The Reality Behind Those “I Paid Off….X From My Student Loan” Posts



Ok I’ve had enough now – I’ve read one too many blog posts that starts with a title resembling something like this – “I Paid Off $100,000 Of Student Debt In 12 Months – Read How I Did It So You Can Too”. To try this out yourself – go to pinterest and take a look.

These titles are meant to grab attention and to pull in readers, and they are very good at that. But the thing that really pisses me off is that the posts are targeting people who want a quick solution to their problem, which these titles seem to suggest. And unfortunately, not all of them are transparent and many neglect to say how it was actually achieved.

The reality is FAR FROM EASY.

What Actually Goes On?

So while the author of posts like this mean well, they are in fact not relate-able to a large amount of people. Take the fictitious statement above – $100,000 (£76,000) in 12 months. This would take £6,333 PER MONTH to pay off. Unless you are fortunate enough to be in a position where you have this amount of money at your disposal (perhaps a joint income), and/or you’re living with mum and dad so you have no outgoings whatsoever, this scenario is not what most of us are able to achieve.

So I’m obviously exaggerating a bit with this, but you see my point.

Do I Have Examples?

Well as a matter of fact I do….

Take a look at this post: “The Budget Of A 29-Year-Old Who Paid Off $80,000 in Debt”. I just want to start by saying that what this person did is AMAZING, and my hat goes off to her. My point is that her budget is far from what I would consider to be normal for most people.

She managed to pay off the debt between January 2016 to August 2017. That’s just 19 months. From what I understand of the piece, the amount she paid was actually around $60,000 in that time period because the other $20,000 had been paid off slowly since August 2014. From January 2016 she was putting as much as $2,700 (£2,052) towards her debt per month.

She was earning up to $100,000 (£76,000) per year. This is an awesome achievement and obviously took a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

So in combination with a very decent salary, and frugal living (like making meals at home and selling clothes), she achieved her goal of becoming debt free. But she clearly didn’t do it entirely by clipping coupons and saving all her spare dollars in a jar.

In another post, a 29 year old shows how she puts away an impressive $2,230 per month towards paying off her debt using the snowball method (FYI I think this is a great way to pay off debt!). In June 2016 she made $3523.56 (£2688.32) between two jobs she was holding, and put $2,230.48 (£1,701.76) towards her debt – that’s 63% of her take home pay.

While I don’t discount her ability to do this (and most people would/could not be as extreme as this), there are some points to be made here. At the time this article was written:

  • she was single;
  • she lived in a flat share;
  • she had no children;
  • she actually earned a pretty decent salary (albeit over two jobs to achieve it);

But these are not the only examples I have….

A UK Perspective

The examples I used were obviously for an American market (a lot of them are), so I was keen to see what the English bloggers have come up with.

I remembered that I had recently come across a post titled – “How I Live On £69,500 Salary While Saving To Buy A Two-Bedroom Flat“. It received quite a bit of attention on twitter – most of it negative. The reason it riled so many people is because the 29 year old Australian living in London appeared to be struggling with having to live “frugally” in order to save for her flat (like cancelling her £150/month gym membership).

*cue tiny violin*

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not being a bitch here. We all have things we consider sacrifices, and it’s all relative. She is a victim of a phenomenon known as spending creep (I wrote a post about it). She has become used to spending a lot of money on luxuries and other non-essential items, so when she wanted to save money, the things she cut out were painful losses for her.

It doesn’t take away from the fact that she is obviously doing very well on the salary she’s on, (and I love seeing women rocking it in the work place).

But her situation is far from normal for most people. The amount she saves per month is the equivalent to many people’s take home salary (more in many cases!).

How Else Is It Done?

So another way I keep seeing that people are able to “pay off debt” or “save money” is by living off of one income and using the other to put towards the goal.

Take this post as an example. The most significant things on this list are number 1, number 2 and number 8:

#1 We Lived Off One Income And Saved The Other.

#2 We Worked Extra Jobs To Boost Our Income.

#8 We Live In A Low-Cost City.

The post was written by a fellow doctor, so I understand the reality she is facing working in the NHS. The amount she has saved is impressive.

She has a stable relationship and a shared goal – they both want to go travelling. It therefore makes sense to pool their income and only live on one person’s salary. Living in London is expensive, so moving out of London is sensible. And luckily for us doctors, we have access to quite a bit of locum work which attracts a higher rate than our regular jobs. Thanks to Jeremy Hunt, this is capped, but it’s still a pretty decent above average hourly rate.

If I didn’t have locum work to fall back on, I’d be in a lot more debt than I currently am, and wouldn’t be able to tick things off of my bucket list.

But again, not the reality most people face.

Bank Of Mum and Dad

And finally, another way that individuals are able to claim huge savings and/or debt repayments is by living off the bank of mum and dad. Take this post as an example. The author is commenting on a post that went out for Refinery29’s “Money Diaries”. It’s an impressive attempt at documenting how millennial women spend their money.

What the author points out is that $25/hour (£19/hour) in New York City doesn’t stretch far. So how is she able to fund her luxury lifestyle? Ah – mum, dad and grandfather give her top-ups.

This used to happen at my university in South West London too. Many of my fellow medical students were sent money by their parents. They didn’t have to work, and left university with no debt.

Again, this is not the reality most people face.

So If You’re Worrying About Your Situation

Please don’t. The chances are that behind all these fantastic achievements is a reality that includes one of the above features – earning way more than average (this includes having the time to work an extra job), getting money from parents, or living on one income with your partner (which FYI is actually cheaper as well because couples can split bills and share hotel rooms etc).

Don't feel bad if the money goal you're working towards is taking a long time - this is normal! Just keep going!

So don’t panic if it feels like it will never end – you’re doing all that you can. Keep chipping away at your goals. The reality for many people is that it will take a lot of patience and time. The main thing is that you keep going and don’t give up.

Please come and share your wins in my private Facebook group – I publish them every week in my doctor’s prescription email to help inspire others and make sure people receive the credit they deserve – no matter how small they perceive it to be.

Until next time,




If you enjoyed that post, why not try this one:



5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

Thanks for the quote back and great post, Nikki. I agree that headlines are headlines and do the job of getting people to read them, but I, like yourself, hope readers are savvy enough to not look at simply face value and perform a critical analysis of the post. Personal finance is, after all, personal! What worked for some may work for others but not all. Again, great and honest review by yourself.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Scroll to Top