I, Stephanie Bousley graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with an MFA in Film Production with nearly $200,000 in student loan debt. Three unpaid internships in the film industry later, the debt snowballed at interest rates of 8.5%, reaching $289,000 at its peak.

I lived in shame and secrecy about my finances.  I read a lot of Get Out of Debt books that were all about people being responsible and living frugally until they were out of debt. This advice felt so impossible, for two reasons:  #1:  Because my debt was so huge, and #2: Because my salary was so small. The books encouraged the adaptation of a life devoid of comforts, cutting back on everything humanly possible and filling every waking hour with full and part-time jobs.I’m no mathematician but it seemed painfully obvious that canceling a cable subscription and never going to Starbucks were not the answer to six-figure debt.

I kept sinking further into debt. I saw no options for a good life. I plunged into depression and seriously considered suicide. I had a master’s from a prestigious school and was a magna cum laude undergrad in in college. How had I sunk this low? The debt didn’t just make me feel like a loser, but stupid and un-loveable. . I would probably never have nice things, never get married or own a house, never live without the stress of whether or not I had enough money.

Then it all changed. A series of random events propelled me out of the U.S. to Singapore, where I got a job in finance, something I never expected to happen given my MFA degree. A solid income and hefty bonuses rejuvenated my desire to get my life back on track on every level.

I feel that what I learned can help so many people who like me, feel hopeless about their student debt.

  • With a good salary and a hefty yearly bonus, I was able to begin to slash my student debt.
  • Even with the student debt, I could still enjoy the good life, living in a building with a concierge and maid service, hiring a writing coach, working out with a private trainer, and enjoying vacations to Mt. Everest, Japan, exotic dive sites, and more.
  • Living abroad, I had to pay almost no U.S. taxes — legally!
  • I fixed my credit.
  • I refinanced my student loans from 8 percent to three percent, immediately saving $1300 per month which now went towards my principal.
  • I worked on my personal blocks to having money.
  • I observed the millionaires around me and their relationship to money, and shifted my perspective.
  • And through it all, I still engage my passion for film, winning several awards for screenplay writing, including the Grand Prize in Script Pipeline’s First Look Contest (Teleplay category) in 2015.

Today I’ve paid off most of my debt. I could kill the rest of it but have figured out how to invest the money at higher return rates than the interest I pay. I own a condo in the U.S. that I rent out to tenants, a retirement account, and a loving partner. Beyond all of this, my attitude has shifted. I’m happier. I feel anything is possible. I am hopeful about the future – a feeling I thought had been lost forever.

My upcoming book, Buy the Avocado Toast explains my process. If a person with virtually NO hard skills or useful degrees can do this, anyone can! You can find your life back, live it with passion and pay off your student debt. I promise. Let me show you how.