A woman named Mandy Velez just paid off more than $100,000 in loans, at the age of 27. In celebration, Velez dressed up in her finest black dress and went down to Trinity Church Cemetery in downtown Manhattan, then posed for a student loan funeral photoshoot with silver balloons reading, “102K.” That number represents the debt she managed to pay in just six years.
The images quickly went viral, as did Velez’s message. She wrote:
DING DONG MY LOANS ARE DEAD💀It is with immense pleasure that I announce the death of my student loans. On August 2, 2019, after 6 years, I finally killed them. It was a slow death but was worth every bit of the fight.
Velez says she graduated with 75k in debt in 2013, then moved to NYC, where she made sure to pay more than the minimum, at least a thousand dollars every month, which she says was like a second rent. She says she worked her butt off to pay what amounted to a second rent, but adds, “It was more than most people can do, and I, a single, childless, able-bodied woman consider myself lucky. But still, I carried this burden alone. I never asked for or received help. No one ever paid my bills.”
Then last year, Velez decided she couldn’t stand being in debt any longer. She set a goal to be debt-free by 30, saying she wanted to start saving for her future. She wants to have a house, kids, and a life that isn’t burdened with debt. She says she paid the last 32k in just eight months. Here’s how she did it:
I cut my budget and lived off of less than a third of my monthly salary. (Turns out, packing lunches and not taking Ubers can save you a ton.) I worked my ass off at work and asked for raises, and got them. I worked three jobs at once, my day job and then side hustles. I walked dogs until my feet literally bled. In the cold. In the rain. In the heat. Nothing was beneath me. I babysat. I cat sat. I stayed up for 24 hours straight to make a few hundred bucks as a TV extra on shows they filmed overnight. I cut my food budget down to merely salad, eggs, chicken and rice. I said “no”—my God I said no—to making memories with my family and friends and prayed there would be other opportunities in the future.
Was it easy? No. Worth it? I’m smiling in a cemetery. 102K lifted from my back. You tell me.
Well, she sure looks happy:
While this is definitely an occasion to celebrate, not everyone can manage to pay off life-ruining debt by forsaking Uber. Hearing about the mountain of pain Velez dug herself out from, the most startling thing is that anyone would accrue so much debt in pursuit of an education—and that it’s actually a pretty normal occurrence. Congratulations to Velez on paying off her debt, and on staging a radical student loan funeral photoshoot to celebrate it! Now let’s change the world so young people don’t start their lives off with such an enormous setback.