The average student graduates with around $28,000 of student loan debt. Ouch! Never to be outdone, I surpassed that by $8,000. Aren’t I a winner?
Student loan repayment plans usually range from 10 to 30 years. If you are anything like me, you aren’t really interested in keeping your student loans for as long as most people keep their mortgages! So let’s discuss ways to pay down your student loans quicker, shall we?
1) Embrace that college lifestyle and keep it going! It is really easy to succumb to lifestyle inflation when you go from minimum wage college student to high-powered exec (yeah right!). Don’t! Keep that broke college kid mentality to plow through your debt with the quickest of ease.
How do you do this? Keep coming up with creative ways to make ramen, drive the car you’ve had since you were 16, and pretend that futon is really comfortable. A few exceptions: upgrade your work wardrobe so your employer takes you seriously and don’t do anything gross, like avoid showering or wear clothes too many times before laundering to save money.
2) Double your payments. If you aren’t the type to throw all of your extra cash towards debt, just try doubling (or even tripling) the minimum payments. This will save you years of payments and a great deal of interest.
While paying more on your student loans is not as fun and using your new salary to buy dresses and Mac books, you will be glad to be rid of Sallie Mae sooner than all of your friends.
3) Automate your payments. Besides the fact that this will ensure that you never pay late, automating your payments knocks 0.25% off of your interest rate. Every penny counts, right?
4) Work more hours at your current job. This will only help you pay off your student loans faster if you are an hourly or commissioned worker. Salaried employees will only gain brownie points. These are not accepted at Sallie Mae as payment.
This is the easiest way to make extra cash as it doesn’t require you to work under multiple bosses in multiple locations. Unless you really hate your job, consider this method of earning extra money first.
5) Get a second, part-time job. If you can’t make more money at your primary job, get a second job! This can either be another skilled job (related to your degree) or an unskilled position in food service, retail, etc. Or you could try the call center route ala Michael Scott when he was dating Jan.
Obvious point that still needs to be said: If your second job is negatively affecting your primary job, you need to quit it. Don’t sacrifice your main income source for a side gig.
6) Find a side hustle. There is no reason that you need to stop at just one income source. You are young, energetic, and likely not juggling a family yet. Get out there and work! By hustling for extra income in your free time, you will get your debt paid down faster giving you more options for the future (i.e. starting a family, buying a home, starting a business, leaving a job that you don’t like, etc.)
A few side hustle ideas to get you started: freelancing, blogging, dog walking, babysitting, selling crafts on Etsy, reselling undervalued goods for a profit, computer troubleshooting, tutoring, becoming a brand ambassador, or washing cars.
7) Cut unnecessary expenses. There are two ways to increase the amount you can save — making more and spending less. We already discussed working more to earn more, so let’s talk about cutting expenses.
A few unnecessary expenses you might consider cutting completely or scaling back: coffee shop and restaurant spending, alcohol, cable, new clothes and shoes (beyond necessary items), manicures and pedicures, expensive salon visits, cigarettes, gym memberships, and pricey smart phone packages.
8) Downgrade your lifestyle. If you were living the high life in college or succumbed to lifestyle inflation directly after graduation, you could save a lot of money by downgrading. Try going carless or renting a smaller and cheaper place. It’s only temporary until your debt is paid off, suck it up.
9) Put off Fido for awhile. Provided you don’t currently have a pet but you want one, it might be a good idea to wait until your loans are paid off. Pets can be expensive considering the costs of food, toys, medical care, and lodging. Plus, you are already working so hard you don’t have time to play fetch or walk him right now. Put your puppy dreams on hold until your loans are gone!
10) Use a program like SmarterBucks. SmarterBucks allows you to earn cash to go towards your student loans. Awesome, right? You can earn this cash by shopping online, taking surveys, or receiving gifts from friends and family members. It’s basically like any other rebate site, but the money goes straight to your student loans.
11) Use a cash back credit card. Assuming you can responsibly handle a credit card (meaning you can pay it in full each month), use a credit card with cash back rewards. Use these rewards to pay down your loans or redeem them for gift cards for things you NEED: gas, groceries, basic clothing, etc. The point is to use the rewards to free up more cash for loan payoff.
12) Don’t forget to use the student loan interest deduction on your tax return. You receive a deduction on your taxes for any student loan interest you pay in a given year, up to $2,500. Use this to reduce your tax burden to free up EVEN MORE money to go towards your student loans. Isn’t this fun?
Do not use the deduction as an excuse to keep your loans around. You are paying more in interest than you are saving in taxes. That’s just bad math.
You (and I!) will be student loan debt free! Just implement some or all of these tips to expedite the process.
Are you paying off your student loans? What’s your best tip for paying them off faster?