I paid off $68,000 of student loan debt, and 2 easy side hustles made all the difference

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Courtesy of Melanie LockertMelanie Lockert.
  • Melanie Lockert graduated from school with $US68,000 of student loan debt remaining.
  • She cut her spending as much as she could, but realised she needed to earn more if she was going to make a dent in her debt.
  • She found side jobs working as a brand ambassador and as an event assistant to supplement her income, and found they were well-paying gigs that weren’t very hard.
  • Credible can help compare offers to consolidate and refinance your student loan debt »

In 2012, I was living in Portland, Oregon, wondering how I was going to pay my remaining $US68,000 in student loan debt.

I had graduated with my MA in Performance Studies from NYU the year prior but struggled to find full-time work. I was making $US10 to $US12 with temp work. I shared a studio with my boyfriend at the time, didn’t have a car, and didn’t have health insurance (pre-Affordable Care Act).

I cut back in every way I could and hit my limit. I knew that my only shot at paying off my debt was earning more. So I focused on side hustling.

While I did a lot of side hustles over the years, I did two main side hustles that helped me pay off debt.

Becoming a brand ambassador

Right before I left New York City at the end of 2011, I got my first gig as a brand ambassador. I found it on Craigslist under the Gigs section. There was an ad that said there was an opportunity to earn $US20 per hour to hand out flyers for a pet adoption event for a major pet retailer in Central Park. They paid within two weeks. I was lucky to get the gig after playing up the volunteer experience I had with events.

I got it, showed up, and made some of the easiest money of my life. I got paid $US20 per hour to hang out in Central Park and hand out flyers about a pet adoption event. After that, I got a gig as a Columbia Sportswear brand ambassador during the holiday season in Bryant Park. I got $US500 worth of free clothes and helped people try on jackets and sing karaoke in a freezer, as a way to prove how warm the clothes were. This was another easy and fun gig. So when I moved to Portland, I continued my search for brand ambassador gigs.

Being a brand ambassador meant being “the face” of the company in public. Typically, as a brand ambassador you work public events like sporting events, concerts, or in public places with lots of people, like parks.



Credible can help compare offers to consolidate and refinance your debt »

I realised that brand ambassador gigs varied between $US17-25 per hour, depending on the gig. Many of the gigs were between four and eight hours, for one to two days.

All I needed was the ability to talk to people, show up on time, and wear a branded t-shirt. Being a brand ambassador was great because I simply signed up with marketing agencies, got emails for gigs, and applied for the ones I could do.

There was a flexible schedule that could work around my 9 to 5 and paid more than what I was earning during the day.

Working as an event assistant

After working for a couple of years as a brand ambassador, in 2014 I found a TaskRabbit gig to help out at an event at a Jewish Congregation. I am not Jewish, which worked in my favour as there were no conflicts for me to work the holidays. I did the first gig, helping prepare and set food, move chairs, clean up, etc.

They liked me and offered me a part-time job. This was also nights and weekends and a job I could do around my 9 to 5. I would work one to three times per month for about five hours at a time.

As an events assistant, I helped with set up, food prep, cleaning, and breakdown. Not exactly glamourous stuff, but this job helped me experience a new culture and new traditions.

It only paid $US12 per hour but every event, I got a feast of leftover food and wine. The extras would easily last me a week, which would help my grocery budget.

I kept my side hustles for years

I continued these side hustles until I paid off my debt in December 2015. It took me nearly five years to pay off the rest of the $US68,000, and while it was stressful working full-time and spending nights and weekends doing these side hustles, for an extrovert like me, it also gave me energy.

In the beginning, I made $US10 to $US12 per hour and these side hustles helped me survive and continue to pay off debt. In mid-2013, I got a job as an events and communications coordinator at a nonprofit making $US31,000. Having that job as well as these two side hustles helped me pay off debt faster. During that time, I kept my expenses the same and focused solely on earning more.

I found that frugality was a great beginning strategy in my debt payoff journey, but earning more really helped me get where I needed to go.

Need help with your student loan debt? Credible can help compare offers to consolidate and refinance your debt »

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