"Being open about my debt, and the hoops I had to jump through to get rid of it, is how I’m trying to help," Mandy Velez wrote on Facebook

By Rachel DeSantis
October 15, 2019 01:43 PM
Credit: Mike Arrison

Just in time for Halloween, one New York woman managed to say goodbye to the scariest thing of all: her student loan debt.

Mandy Velez, 27, recently paid off more than $100,000 in loans, and celebrated with a funeral-themed photo shoot that officially declared her loans dead and gone.

In the photos, which have since gone viral, Velez is dressed in all black in New York City’s Trinity Church Cemetery, and poses with silver balloons reading, “102K,” the staggering amount she says she managed to pay off in just six years.

“It is with immense pleasure that I announce the death of my student loans. On August 2, 2019, after six years, I finally killed them,” she wrote on Facebook. “It was a slow death but was worth every bit of the fight.”

Velez, a senior social media editor at The Daily Beast, explained in her post that she graduated from college in 2013 with $75,000 in loans, not including interest.

She soon moved to New York and did her best to pay off $1,000 per month, taking jobs she didn’t care for but which could help her “survive.”

For five years, she never missed a payment, managing to fight through setbacks such as a layoff from her job.

Mandy Velez
| Credit: Mike Arrison
Mandy Velez
| Credit: Mike Arrison

Despite the progress over the years, Velez said she felt a sudden change last fall that inspired her to kick her payments into overdrive — and with that in mind, she paid off the remaining $32,000 in just eight months.

“Maybe it was feeling like my life was on hold, but I just remember thinking I was DONE. I didn’t want to owe anyone anything more,” she wrote. “I wanted to start saving for my future. A house. Kids. A life. So I made a decision — I’d become debt-free by 30. I’m proud to say I accomplished my goal 2 years early.”

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In order to pull it together in the home stretch, Velez slashed her budget and lived off of less than a third of her monthly salary, cutting corners by packing lunch and avoiding ride-share services like Uber.

She also took on side hustles, like dog walking, babysitting, and cat sitting to earn a little extra cash.

“I stayed up for 24 hours straight to make a few hundred bucks as a TV extra on shows they filmed overnight. (I got to be on SVU so I’m OK with that one.),” she joked.

Mandy Velez
| Credit: Mike Arrison
Mandy Velez
| Credit: Mike Arrison

Velez wrote that though it was difficult to turn down various opportunities with her family and friends because of her financial situation, it was entirely worth it.
“I used the ‘snowball’ method to pay them off faster and avoid more insane interest rates, which is how my loan total came to 102K —27k more than what I actually borrowed,” she wrote. “Was it easy? No. Worth it? I’m smiling in a cemetery. 102K lifted from my back. You tell me.”

She added that she hoped her story would inspire people to similarly erase student loan debt, either by paying off their own, voting to help usher in policies that’ll lead to a more fair system, or other methods.

“All I know is, this nightmare, this crisis, needs to end,” she wrote. “Being open about my debt, and the hoops I had to jump through to get rid of it, is how I’m trying to help.”