A couple of months ago, I finished paying off $26,500 in debt — most of it student loans. It took less than two years to save up that cash. During that time I became a pro bargain shopper, tested my limits with expiring foods and briefly resorted to using food stamps.

Like most 20-somethings, I thought I’d be saddled with debt well into my 30’s and possibly 40’s, just like my parents. But here I was, just 25 years old, and debt-free.

My mission to wipe out my debt kicked into high gear right after graduation from Arizona State. I had landed my first job as a local reporter in Green Bay, Wisc., making $13 an hour. Not only did I have $20,500 in student loan debt, but I also owed another $6,000 for my 2003 Honda Civic.

I tackled my car loan first since it charged a higher 8% interest rate. I also had six months before I had to start making payments on my five student loans.

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