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Fact: In 2016, 43 million Americans with student loans owe an average of $37,172 according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That’s a big chunk of change, friends. Along with the paycheck accompanying your great knowledgy brain comes seriously painful student loans. Here are some ways we’re getting out of diploma debt without breaking the bank.
1. Work for an employer who’ll pay off that school debt.
Though only roughly 3% of U.S. employers currently offer this benefit, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, more corporations are helping employees pay down student loans, including:
- Chegg, which pays employees an added $1,000 annually.
- CommonBond, which offers employees $1,200 a year.
- Fidelity Investments, which grants $2,000 a year (up to $10,000 total).
- Natixis Global Asset Management, which gives employees a $5,000 lump sum after 5 years, and $1,000 a year for up to 5 more years.
- Powertex, which offers $100 a month for up to six years.
- Pricewaterhouse Coopers, which allots $1,200 annually for up to 6 years.
2. Find companies offering a tuition reimbursement program so you can continue your education.
Companies like these 11 offer tuition reimbursement programs to help pay for school. So while you might not be getting the best parking spots, you can still get some love in the form of a bachelor’s (or MBA).
3. Refer employees and earn up to $1,000.
Many companies offer referral programs through human resources (HR) that pay you anywhere from $25 to $1,000 per hired employee you refer (in my experience). This reward goes a long way in paying down debt, but don’t recommend just anyone for your slice of the HR pie. Make quality recommendations based on job fit and experience, or you’re just gonna look silly. Reach out to your company’s human resources team to find out what they’re paying for new hires you refer.
4. Refinance student loans for a lower rate.
While rules vary by lender (ex: some require a completed degree, or they ask that you open a savings account to refinance), consider grabbing lower rates from banks like these: Citizens Bank, CommonBond, Darien Rowayton Bank, Earnest, and LendKey.
Note: If you opt to refi your federal loan, you’re missing out on some of the protections in place (ex: Federal student loans let you limit the amount you repay each month based on income).
5. Earn up to $5 per opportunity on survey sites.
If you have a little time to spare online, there are sites that’ll pay you to give your opinions. All you have to do is register, and then they let you know when they have a survey fitting your profile. Typically these are online market research surveys for big brands, and some even offer full-sized test samples for review. Check out:
- Springboard America: Make up to $5 per survey.
- Harris Poll: This Nielsen-run company gives great rewards for filling out surveys.
- Opinion Outpost: Earn cash for filling out surveys.
- InboxDollars: Earn $18 in as little as 10 minutes by taking part in high-offer payouts.
- Pinecone: Especially if you’re 18-24 (or a dude), you can earn $3 per survey.
- Bing: Get paid to surf the Internet.
6. Round up for savings with Seashells.
Simply download this free app, and when you make purchases online from your smartphone, Seashells rounds up your purchases to the next dollar. From there, once you hit a $5-$25 minimum (depending on the company), you can cash in for gift cards of your choice. Even better, they give you a 15% rewards bonus every time you use the app (try getting 15% cash back from any checking account or rewards card). So when you save up $100, you get an extra $15. Think of it as a discounted gift card service for companies you use anyway.
7. Rent out your bike, camping gear, and fondue pot.
Do you have stuff you just don’t use anymore? Services like Rentything lets you rent almost anything you own. Just create a rental shop and list items to rent, and interested users will contact you and pay you online through the platform. Cha-ching, garden gnome!
8. Recycle scrap metal and cans.
Those creative peeps collecting cans from dumpsters? They’re no joke. You can get the same results by asking friends and neighbors to set their cans aside for you. Take recycling for cash to the next level by looking for unused copper pipes in your house that might be worth removing. Then check out your garage, basement, or shed. There’s usually something there—like old bike frames—worth salvaging.
9. Become a mystery, secret shopper.
A lot of companies out there hire mystery shoppers to test customer service and quality of their locations. Through sites like Mystery Shopping Providers Association and Trendsource, you can find opportunities to dine on a dime or give feedback about how companies operate. A few businesses I’ve personally visited for pay include Cheesecake Factory, Tucanos, Bahama Breeze, and the Skechers store. If you have time and can travel to different places in your area, this could be your spirit animal side hustle.
10. Join a research study or focus group.
Want to earn upwards of $100 for 20 minutes of your time? Companies are always looking for people’s opinions about products and services. Sitting in one of these groups could earn you major moolah, like the printer usability study I just completed a week ago. Check out sites like Consumer Opinion Services for some pretty swank opportunities.
