When Melanie Lockert graduated from California State University, Long Beach in 2006, she had more than a degree in theater — she had $23,000 in student-loan debt. But she wasn't in any rush to pay it off. For about three or four years while she worked as a program director for an arts organization in Los Angeles, Lockert made only the minimum monthly payments on her student loans.
Then she was accepted into the performance studies master's program at her dream school — New York University. With $13,000 left to pay on her undergraduate loans, she had to choose whether to keep working and pay them off or take out $58,000 more in student loans to pay for graduate school. "I quit my job, moved across the U.S. and took on a boatload of debt," Lockert said.
When she graduated in 2011, she couldn't find a job in New York, so Lockert moved to Portland, Ore., where she first got a job paying just $10 an hour, then found a new one paying $12 an hour. "At that point, I knew I couldn't pay my bills and my school loans," she said.
Despite her low pay, Lockert did figure out how to get out of debt. Here's what she did to pay off student loans while she was broke.