A woman celebrated paying off her more than $ 102,000 in student loans with a photoshoot in a New York cemetery.

In a Facebook post which opened with “DING DONG MY LOANS ARE DEAD”, Mandy Velez, 28, explains how she was able to free herself from student debt after six years.

“I finally killed them,” she said on Facebook, where she shared photos of herself celebrating at Trinity Church Cemetery in the city’s financial district. “It was a slow death but worth every part of the fight.”

Velez’s journey began in 2013 when she graduated University of Pittsburgh with about $ 75,000 in student loans. She moved to New York with the determination to be debt free at age 30.

Over the next six years, Velez slashed his budget, paid more than the minimum required payments, and worked several side jobs to get closer to his goal.

In the past eight months, she said she lived on less than a third of her monthly salary, ate only salad, eggs, chicken and rice, and worked side jobs to earn money. extra money.

Finally, Velez drew on his savings to make his last payment on August 2. By the end of his six-year journey, the interest had turned his original $ 75,000 in student loans into debt of about $ 102,000.

Velez told USA TODAY on Friday that the two most important things that helped her reach her goal two years earlier were to cut her budget and increase her income through additional jobs.

“There are ways to budget that you don’t realize until you sit down and go over each item,” she said. “It made a huge difference, we’re talking like hundreds of dollars of difference.”

But the sacrifices were far from easy. Velez admits she was exhausted towards the end of her trip as she was unable to spend quality time with friends and family with all the extra work she was busy with. Sometimes she had to get creative to stick to her food budget, depending on free breakfasts and snacks from her office to get through the day.

“It’s a shame that’s what it takes to pay them off,” she said.

Velez also recognizes his privilege to be able to make these sacrifices and understands that not everyone can follow the same path to a life without debt.

“Not everyone can do this,” she said in her post. “Maybe because of a lack of jobs, skills or other aggravating responsibilities, because frankly, it’s a rigged game.”

She said she hopes that one day the student loan crisis can be resolved and that her story will inspire others to take control of their own financial future, whatever form it means to them.

Velez told USA TODAY that his new financial goal is to save for a down payment to buy a home in two or three years.

But in the meantime, she’s enjoying the relief of being released from student loans.

“I’m happy to be done with it as quickly as possible,” she said. “I was done and was glad I killed them once and for all.”

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

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