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Dealing with debt: How a woman paid off nearly $70,000 in 20 months

Dealing with debt: How a woman paid off nearly $70,000 in 20 months
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Alex Sadler |
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Paying off debt can seem impossible, especially if you owe tens of thousands of dollars and feel like you're barely scraping by each month.

Whether it's student loans, credit card debt or some other type of financial obligation, debt in general can be very stressful on anyone. But the good news is that becoming debt free is not impossible! And Kristen Seaton is a great example of how it can be done — and pretty quickly, too!

Read more: 7 things debt-free people never do

Paying off $67,000 of debt in 20 months

In a recent article for Forbes, Seaton explains how she was able to tackle $67,000 of student loan debt in less than two years. And her situation is a familiar one for many Americans, as the total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. has topped more than $1.2 trillion.

Seaton graduated from college in May 2009. Her student loan payments were about $600 a month and it was going to take her about 15 years to pay it off in full.

Like many people facing big debt, Seaton was overwhelmed, to say the least, and also concerned the burden would prevent her from reaching her post-college goals — like someday starting her own business and buying a house. So she decided she would do whatever she could to pay off that debt as quickly as possible.

After graduating with a degree in criminal justice, Seaton realized that a job in her field of study wasn't to help her pay off her loans as quickly as she wanted. So with six years of teaching swim lessons under her belt, she decided to move to California and do it full time.

Create a plan, live on less, make more money

Seaton made the move and began living on less — keeping her financial situation in mind at all times. 

“I lived with a family friend [and] bought a $300 car that got me to and from work,” Seaton told Forbes.

Once you decide to make paying off debt a priority, there are a few key steps to take in order to actually make it happen: create a plan, live on less and find ways to make more money.

And that's exactly what Seaton did. “I started teaching swim lessons 40 hours a week and did an additional 12 hours of coaching a week,” Seaton told Forbes.

On top of that, she also picked up a morning shift at a manufacturing job and spent every Thursday, Friday and Saturday babysitting. “I lived off of my baby-sitting money. One hundred percent of my teaching, coaching and manufacturing money went to paying off my loans,” she told Forbes.

Seaton says one key factor that kept her going was her support system. Her parents would call her to check in on her repayment plan and keep her accountable — and those two things — accountability and support — are crucial for anyone trying to overcome big debt.

Read more: 10 tips to become debt free as quickly as possible

“After doing this for a year, I got really excited and started to really see that there was an end in sight,” Seaton said. “At that point, I made it my goal to pay off my loans [in] no more than two years.”

Sure enough, it took her a total of 20 months to get it all paid off. And that's not all.

Once her student loans were paid off, Seaton continued living the same lifestyle — working several jobs, spending less than she made and saving as much as she could. After six months, she had $20,000 in savings, which allowed her to move back to Boston and start her own company.

How to start paying off debt and create your own financial opportunities

There are some key lessons that anyone trying to pay off debt can learn from Seaton's story.

If you want to reach financial freedom and have total control over your own decisions, future and financial wellbeing, getting rid of debt is a crucial part of the process.

It's not enough to simply say you'll start budgeting — you need to change your mindset and make whatever your goal is (paying off debt, buying a house etc.) your number one priority. And in order to do that, you need a plan — to keep you on track, to keep you accountable and to empower you along the way as you make progress toward that goal.

When you're ready to pay off debt, here are some key strategies to keep in mind:

  • Identify your goal and plan to achieve it (timeline)
  • Make that goal your #1 priority
  • Create a budget to start living on less
  • Find ways to make more money
  • Have a support system in place to keep you going

It's a lot easier said than done, but with those things in mind, here are some more resources to help you get on the path to becoming debt free:

Learn more about how to start paying off your debt and save more money.