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Memphis native erases more than $45,000 in student loan debt during pandemic

“I worked for a nonprofit, so I'm definitely not making the big bucks,” said Austin Hasenmueller.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Right now, federal student loan payments are paused as millions rebound from the pandemic.

RELATED: Biden officials considering action on student debt relief

But one Memphis woman didn’t stop her payments.

“I paid off, in 16 months, $45,749 dollars,” said Memphis native Austin Hasenmueller.

Hasenmueller made the announcement on Facebook. Now, her student loan debt is paid in full.

“School was my only debt, my loans that I took out. But also my mom had taken out Parent PLUS loans,”said Hasenmueller. “So, I was paying off my debt and her debt. That was the agreement we made when I went to college.”

Hasenmueller is not a millionaire, and she didn’t inherit that money.

“I worked for a nonprofit, so I'm definitely not making the big bucks,” she said.

During the pandemic, Hasenmueller learned those new skills in a church finance class. Budgeting, saving, and picking up odd jobs helped her lower the number.

Credit: Austin Hasenmueller

“I started building kind of this clientele of people to go house or plant sit for,” she said. “In Memphis, there's a place called Bio Life Plasma Services. I signed up there, and I'm telling you in less than three months, and not even going every week, I made almost $800,” said Hasenmueller.  

If you’re one of millions who owe student loan debt, Envision Financial Planning CEO Stacey Hyde advises, in addition to bringing in money, look for ways to save more and spend less.

“Be deliberate,” said Hyde. “Get your credit card bills, get your bank statements and figure out where your money's going. That's the first step is you got to understand where the money's going out the door.”

For Hasenmueller, that meant saving money on one of her biggest bills, rent.  

“During COVID, I was not paying rent, because my mom was kind enough to let me stay with her,” said Hasenmueller.  “There definitely has to be sacrifice, if you really do want to be out of debt, you might have to do things you don't want to do, like, move home with your parents. And that's not an option for everyone. But that was an option for me.”

Hyde says downsizing, getting roommates, or helping the elderly could save a few bucks.

“There are a lot of older people that need help around the house and, but still want to be at home, you know, maybe you would breach some sort of agreement to go and stay with them do their grocery shopping,” said Hyde.

Bottom line, getting out of the red is tough, but it’s possible.

For folks who do, like Hasenmueller, it’s worth every penny.

“Now I have zero debt to my name, and that's something that is very freeing.”

Federal student loan payments and interest rates are paused until the end of September.

Financial Planner Stacey Hyde advises you should to put the money you owe aside. That way you’re not behind when payments resume.