I am writing this to share how I paid off $120,000 in student loans in a little less than four years.  It took dedication and I wasn't out buying the new houses and cars that my fellow graduates were, but I am debt free today.  

Let me first say, that this post will probably apply to more professions than pharmacy.  Saying that, I took on my student loans in pharmacy school because I knew there would be a payoff at the end and I would likely be able to pay them back.  My student loans scared me to death.  I was terrified of the amount of money that I owed and as graduation grew nearer, it was like a shadow looming over my head.  

Honestly, I'm not sure there is a payoff in all professions.  I have a friend who is a physician and went back and do a FOUR YEAR residency because she was never going to be able to pay off her loans in her medical field.  So the opportunity cost of going back to residency for four years still was better than staying where she was.  I also have a friend (in a different profession) who has a great high paying job but still carries quite a bit of student loans.  Her interest rate is <1% and she is making more keeping her money in a money market, so it doesn't make sense paying them off right away.  I digress....

It is typical of pharmacy students to graduate with $100,000 or more in student loans.  I know physicians who graduated with $250,000 in student loans.  

Some of my tips for paying student loans off:

1.  Live like a student for a little bit longer:  I still had the mentality that I was in school.  Maybe it was because I still lived with a roommate in an apartment, but I still had someone to share expenses with and that helped me save a lot more.  I know people who lived at home for their first year (though that may not work for everyone!).  

2.  Put more towards your monthly loan payment:  I had a twenty or thirty year monthly payment plan, but I paid at least double that every month.  I also would put an extra $5,000 or $10,000 down as an extra payment when I would get enough money saved.  

3.  Do you really need it?  Ask yourself this question when you are out shopping or buying something to buy.  Just because you have a nice salary now doesn't mean you need all new everything.  You probably got by fine without it the year before!  The little things add up so watch what you spend your money on.  

4.  Sign up for automatic bill pay - it will often decrease your interest rate by ~0.5%

5.  Watch eating out and going out - I don't even want to think about how much money I spent on food and going out in pharmacy school.  But, I had fun and when I graduated, I got a lot more serious about saving and eating at home.  I also had to go to work the next day and being hung over wasn't something that I wanted to deal with.  

You can still have fun!  Just be smart - saving money those first years out will reap many rewards in later years.  For example, you will have more money to put down on a house.

PracticeJoanna Simmon