Debt Scholarship Sponsor: NerdWallet

Joe AudetteName

Joseph Audette

Website or Company

NerdScholar at

What is your background with debt and how did you conquer the financial obstacles in your life?

Just over 10 years ago, I was entering my first semester at MIT. Choosing an expensive private school over more economical options, I knew I was placing a financial strain on my family as well as my future self.

Although I took steps to minimize my student loans during school, I still graduated with over $38,000 in debt.

This debt felt like a burden because it limited my life. I could not take a year off to travel, or make a risky career decision, because of my monthly payments. It was because of this that I decided to pay my student loans as soon as possible.

My first step was to get organized by consolidating my loans into a single payment. I then planned ahead by setting up a basic budget, establishing goals, and living within my means.

I accelerated my payments by putting aside extra money each month to pay down my debt. Instead of buying that flashy new car, or getting my own apartment in the “cool” area of town, I bought used, and shared a place with roommates, which enabled me to double my monthly payment towards my student loans.

Paying off my loans 13 years ahead of schedule gave me the freedom to quit my corporate job and start NerdScholar.

How did you discover you had a desire to help other students with their higher education?

My parents were both life-long teachers, so the value of education was instilled within me at an early age. I made the proactive decision to go to a more expensive school, and take on additional debt, because I understood the career opportunities that MIT would provide me in the future.

I built racecars in college, and after graduating had my dream job designing concept cars. MIT was the best school for my future, and I want to help other students achieve their same dreams.

Choosing the best school, finding ways to pay for college, and succeeding in paying off student loans are all a part of helping make those dreams a reality.

What is your WHY (or the company’s why) behind wanting to be a sponsor of the Debt Movement?

Americans now have more student loan debt than credit card debt. A college degree is still a fantastic personal investment, but its not just about going to school, its about going to the right school for your future.

It is unfortunate that I see so many students graduating with high debt loads and no way to pay it off. I want to help people cope with their situations and take advantage of every opportunity out there.

The Debt Movement provides an opportunity for me to pass on my knowledge and lessons to those who can benefit from it most.

What’s the biggest hurdle you see people face when they first decide to pay off debt?

I think the biggest hurdle to overcome debt is the challenge of adopting a new lifestyle. It is very easy to get accustomed to a life beyond your means, which makes it difficult to adjust to a new budget.

This requires personal discipline and restraint at first, but gets much easier over time. A great example is eating out, a very expensive habit I was guilty of.

It was difficult for me to stay-in and cook at first, but after some time I actually started to enjoy cooking, and now I have a new hobby that actually saves me money.

What’s your number one piece of advice to help people stay out of debt for good?

The best advice I can give to stay out of debt for good is: keep your finances simple. As soon as you take on debt, you complicated your personal finances and have an additional stress in your life.

To me, it is hard to take that new career risk, or move to a new city, if you are saddled with a $500/month loan payment. I am happier when I am debt-free because I don’t have to worry about my finances.

I buy only what I can afford to fit my budget. It sounds cliché, but to be happy and free, I stay debt-free.


NerdWallet is one of the Debt Movement’s Debt Scholarship Gold Sponsors, and empowers consumers to make better decisions about their personal finances, travel plans, or higher education. Visit their site for more inspiring ways to get out of debt and stay up-to-date on the latest financial news.