These 3 extreme ways to pay off student loans take a lot of consideration and time, but you can pay off your loans in just a few years! It's up to you to decide how extreme you're willing to go.

When I paid off $28,000 of student loan debt in three years, I devoted myself entirely to that cause. Every spare cent, career choice, and personal decision was influenced by my desire to be debt free. It was a difficult period—and at times I questioned whether I was making the right choice. But nothing has ever felt so satisfying as making that last payment.

Still, sometimes I wish I had gotten a little more creative.

While I kept my nose to the grindstone, I could have been looking for inventive ways to make an extra buck. It’s great to buckle down and pay off your debt with frugal choices and self-restraint, but there’s something even more impressive about finding a way to accelerate the repayment process using unorthodox methods.

Here are a few examples of people who did just that. Plus, what you need to know about trying those methods for yourself.

Move in with Mom and Dad

If you’ve got a good relationship with your parents, talk to them about moving back in for the next few years and your plan to pay off your debts. If they’ll take you in and feed you, you won’t find a better opportunity to look for a job in your field (which is likely to provide you the highest possible paycheck).

This may not seem extreme, but after several years away at college on your own, committing to move back in with them will likely be more of a challenge than you think. Even if your relationship is great, you’ve gotten used to doing things the way you like to do them and moving back home is likely to create a little friction.

Sell your eggs

When Lucy Giraldo got accepted to grad school, she had one question: How can I pay for this without taking out loans?

She had already applied for scholarships and was working on the side. She even considered taking a year off to work and save money. But eventually, she came across the answer she was looking for—selling her eggs.

“I had gotten the idea of donating my eggs during the last year of undergrad when money was running short,” she said. “I stewed on it for years before I thought I could really go through with it.”

As a med student, she was aware of the risks that come with egg donation, including “cramping, bleeding and infection.” Still, the risk was worth the reward. Giraldo sold her eggs twice, netting about $6,000 total.

The money didn’t come without its own set of problems. During her second donation process she developed Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, which only happens in five percent of all donors. OHSS occurs when the ovaries swell and become uncomfortable and even painful. Giraldo had to be hospitalized, and although she fully recovered there was risk of losing an ovary if the condition deteriorated.

Giraldo is one of many of American women that sell their eggs every year, earning on average between $5,000 and $8,000. The application is rigorous. Fertility clinics ask for your medical history, academic record, mental state and more. Only the cream of the crop are selected. In return, the money these women receive can be used to start businesses, buy homes and yes, pay off student loans.

The bulk of the process is 15 days long, and Giraldo had doctor’s appointments about every other day. To prepare for the donation, she had to inject herself with hormones (similar to what women do for IVF). The hormones can also cause mood swings, similar to pregnancy.

Long-term effects are still being debated, so it’s hard to say if young women should consider this a viable alternative. But for the kind of money egg donation brings in, it’s a hard option to ignore.

Sail the Seven Seas

Cruise ships are really mini floating cities. The odds are good that there’s a place for you in a department related to whatever you actually studied.

If you were a computer science major, there are IT techs onboard. If you were a nursing student, there is a medical department. There are also many secretarial roles, basic housekeeping, bartenders, and wait staff. There are engineers, electricians, carpenters, and plumbers. There are youth staff who look after the children and cruise staff who host events. If you find the right line, you can really do any of these things.

Some of the less skilled roles like housekeeping and food and beverage positions are often filled by people from Third World countries who will work for much less, but some cruise lines have different rules.

For instance, Norwegian Cruise Line offers a cruise that only goes to the Hawaiian islands. Because it never leaves America, it has to employ people who are legal to work in the United States. Due to this, many positions often filled by folks from other countries are available to Americans.

Become one with Mother Nature

Jobs that provide room and board, or seriously subsidize it, can sometimes make up for a lower salary.

If you’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, now could be a good time to look into the National Park Service. Pay isn’t high, but the cost of living is subsidized in the very popular parks and free in some others. This allows you to fork over most of what you make to put a dent in your student loans.

If you find you love being a park ranger, you can qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which forgives the balance of your loan after 10 years of on-time payments. Ten years can seem like a long time, but if you wind up enjoying the job, it’ll fly by.

Rent out your house

Glenn Carter graduated from college with about $10,000 in student loans, a paltry figure compared to what his peers were facing. But the thought of any debt bothered him, so he decided to rent out his condo on Airbnb to pay off the balance.

While some people rent out a spare room, Carter moved in with a friend while renting out his entire home. He slept on his friend’s couch for five months. The two of them split the duties as Airbnb hosts and divided the profits fairly.

Carter admits his situation was unique. His wife and kids live in another city, so he spent most weekends visiting them anyway. After expenses, he pocketed about $10,000 that he applied straight to his student loan balance.

While most people don’t want to spend their nights and weekends in someone else’s space, it can be a fabulous side hustle for very little work. Carter recommends choosing your partner-in-crime carefully, since you’ll essentially be roommates and business partners at the same time.

“If you don’t set out clear expectations from the beginning, then you’re setting yourself up for headaches and a possible ruined friendship,” he said.

Change the world

Joining the Peace Corps allows you to help out mankind and it can have a positive effect on your student loans balances as well.

Several federal loans can be deferred during your time of service with the Peace Corps. Also, many income-based repayment plans will calculate your payments as $0 per month during your service, since your income is so low.

This is especially useful if you signed up for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. If you have a Perkins loan and you serve for four years, you could have 70 percent of your loan forgiven.

Work as a shot girl

Graphic designer Eli Miller took a different approach to paying down her student loan total. She worked as a shot girl at a prominent bar, walking around with a tray of shots and selling them to customers. She worked during breaks and summers between the ages of 18 and 22, usually on weekend nights. Miller estimates she paid off $40,000 worth of student loans through her work as a shot girl.

You might be conjuring up images of scantily clad cocktail waitresses flirting with customers, but Miller was a professional. She wore sandals and comfortable dresses so she’d be able to meander through the crowds. Plus, she tipped the bartenders so they’d prepare her trays faster.

Depending on the crowd, she could earn anywhere between $50 and $600 in tips. She admits to earning more than other girls, treating the job “almost too professionally.” She estimates other shot girls earned about $200 on a profitable night. Miller worked from 11 p.m. to 2:45 a.m., devoting most of her weekends to reaching her goal.

“It’s really not glamorous,” she said. “You have to give up on your social life.”

Despite the drawbacks, she kept going back each break. She even worked a few months after graduation while holding down a full-time gig. She credits working as a shot girl with allowing her to focus more on her career after college instead of paying back loans.

“Eventually, I accepted a job that was not particularly high paying, but it allowed me to quickly grow as a designer and develop a strong portfolio, something I might not have been able to do if I was more focused on making money rather than gaining experience,” she said.


Yes, these are seven very extreme ways to pay off student loans, but they really work. You have to decide how much you’re willing to deal with to pay off student loans. But the reward is being debt free much sooner than those who have 30-year (or more) loans!

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Zina Kumok
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