If the thought of no longer making a student loan payment has you excited, you’re in the right place. Today you’ll get five actionable tips on how to repay your student loans faster.
Student loans can sure be a burden. Having a chunk of your paycheck going towards debt repayment is never fun. It can hinder buying a home, saving for a wedding, or starting to invest.
Here are five practical steps you can take today to eliminate your student loans ASAP.
How to Repay Your Student Loans Faster
1. See What You Owe
When it comes to student loans, the first step is getting your facts straight.
You want to see what you owe, who you owe it to, and the interest rate you’re paying.
Credit Sesame, one of my favorite free personal finance tools, lets you see how much you owe and to whom.
It compiles the information from your TransUnion credit report, which all debts are listed on. So you get to see what you owe across all your accounts in one place.
2. Lower Your Interest Rate
The rule of thumb with debt is that you want to pay the lowest interest rate possible.
The lower your interest rate, the greater portion of your payment goes towards repaying the principal.
Don’t underestimate the impact a lower interest rate can have.
Consider two loans:
- Loan A: 10-year $50,000 loan with a 6% interest rate.
- Loan B: 10-year $50,000 loan with a 4% interest rate.
Over the lifetime of Loan A, you’ll pay $16,612.30 in interest (or $66,612.30 total).
With a 2% lower rate on Loan B, you’ll pay $10,747.08 in interest (or $60,747.08 total).
I wrote a complete beginner’s guide to student loan refinancing that goes over everything you need to know — it’s a great place to start if you’re not sure what the first step is, or whether refinancing is right for you.
Keep in mind that even though you may be paying a lower interest rate, there are some disadvantages to having a private lender.
Government student loans do come with some flexibility.
- Loan forgiveness can allow you to write off your loans after spending 10 years working in a qualifying public service career, and “public service” is defined rather broadly to include many local, state and federal government jobs (as well as some non-profit positions).
- Income-based repayment plans such as IBR, REPAYE, ICR of PAYE allow you to adjust your monthly payment based on your current level of income. Also, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness after making 10-years of on-time payments in any of the above programs.
By refinancing with a private lender, you lose those options. However, if your goal is to pay off your debt as fast as possible, those two options have less value.
#3) Increase Your Payments By Increasing Your Income
When I analyzed 11 case studies from individuals who paid off their student loans early, I found that seven out of 11 earned extra income outside their normal work situation.
This included logging extra hours or taking a second job. Another option is simply looking for a higher-paying job.
The extra income went straight towards debt repayment, allowing these individuals to really speed up the process.
A few simple ways to earn more include:
- Swagbucks — by setting your default search engine to Swagbucks, which uses Bing, you earn a small amount of money each time you search. Plus, there are opportunities to earn more by taking surveys and even playing games. It’s a simple way to see a trickle of money here and there, just for doing what you already are doing.
- Rakuten — get up to 20% cash-back for your online purchases when you start at the Rakuten portal.
- Sell items on sites like Craigslist.
- Earn cash for taking surveys
- Sign up for a few money making apps to earn passive income
#4) Increase Your Payments by Cutting Your Expenses
The gap between your income and expenses (see the graphic illustration below) determines how fast you’ll be able to pay off your debt.
Not only do you want to increase your income, but you also want to lower your expenses. While I’ve written about over 100 ways to save money, here are a few ideas that offer big savings for little effort:
- Track your spending with a free app like Personal Capital (Click here to sign up for Personal Capital and get a free $20 Amazon gift card).
- Cut your monthly utility bills with these 15 no-fuss tips.
- Shop for your auto insurance with a site like Esurance.
#5) Keep Increasing Your Payments
Set an alert on your calendar to adjust the amount of money you’ll pay each month towards your loans.
Ideally, you’ll put everything that’s leftover — besides a small emergency fund — towards your loans.
The goal is to keep increasing this number month after month. And if you’re really committed to paying down your debt fast, check out this strategy guide to being student-debt-free in five years or less.