Going into debt is awful, but I get it — sometimes it’s the only way to get a college education.
Yep, it’s not fun to have a loan balance hanging over your head, but don’t worry — here are some ideas to help you get out of debt (and relax) faster.
1. Start paying off your loans as soon as possible to save on interest.
Typically you have six to nine months after graduating from college before you have to start paying back student loans. The more you pay off before the interest rate kicks in, the less interest you’ll owe.
Especially if you have unsubsidized loans, which start accruing interest as soon as you borrow the money. In that case, you’ll be chipping away at your debt instead of letting the interest build up.
2. Save one month’s rent every year by making payments every other week.
Split your regularly monthly payment in half and pay every two weeks (and make it less painful by doing it on a payday).
With less time between payments, interest won’t have time to accumulate as quickly. If you owe $35,000 and have an 8% interest rate, you would save around $2,700 total by paying it off this way.
3. Check if your job qualifies you 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.
4. Start couponing and use your savings to pay off debt and cut months off loan length.
Couponing can save you big bucks if you know how to optimize the savings. And it’s easier than ever to do.
No need for big binders or tons of research; the KCL app does all the work for you, matching the best manufacturer and store coupons with sales and other promos.
5. Reduce your interest rate by a quarter point by signing up for automatic payments.
Most loan servicers will offer a 0.25% interest rate reduction on federal student loans just for signing up for automatic payments.
Say you still have $10,000 to pay off at an 8% interest rate. The 0.25% reduction would save $25 in interest that month. That may not seem like much, but over time it could significantly cut down on your debt.
6. Use grocery rebate-app earnings and save up to $21,600.
Simply submit a photo of your receipt to each app’s offer and get cash back.
Save your credits every month or quarter and use those earnings toward your loans.
I’ve been able to save almost $150 in one month by using these apps. If you applied that to a loan you were paying off over a 12 year period, that’s around $21,600 you would have extra to help pay it off.
7. Resell old textbooks for extra cash and shave money off your loan.
Still have textbooks from college? Sell those babies and go hunting for cheap textbooks on eBay and used bookstores like thiftbooks.com.
Since textbooks are updated so often, the quicker you sell them, the more money you can usually get for them.
Even if you sold $400 worth of textbooks, you would save $223.29 on interest by adding that to your first payment.
8. Consolidate multiple loans to reduce interest rates and cut the life of the loan down by XX.
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.
9. 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.
If you wanted to pay off your $35,000 loan in 12 years, you could be paying a total of $19,555.61 in interest, or if you refinanced and got a 2.47% interest rate you would only pay $5,478.61 in interest.
Perks of refinancing:
- Interest rates start at 2.47%
- Choose new term length and monthly payment amount
- Allows you to remove cosigners (which helps their credit)
- Most won’t charge application fees
- Some offer rewards for choosing them (e.g., cash bonuses or free gifts)
10. Volunteer and get partial loan forgiveness or student loan funding.
AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, and SponsorChange all reward volunteers for their services by offering partial 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. Pay off the loan with the highest interest rate first (aka the debt avalanche strategy) to cut down on interest cost . . .
Pay just the minimum amount on all your student loans except for the loan with the highest interest rate.
For that beast, pay more than the minimum until it’s paid off. This will cut your repayment time and save you from paying extra interest.
So if you have three different loans, each with a different interest rate of 8%, 5% and 4%, you’d want to pay the 8% off first.
12. . . . OR pay off the loan with the smallest balance first (aka the snowball effect strategy) to reduce your amount of loans.
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.
By the time you’re paying off your largest loans, you’ll have more cash freed up from the loans you already paid off, and it’ll give you a peace of mind when you can check each loan off one by one.
13. Put at least 50% of your tax refund toward loans.
Doing this every year will take a chunk out of your owed balance and will be nearly pain-free because you’ll be using the money you typically wouldn’t have.
Say your student loan payment is $200 a month and you get $3,000 back in taxes. Take half of your tax refund, divide it into twelve months ($125 a month — 63% more than your minimum) and add that to your monthly payment.
Do this every year to pay off your student loan in less than half the time!
14. Try to pay more than the minimum due.
One way to cut down your debt quicker is to pay more than the minimum each month. Even if it’s $20, it helps.
If you added $20 to your $350 payment every month while paying off a $35,000 loan, you would end up saving a grand total of $2,409.
15. Set up an account online where people can gift money towards your college loans.
Websites like Gift of College allow you to make an account where friends and family can help you fund your payments. This is a great idea when they ask what you want for your birthday. Just send them the link and tell them every bit helps!
16. Test your knowledge on Givling’s trivia to get up to $50,000 of your loan paid off.
You are able to play up to twice a day, and you join a three-person team. Your trivia score is added up by team, and the one with the highest score receives $5,000 per person toward each of their student loans.