Take it from rapper Dee-1: It's possible to pay Sallie Mae back. With some planning, persistence and the right motivation, you can eliminate your student loan debt and move on with your life.
There are as many reasons to pay off student loans as there are people with debt. Take a look at what inspired these grads to get rid of their loans fast—and how they made it happen.
What she did: Paid off $45,000 in student loans in 15 months.
What motivated her: "I just kept hearing stories about people in their 40s, 50s and 60s still paying on their student loans, and I didn't want that to be me."
Kate Mertz borrowed $45,000 in federal student loans to go to the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. When she graduated in 2013, she was shaken by stories she heard about grads who felt paralyzed by their student loans.
"I decided that I wanted them paid off by the time I was 30," says Mertz, who was 26 at the time. "So that was kind of the initial kick in the butt."
Mertz got a job in regulatory compliance at a bank, and she and her husband decided to allocate nearly all her income toward her loans—plus savings, tax refunds, her bonus and money they received as wedding gifts. Mertz made one loan payment a week, on average, for 15 months. She was debt-free less than two years after graduating.
Whenever Mertz was about to buy something she didn't need, she says she asked herself, "Do you want this right now or do you want to get this loan off your back?"
What he did: Paid off $23,000 in student loans in 10 months.
What motivated him: To be able to take professional risks.
Josh Stine, 23, moved to Arlington, Virginia, and started a full-time job as a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers soon after he graduated from Penn State University in 2014. But he realized the corporate world wasn't for him.
"This job that I worked so hard to get, it just wasn't making me happy," he says. He had $23,000 in federal student loans in his name and was earning more than $60,000 straight out of college. So he decided to put every extra penny toward his loans while he could.
Stine paid at least $1,200 a month toward his loans starting in January 2015. To make extra money, he rented out his car using the service Turo. His initial $23,000 balance was gone by October 2015.
Stine left PwC, and he's now the chief operating officer at ticket brokerage Happy Valley Tickets and a partner at marketing consulting firm KNG Strategies. Without debt, he felt ready to take a risk working full time for startups, which give him more flexibility than his previous job.
"Part of being a 23-year-old just out of college—a lot of people want to go travel, they want to go do other things," he says. "They don't want to be stuck in an office all day."
Aron Moshe Macarow
What he did: Paid off almost $30,000 in student loans in less than seven years.
What motivated him: "Your life revolves around your student loans until you pay them off, and I didn't want that burden."
Aron Moshe Macarow, a freelance writer and creative project manager, got a scholarship to attend Scripps College in Claremont, California. But he still graduated with about $32,000 in student loans in 2007. He paid off his last federal student loan in 2014, three years before his 10-year standard repayment plan was up. Now he has just $2,500 on an interest-free private student loan to go.
"I'm transgender, and I knew that I had to save a large amount to pay for my transition, since my health insurance wouldn't cover it. That was a huge motivator to pay my student loans off as quickly as possible," he says.
The Los Angeles-based Macarow, 31, says he decided to focus on one financial goal at a time. He worked at least two jobs—and as many as five jobs—at once so he'd have extra money to put toward his goals.
"Financial independence is one form of freedom, and I wanted to experience that as soon as possible so that I could move on with other areas of my life," he says.