Mini book review: Student loans and stashing money

by Keena Kimmel

“Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road From Debt to Freedom,” by Ken Ilgunas, is the author’s account of tackling $32,000 in student loan debt, while simultaneously stashing money in the bank and earning a master’s degree.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University at Buffalo, Ilgunas moved to Coldfoot, Alaska, where he worked various jobs for the next three or so years, including a gig as a backcountry ranger and “voyageur,” (someone who lives and dresses like an 18th century fur trader). Pay was low, but room and board were free, and nearly every dollar chipped away at his loan.

Once debt-free, he enrolled in a graduate program at Duke University. There, inspired by Thoreau and the things he’d learned along the way, Ilgunas stealthily took up residence in the student parking lot in his “Walden on Wheels,” a 1994 Econoline van. Living costs pared to nil, and he paid his tuition by working every part-time job he could swing, thus graduating debt-free.

This book is a must-read for anyone unconvinced that you can still earn a college degree or two, emerge on the flip side debt-free, and with a pretty rad resume to show for it.

— Keena Kimmel

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