I wish I had some sweet, step by step process to lay out for you. My general plan/story was this -- didn't pay a dime towards loans in med school or residency. Had balance of $270,000 with varying interest rates, most of them stupily high, with 2 of them over 9%. Most were private sallie mae loans and couldn't consolidate. upon graduating, took academic position that with bonuses and robust moonlighting opportunities at sleepier satellites made $315,000 x 2 years (usual paychecks were net $5500 - $9000 every 2 weeks after all with holdings and taxes). During those 2 years I lived like an upscale resident. Rented a sweet loft for $1500/month. Maxed out retirement funds. Socked away a grand or so per paycheck into my liquid savings. Had a basement level of 7 grand in my checking account I was unwilling to below. Didn't really budget per se. Put nearly everything on my AmEx and paid it off every month -- racked up tons of points for traveling. Balance was roughly $5000 per month, sometimes more, sometimes less. First pay check of month, I started bombing my highest interest loan. Second paycheck, paid bills, and if had money left, saved and/or paid more on loans. Made some big expenditures -- got married in July 2012 and paid for probably 2/3 of it myself -- and the reception was more black eyed peas concert than it was "small and intimate."
Left job, worked in community for 2 years with ER physician wife at same job -- who also had $270 grand of her own debt. figure we each made $260,000/yr. rented 3 bedroom condo for $1700 a month. same thing. had basement level in checking. maxed out our retirements. socked some away in savings. felt like it was hard to really have any major impact on either loan though we kept trying. AmEx bills were higher, generally in the 7 grand a month area, but again, had more income coming in.
Spring 2014 got divorced. Saving graces -- no children, didn't buy a house, same job, and really no assets we mutually cared about. Split up things and moved on. Legal costs were $1500 and the whole process went quick. Overall financial hit was minimal, though I had to buy my way out of my community job before moving back and getting my original academic job back with the same exact set up.
Back at academic job, was up to my old antics. Moved into $2200/month bachelor pad. Moonlighted like crazy. socked money away. kept saving and bombing my loans. slowly but surely, the number kept getting lower and lower. when i got down under 30 grand, I just took some of my liquid savings and nuked the rest since I didn't really have an immediate cash needs otherwise. I paid $80 grand in the first 8 months of 2015. Not sure what my monthly average was.
Clearly, made some mistakes along the way. Not saying my financial strategy was perfect, but it worked. I can say for certain that if I were still married, had bought a house, and/or had kids, I would still have substantial loan balance. No situation is identical, so clearly -- gotta adjust for your own life and do what's right for you. Now that I've paid it off, and I look at the life I've created for myself, I can definitely say the investment in my career and my mind was absolutely worth it.