For anyone trying to dig their way out of the red, a good first step actually has nothing to do with your outstanding debt, according to Hoyt, who is now a full-time financial blogger. Before making any big payments, build an emergency fund, he encourages.
While Hoyt didn't take this first step — he immediately started directing the majority of his paycheck toward his debt, and used the rest of his income to live on — it's what he would advise his younger self to do.
"I was making these huge payments and I didn't have any cash saved up," he tells CNBC. "I was throwing all of my money at these loans, and if I had gotten hurt or sick, or if my car had broken down, I would've been screwed."
A couple of months into Hoyt's payment process, he shifted his focus to building up his rainy day fund. During this time period — November 2012 to February 2013 — he made minimum payments on his loans.
"I spent the next three months stashing money into my savings so that I could protect myself against any financial emergencies that might come up," he writes on his blog. "You need to have some money set aside. I put away about $3,000 during that time span that I didn't make consistent loan payments. This is something that I highly recommend you do before you start destroying your loans like I was about to do."