After graduating from UCLA in 2007, Guen Garrido had $40,000 in student debt. "At that time, it was one of those things where you take out as many student loans as possible to get through school," says Garrido, who was a first-generation college student. "I did consider community college, but the fact that I got into UCLA was a big deal since I was the first person in my family to go to college. I just thought, 'Do whatever it takes and afterwards you'll get a job and you'll pay it off fast.'"
The job she took as a preschool teacher paid only about $13 an hour, though, which was barely enough to make ends meet. So Garrido put her debt on the back burner. "For a while, I was living as if my debt wasn't there," the 32-year-old tells CNBC Make It. "It just became normal to have it."
It wasn't until 2013 when a few life events prompted Garrido to tackle her debt. After ending a five-year relationship, she moved out of the apartment she shared with her boyfriend and "I found myself having to figure things out more on my own," she says. Later that year, her dad was diagnosed with cancer: "That's when it really hit me, when I realized I couldn't really help my dad because I was in such a deep hole."
By the end of 2014, that hole had grown to $68,600, thanks to a car loan, a few personal loans and credit card debt. But three years and three months later, the San Diego-based millennial had paid off every cent.
Here's how she did it.