benefits of lenders, such as options if you lose your job. Some examples of student loan refinance benefits, include: 

  • LendKey offers an opportunity to put loans in forbearance during an economic hardship and has a refer a friend program, where you can earn cash for referrals.
  • Earnest offers forbearance options if you lose your job, get an income reduction, take parental leave or if you are experiencing high medical bills. Earnest also allows you to skip one payment per year, upon request.
  • SoFi offers a temporary forbearance if you lose your job. Plus, they have a referral program and offer personalized financial advice from credentialed financial advisors.
  • College Ave offers 16 different options for loan terms, ranging from 5 to 20 years.

How They Saved Money

For Travis and his wife, it was about cutting big expenses, such as rent and a car payment. The couple opted to live in a 600-square foot apartment in St. Louis, where housing was inexpensive. They decided not to purchase a new car and continued to drove their 2000 Honda Civic to avoid a car payment.

They created a budget and kept living expenses as low as possible, including “living on rice and beans”, Travis explains. His advice is to create a specific set of goals and create a budget while repaying student loan debt.

Of course, not every borrower would be able to pay down a six-figure debt in one year. How quickly you pay off your student loans depends on your income and your monthly cost of living. To speed up the process, you can find ways to increase your income – apply for higher paying jobs, sell unwanted items, get a part-time job or do a more flexible side hustle, such as walking dogs or tutoring. Cut spending wherever you can. 

Common Mistakes People Make When Repaying Student Loans

Travis says a big mistake when repaying student loans is not knowing what type of student loan you have and making mistakes when it comes to seeking Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). He says if you’re seeking PSLF, be sure your employer counts.

Travis says another big mistake people make when repaying student loans is not also saving for retirement. “Get your [employer] match no matter what,” he says, referencing your company’s 401k employer match. His advice is to make whatever payment you are required to avoid defaulting on your student loans, but still save a minimum of 10% towards your retirement savings. He adds that having an emergency fund is vital.

His advice is to have a positive mindset while repaying your student loans but also be realistic about it. “Debt repayment isn’t everything,” he says.

He encourages people not to get obsessive about paying off student loans. “Stay healthy, exercise, go out with friends,” he says. Comparing a student loan debt journey to a crash diet, he feels that an extreme lifestyle isn’t going to last.

At, our goal is to help you make smart decisions about saving and paying for education. Some of the products featured in this article are from our partners, but this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

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