After graduating with two undergrad degrees and a Master's in finance, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner had accumulated $38,000 worth of student loan debt.
She managed to climb out of the red in just seven months, thanks largely to one key strategy: She focused on making more money.
"The biggest reason for why I was able to pay off my student loans is because I earned as much money as I could outside of my day job," writes Schroeder-Gardner, who was making $50,000 a year as a financial analyst at the time. "I mystery shopped and got paid to take surveys, but the biggest thing I did was I made an income through my blog."
The problem with relying on finding ways to cut your budget is that "usually there's a limit to how much you can save," Schroeder-Gardner tells CNBC Make It. "Find ways to make more, because there's no limit on how much extra money you can make in your spare time."
She points out that Americans spend a lot of hours watching TV: "Even if you just cut that time in half and reclaim 15 hours a week — if you put that time towards making extra money, that's a lot of money that could go towards your student loan debt. You could work extra hours at your day job, you could take on a part time job, you could start your own freelancing business. There are so many different things that a person can do."
That's not to say you should disregard saving, says Schroeder-Gardner: "It's all about a good, healthy balance. You need to find ways to save money … but making extra money is just as important.
"Ninety-nine percent of people probably have free time, so if you can use that time towards making extra money, then you can pay your off your debt even sooner than you probably ever thought possible."
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Video by Luqman Adeniyi