1. Start paying off loans before you have to.
After you graduate, you have 6-9 months until you have to start paying back student loans, but why wait if you already have a job?
Start paying off those loans ASAP if you can — especially if you have unsubsidized loans, which start accruing interest as soon as you borrow the money.
2. Pay less interest by making payments twice a month.
Take your regular monthly payment and split it in half. Then pay a half every two weeks (make it less painful by doing it on a payday).
Because there’s less time between payments, interest won’t have time to accumulate, and by year’s end, you’ll end up making an extra month’s worth of payments (paying every other week = 26 payments).
3. Reduce your interest rate by signing up for automatic payments.
Most loan servicers will offer you a 0.25% interest rate reduction on federal student loans just for signing up for automatic payments.
That may not seem like a lot, but every bit adds up — plus, you won’t have to worry about getting your payments in on time and can even select the date of your monthly auto withdrawal.
4. Use grocery rebate-app earnings.
Use Ibotta, Checkout 51, MobiSave, and a handful of other rebate apps to help you save on groceries, alcohol, and restaurant purchases. Simply submit a photo of your receipt to each app’s offer and get cash back that’s usually credited to your PayPal account within 24 hours.
Instead of cashing out right away, save your credits every month or quarter and use those rebate-app earnings to pay off your student loans.
5. Start couponing and use your savings to pay off debt.
Well, this is a no-brainer. Couponing can save you big bucks if you know how to optimize the savings.
KCL literally does all the work for you, matching the best manufacturer and store coupons with sales and other promos. Get the free app (available on Android and iPhone) to make your life easier. Every time you save money with coupons, transfer those savings to your student loan payments.
6. Resell old textbooks for extra cash.
Still have the textbooks you used in college? You’re probably sitting on hundreds of dollars. Sell those babies, and then go hunting for cheap textbooks on eBay and at yard sales.
I held on to my college texts for years thinking I’d need them one day only to sell them for pennies at a yard sale. Big mistake! Here’s How One Stranger Taught Me the Secret to Making $12k per Year Selling Books.
7. Make payments easier to manage by consolidating multiple loans.
Technically this won’t necessarily help you pay your loans off faster, but it will make managing your debt easier. Instead of juggling multiple payments a month, when you consolidate, you’ll only need to make one payment with a fixed interest rate.
The Department of Education lets federal-loan borrowers turn multiple loans into one new Direct Consolidation Loan, but the new loan’s interest rate is determined by the weighted average of all your existing loans. This is where refinancing may be the better option (see the next tip for details).
8. Refinance your loans to get a lower interest rate.
Currently, the only way to refinance your student loans is through private lenders, and when you refinance, you typically also consolidate your loans.
The best thing about refinancing is that interest rates start at just 2% and you get to choose a new term length and monthly payment amount, which can help you pay off loans faster. Refinancing also lets you remove any cosigners used to help you get your original loan, which in turn helps your cosigner’s credit.
Most student loan refinance lenders won’t charge you any fees to apply — a lot of them even reward you with cash bonuses and free gifts for choosing them. Here are some top lenders:
- SoFi – One of the only lenders that handles both private and federal loan consolidation. Members save an average of $288 a month; get access to wealth advisors, career support, and unemployment protection; and get a free welcome box full of goodies.
- Credible – Credible gives you access to several lenders’ competitive rates and offers once you complete your application. It only takes two minutes to see your options.
- LendKey – This one’s for you if you like working with community banks and credit unions. LendKey refinances both federal and private loans and offers flexible repayment options like interest-only payments for the first four years.
9. Work for a company that pays your tuition.
Starbucks, UPS, Verizon, Procter & Gamble, and others will pay your tuition if you work for them. So if you’re still in school or are thinking about going back, consider employment at one of these 11 Companies That Will Pay for Your College Degree.
10. Volunteer and get loan forgiveness or student loan funding.
AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, and SponsorChange all reward volunteers for their services by offering student loan forgiveness through their programs or using independent sponsor funding to help you repay your loans.
For AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, be prepared to commit to full-time positions that may last several years. Consider SponsorChange for more temporary projects.
11. Check if your job qualifies for a federal loan forgiveness program.
If you’re a full-time teacher working at a low-income school, a public-service worker, a nurse, or a government employee, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness or repayment assistance.
Check out StudentAid.ed.gov for more details.
12. Be a Lyft or Uber driver and use the earnings to pay off college debt.
Even if you work just 8 hours every week during peak times (nights and weekends), you’ll have enough for the average monthly student loan payment: $280.
13. Pay off the loan with the highest interest rate first (aka the debt avalanche strategy).
Private loans tend to have higher interest rates than federal loans, so start there.
Pay just the minimum amount on all your student loans except for the loan with the highest interest rate. For that guy, pay more than the minimum until it’s completely paid off, which will cut your repayment time and save you from paying extra interest.
14. Pay off the loan with the smallest balance first (aka the snowball effect strategy).
Once you’ve paid off the loan with the smallest balance, use the money you were putting toward that loan to pay off the next loan with the second smallest balance. Repeat this process until all your loans are paid off!
15. Put at least 50% of your tax refund toward loans.
Even if you can’t devote 100% of your tax refund to paying off your student loan, try to put at least 50% toward that debt.
Doing this every year will take a chunk out of your owed balance. Plus, making the payment will be nearly pain-free because you’ll be using money you typically wouldn’t have.
16. Manage your debt with free apps.
Out of sight, out of mind — right? Not when you have access to your student loan balances right in front of you wherever you go.
Nearly all federal student loan servicers have free apps that let you make payments and view account balances. Here are three big ones:
- Mohela (available on Androids and iPhones)
- Navient (available on Androids and iPhones)
- Sallie Mae (available on Androids and iPhones)
Along with downloading your servicer’s app, download Mint (on your iPhone or Android). It’s free and helps keep all of your finances organized — especially your student loans — when you connect your accounts to the app. You’ll be able to see where your loan payments fit into your budget, helping you make better informed spending decisions.