PODCAST: How one CPA paid off her student loan debt in 2 years

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager

The phrase “student loans” can strike fear into even the bravest of hearts. But after a chance discussion with a colleague, one CPA decided to tackle her student loan debt before it got out of control.

“My coworker at the time was sharing how his girlfriend was aggressively paying off her student loans,” said A’Shira Nelson, CPA. “And I was left shocked just sitting at the lunch table. Wait, how aggressively and what does that even mean?”

Nelson, a senior associate at HW&Co. in Cleveland, joined this week’s episode of The State of Business podcast to talk about how after that lunchroom chat she went on to pay off her student loan debt in two years. She offers advice for others looking to do the same.

She graduated from the University of Akron in 2011 and began her dedicated plan to pay off her debt in March of 2017. Before then, she had been making the minimum payments without much consideration into how it would affect her finances in the future.

“I knew I needed to create some type of budget, in order to see how extra payments could even fit in,” she said. “I was paying about $200 a month, and $200 seemed like a lot at the time. But my budget helped me to realize that I could afford more if I made some little tweaks, like by eliminating things in my budget that I didn't really even need.”

Nelson looked at her monthly subscription services, car insurance and more to see what she could eliminate or lower. With more than $24,000 in student debt, she decided she wanted to make a monthly payment of $1000.

“I genuinely did not know I had that in me to even do it,” she said. “I had never set a goal that large before. And I never really put myself on a deadline. So that 24 months held me to it.”

As she started to feel more comfortable with her budget, she began talking to her family and friends about her goal, sparking so much interest that she created her own YouTube channel, SavvyGirlMoney,, as a channel where she could talk about paying off debt in realistic and achievable ways.

And although she uses that as a “stage name” Nelson makes a point to introduce herself and use her own image on these sites to fight back against the stigma of paying off debt.

“People are so ashamed, even on social media,” she said. “People in debt-free communities tend to hide behind these emojis or they create a character. But I did not want to be a character online. I wanted to be myself… so that you know that I'm a real person. I am in a good industry. I love my career. But I also am working through financial issues. And I want to share this journey with you to help you out.”

Listen to the episode now.

2 comments

Leave a comment
  1. AShira Nelson | Oct 30, 2019
    Hello Joanne, Dave Ramsey was one of my influences.
  2. Joanne M Sadar | Oct 10, 2019
    This is very similar to the Dave Ramsey approach.  His pay-off-debt-and- build-wealth steps go much further, but both approaches show that, with a plan and focus, you don't need to be buried under ANY debt for the rest of your life.

    Leave a comment