Here's a great story about Ken Ilgunas, a young man who dug himself out of two years of undergrad student debt. How did he do it? By moving to Alaska, getting a job, and not spending. In two years, he had paid down his whole $32,000 student debt.
The moral of the story: if you want to make a lot of money quickly, go to work somewhere where labor is in high demand and others don't want to go. Alaska: check. Then don't spend.
It reminds me of my less dramatic story about how I followed the same principles at an earlier age. I've posted about it here and here.
I wasn't in debt when I decided to work in a nickel mine in northern Canada. My net worth was about $20. But my goal was not to get into debt and to make enough money in 3 months to pay for my whole last year of college: tuition, room and board, and books.
I've told most of the story in the above-noted posts but one part I didn't tell much about was on the spending side. I was in a mining camp 40 miles south of Thompson, Manitoba with 300 men. Single guys who spent money spent it on three main things: cigarettes, booze, and prostitutes. I did none of those. Out of about $2,000 I made that summer (in 1969 dollars), I definitely spent under $100.
Oh, and I made my goal. In fact I quit on August 15 with an extra $350 that I used to fly down to Chicago, attend an Intercollegiate Studies Institute conference at Rockford College, and then travel across eastern United States and tour Philadelphia and New York.