11. Buy something and then sell it for more.
Buy items in high demand—ones that are hard to find—and then sell them to the folks who want them, but aren’t able to buy them. I did this when Ikea Jerker desks became both scarce and a hot commodity. I scoured the Denver area for the Ikea favorites for $50 a pop and then sold them on Craigslist for double.
12. Get paid to invite people to dinner through Eat With.
You: Love sharing your mad cooking skills with others. If so, earn money hosting dinner parties locally! With over 500 hosts around the world, this Airbnb startup allows you to join the culinary revolution and earn up to $265 profit monthly by catering to the community in your own home (or backyard).
13. Sell those old video games and accounts.
Got game? If so, this money-making opportunity is for you. PlayerAuctions.com offers a platform where users can score some serious bank selling your games, characters, and assets. Companies like GameStop and Hastings also give cash or in-store credit for physical game trade-ins.
14. Sell those old gift cards on eBay, Hastings, or through reddit’s /r/giftcardexchange.
Are those gift cards burning a hole in your pocket? Sell them on eBay or other forums (like this one on reddit) and get cash back on those otherwise unused money possibilities. Hastings also buys gift cards for cash.
15. Rent parking spaces.
If you own your own home and have some extra garage, yard, or driveway space, you’re in luck, Chuck. Rent that space to hopeful RV, car, and boat owners for long-term storage and bank the monthly rewards. JustPark.com will even help you rent out your driveway or garage to others and collects the money online for you.
16. Drive others to drink with Uber and Lyft.
Double up on your errands by giving a local a lift. Uber drivers earn an average of $19 an hour, while Lyft drivers bring home close to $35 an hour. Want to make even more? Drive during peak evening and weekend hours when more people are out and about.
Bonus: Use GasBuddy to locate the cheapest area gas every time you hit the pumps!
17. Rent the shirt off your back.
Take that bridesmaid/prom dress (or those fancy shoes) and rent them to others seeking out new duds at a great price. RentNotBuy is one site helping people to rent their clothes and fashion items to others online (it’s quick to create a listing, and getting paid is super simple). ThredUp is also like the best consignment shop ever in your neighborhood—only it’s online.
18. Teach others in the community your Jedi ways.
Mom says you’re a know-it-all. Leverage your expertise on pretty much any subject matter by teaching others through local community education programs. Whether you’re a fan of yoga, Yoda, or yogurt, your squad of paying students will help you pay those college bills down.
19. Invest a bit of money at a time.
Once you have a little income, start investing it right away. The goal, naturally, is to turn your money into a passive income stream paying you for pretty much ever. It doesn’t even take much to get started; just adding another $50 each month nets major returns on a minor investment.
20. Sell Grandma’s pie recipe.
Would you rather sell that secret family cake recipe than partake in bake sales to earn a little extra cash? If so, check out Contest Cook for opportunities to win up to $500 (or more) in prizes. Sweet!
21. Lend money to others and make money in return.
Want to earn 5%-7% on your hard-earned cash? Peer-to-peer lending sites like Upstart, Lending Club, and Funding Circle mean you loan as little as $25 to someone else, and you get paid back…with interest. Then, each month, the principal and interest you earn can then be rolled into other long-term investments.
22. Get grocery money back with Checkout 51.
This rebating concept marries intelligent savings with a CNN-style ticker app for your smartphone. $1 off Truvia? Shut up and take my money. With Checkout 51, scan your grocery receipts, and once you’ve saved $20, they mail you a check.
23. De-clutter your bookshelves with BookScouter.
I’m selling the books I’ll never use again to score some much needed cash. BookScouter‘s free service compares prices from 57 book-buying websites so I quickly and easily find which sites are offering the most for books.
24. Use the Raise.com app and put those savings in the bank.
I save up to 80% by buying gift cards from their marketplace on items I’m buying anyway. I just shop their gift card marketplace, get offers delivered to the Raise.com wallet, and I save more cheddar on my cheddar.
25. Earn cash for old electronics with Amazon.com and Best Buy.
Selling gently loved collections means you can earn anywhere from a couple of bucks to hundreds of dollars in cash or credit on Amazon. In fact, based on past orders, Amazon shows me I could earn almost $700 from trading or selling in my used items. That’s no small chunk of change, my friends. Best Buy gives in-store credit for used electronics, too.
26. Get a part-time job.
Appen offers flexible jobs you can do from home in your spare time, along with iSoftStone Careers, Lionbridge Smart Crowd, and Leapforce. Some of these might require a minimum number of hours worked per week, but see what kinds of options they offer.
Now it’s your turn: How are you paying down your student debt? We’d love to know!