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How a college grad paid off $28,000 in 3 years, making only $30,000 a year

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It's tough right now for many millennial graduates with enormous student loan debt. But there are some who are determined not to let their student loan bills hinder their lives! 

Read more: Strategies for paying back student loans faster

Student loan debt is the highest it has ever been

The class of 2016 just graduated with an average $37,172 in student loan debt, the highest of any graduating class yet, according to

And thanks to their colossal student loan debt burden, many millennials are putting off important milestones, such as getting married, purchasing a home or having children. In fact, according to a Bankrate survey, 56% of millennials say they've delayed a major life event because of their student loan debt. And more millennials are living at home with mom and dad instead of living on their own, mostly because of their education debt.

College graduate pays off $28K in 3 years making $30K per year

It seems student loan debt is one of the biggest roadblocks to financial freedom and forward momentum for many young adults. But there are millennials who have created a better future for themselves by knocking out their student loan debt as quickly as possible — in order to pursue their dreams. 

Case in point: Zina Kumok, who paid off $28,000 in just three years on an annual salary of $30,000. 

How a young woman paid off $28,000 of student loan debt in three years

On her blog, Zina Kumok explains how she was able to live on an extremely frugal budget in order to pay off her debt quickly and live the life she desired. 

She told Money Magazine that the reality of student loan debt didn't hit her until after she had graduated and was working her first job.

"I was making $28,000 per year. It was depressing to think that for the next 10 years I would have this payment that was a large chunk of my income."

Zina and her boyfriend at the time were also talking about marriage. "I didn’t want to saddle him with my debt," she said.

Read more: 6 ways to eliminate student loan debt from your life

How she did it

The first thing Zina considered was how she was earning an income. Could she be making even more money? 

She worked at a newspaper, and her schedule, distance from her boyfriend and level of income weren't ideal. 

"I wasn’t happy at the newspaper and I wanted to go back to a normal schedule," she says. "I knew I wanted to switch jobs."

Read more: Top-rated side jobs to make extra cash

So she went job hunting, and landed a marketing and communications position making slightly more than she did before, bringing home an annual salary of $30,000 per year. In addition, the location and schedule were much better, helping her apply an additional $300 per month toward her debt. Instead of spending her extra income as most people do, she threw it at the loan. 

The next thing Zina did was slash her living expenses, and she was also very diligent about tracking her expenses. Finally, she created a budget for fun, so as not to let her frugal lifestyle become drab. 

"It was hard for me to relax and have fun," she says. "I counted my budget every day on those trips." But she determined to still enjoy life even while paying off her debt, and did so by traveling on the cheap. 

Read more: 5 simple tips to stretch your travel budget

Now, Zina is a personal coach who helps people get out of debt as quickly as possible. Surprisingly, she says the key to getting out of debt isn't really your income — it's your willingness to make some short-term sacrifices in order to have more money long-term. 

"I had one coaching client this past winter who was only earning $10 an hour and trying to pay off $7,000 in debt. Instead of wallowing, she got another part-time job, cut back on her spending and put all her extra money toward her debt. She lived at home and made sacrifices. Three months later, she was debt free."

But then she describes a completely different client who earned over $100,000 who owed $10,000 in credit card debt. "Even though she was making so much money, she was stuck making the minimum payments on her debt," says Zina. "When I suggested making cuts to her budget, she declined to make any significant changes," she writes on her blog

If you want to pay off your debt as quickly as possible, here are some ways to get started! 

Read more: She paid off $25,000 in 10 months, then went on the adventure of a lifetime