Most people approach their student loans with a single-mindedness that borders on obsession. And with good reason – being saddled with an enormous amount of debt before you’ve had a chance to start your life is an overwhelming prospect.

Many new graduates go on the money diet, cutting back on every expense and living like a pauper as they hack away at their student loans. Some can go the distance, but this usually leads instead to burnout and depression.

You can’t go to the movies with friends. A cup of coffee from your favorite place is out of the question. Even dating and marriage is out of the question.

There’s nothing wrong with focusing on bringing your student loan bill to zero – in fact, it’s exactly what you should do. But you need to look at your student loan payment plan as a marathon rather than a sprint. In order to do that, it’s important to build in a safety valve that will help you relieve the pressure without causing you to throw your hands in the air and give up.

When she started paying off her loans in November 2011, Zina Kumok owed about $28,000 in federal student loans. Though she focused on trimming expenses and putting as much as 50% of her income into student loan payments, she made room for what she loves: travel.

Zina traveled to Europe, including Spain and Belgium, and to Israel, while paying off her student loans.

All on a journalist’s salary. And just three years after she started making payments, Zina had paid off her student loans in full.

Lucky? Not at all. In fact, it was the result of a plan of attack that included prioritizing her long-term goals and values rather than the impulsiveness that accompanies a money diet.

Where to Find Zina

Zina is going to be offering Student Loan Knock-Out, a 20-day online training course to help people get their student loans under control. If you’re interested in learning more when it’s released, click here.

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