When it came to getting her student loan repayments under control, Shonnita Leslie had reached a breaking point.
“I felt like I was stuck in quicksand,” she says. “No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my student debt under control.” Leslie’s student loan balance was over $80,000 when she signed up for DoorDash, a food delivery platform, in 2018 as a “Dasher” to deliver people’s orders and earn extra money. She’s earned more than $52,000 on DoorDash over the past four years, all of which has gone towards paying off debt, a journey she’s documented on Noir In Color, her YouTube channel.
President Biden’s administration has now launched the Federal Student Aid Portal, an online platform designed to manage and streamline the recently announced student loan forgiveness program. In its first week, more than 22 million Americans signed up. But for some, the prospect of federal loan forgiveness of up to $20,000 has little impact: 7% of student borrowers owe more than $100,000, accounting for a third of all college debt. due.
As a result, many Americans are turning to side hustle or the gig economy to tackle their debt. If you’ve been thinking about DoorDash or another platform to make money on the side, here are Leslie’s top tips.
“I had $5 worth of gas in my car”
By the time Leslie graduated from college and entered the workforce, she had borrowed $80,676.38 in student loans: $30,783.00 in private loans and $49,894.38 in federal loans. Taking into account accrued interest, paying off his student debt was going to cost him more than $100,000. Additionally, she had accrued over $33,000 in non-student debt, including medical debt, credit card debt, and a car loan.
Related: After paying off $20,000, the 25-year-old fell back into credit card debt. Here’s what you can learn from her
“If someone had told me it would take me 20 years to pay off what I borrowed for six years of college, I would have made different choices,” she says.
With her loan payments representing a huge percentage of her monthly income, Leslie became increasingly overwhelmed and stressed at work.
Aspire that the repayment of your debts does not represent more than 36% of your monthly income; if you are above that, it may be more difficult to get approved for a personal loan or mortgage. A debt-to-income ratio (DTI) calculator is available here.
When she started researching debt management solutions online, she discovered the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). This federal program provides tax-free federal debt forgiveness to people who choose to work in the public service and make 120 consecutive monthly payments on time on their debt. In 2011, Leslie left her job to start a new career that would make her eligible for the PSLF program.
Related: My Side Hustle earns me $4,300 a month, but I’m not putting a dime into my $208,000 student loan debt. here’s why
The job was no pay raise, however, and Leslie was burdened with high debt payments for several years thereafter. She signed up to become Dasher as a last resort.
“My DoorDash journey started in 2018,” she says. “I had $5 worth of gas in my car when I signed up and was approved on the platform. I figured if I could earn enough to pay for gas, I’d hold out for the long haul. I made $30 in my first hour.
Leslie stuck to it as a side hustle and over the next four years used DoorDash to earn $52,445.11 in additional gross income, according to documents reviewed by NextAdvisor.
|Year||Leslie’s DoorDash Earnings|
A Dasher expert’s top tips for success
Leslie used the income she generated on DoorDash from 2018 to 2020 to pay off her car loan, credit card debt, and medical debt. From there, she focused all of her side income on paying off her student loans.
Here are some of his best practices for being efficient with his DoorDash delivery time:
- Work within a specific time block each day. Leslie says consistency will help you identify trends in your geographic market.
- Identify the 20% of locations or restaurants that generate 80% of orders. Then work only there.
- Patrol densely populated areas where busy people live and work. Examples include office parks, college campuses, college dorms, student apartments, high-end apartment complexes, hospitals, and airport hotels.
- Be pleasant, friendly and courteous when delivering to customers. DoorDash customers typically tip when ordering, but being nice may encourage them to tip more.
- Communicate with your customers while you are fulfilling their deliveries. Excellent customer service goes a long way in maintaining your ratings.
Take control of your student loan repayment journey
In 2022, on his tenth anniversary of public service, Leslie received a message from FedLoan Servicing, the entity responsible for administering the federal student aid program. The post said $60,045.81 of his federal student loans had been officially terminated from his records. Leslie shared her lessons learned as someone who followed the PSLF program from start to finish on YouTube.
“In high school, you’re not taught financial literacy,” she says. “Your income and debts have a huge impact on what you are able to do as an adult.”
If you’re looking to reduce your debt burden, increase your income, and get back on track to achieving financial independence, let this story about embracing the gig economy inspire you to change the narrative of your own student loan repayment journey.