Dealing with your student loans can seem like an overwhelming task. The sheer volume of student loan debt that we are dealing with is astronomical. According to CNBC, over 44 million Americans hold roughly $1.5 trillion of student loan debt. The average graduate holds around $37,000 in student loan debt.
You might think that your loans are going to be attached to your financial future like a lead weight, but that does not have to be the case. You have the option to be proactive and work to get rid of that crushing debt fast.
Let’s be honest, everyone would like to see their student loans just disappear like a dark horse into the night. Unfortunately, that won’t happen unless you make an effort to get rid of them. It could be a difficult journey, but we have some ideas to help you get rid of your student loan debt fast!
Although these tips may not help your debt disappear overnight, you should be able to form a solid plan that will have your student loan debt gone in no time!
1. Organize Your Finances
It is likely that you have multiple student loans. You may even have both federal and private student loans. Each of these may have their own payment amount and due date each month. Understandably, it can get very confusing to keep track of all your student loans.
Gather All of Your Loans
Take a look at all of your loans together. Seeing the individual loans all in one place will help you to see exactly how much you owe. It sounds so simple, but knowing more about your debt will be helpful. The more you know about the individual loans, the more effectively you will be able to get rid of it. Fast!
Consolidate Your Student Loans
It is a good idea to consolidate because even just one or two missed payments could seriously affect your credit score! You likely want to keep your credit score as high as possible throughout this whole process, consolidation will help make it easier to keep track of things.
Consolidation will help to organize your finances, which is good practice for all areas of your financial life.
Sign up for Auto-Pay
Setting up an auto payment is super easy to do. You will have the option to do that through your loan company. Auto-pay is an easy tool to ensure that you don’t miss a payment. You do not want to forget to make a payment because it could severely impact your credit score.
Why take the chance that you will forget? You might as well sign up for Auto-Pay, if only for your peace of mind.
2. Refinance Your Loans
You have the option to refinance your student loans if the loans were private. It is a fast track option to getting rid of your debt because it will help save you potentially thousands of dollars in interest over the lifetime of your loan.
In addition to a lower interest rate, the refinancing will also give you a lower monthly payment. Both of these benefits are amazing!
While it may be tempting to simply start paying the lower option, I recommend that you continue to pay the same amount every month. By making this higher payment, you could be cutting years off your loan. Those years translate into dollars saved!
As you are searching for a lower interest rate, consider adding a co-signer to help get a lower rate. You may be surprised at the difference between the rates.
Another good feature of refinancing your loans is that you may be able to consolidate your separate loans into one payment plan. Simplifying your payments may be helpful for you.
Most of these platforms will match you with companies that will only be able to help refinance your loan if you have a stable job with a good credit history. Keep that in mind as you are looking through your choices.
As you are looking through your refinance options, make sure to choose a short-term length. If you opt for a longer term than you currently have, you may not actually be saving yourself any money on interest in the long run.
Refinancing your loans is a good option for some borrowers, but not everyone will benefit from refinancing. Usually, borrowers with the most to gain from refinancing have private loans.
However, if you have federal loans, then refinancing may not be the best move because you would lose your access to loan forgiveness plans and income-driven repayment plans. Look over your situation carefully before deciding to refinance your student loans.
If refinancing sounds like a good option for your situation, then check out some of our favorite student loan refinancing companies:
Credible is an online loan marketplace that will allow you to shop for loans on your time. It will compare lenders and rates for your student loans. The platform will give you personalized rate estimated based on the information you provide.
After you have your options, then you will have to make the final decision about which lender company to use. You can easy apply for the refinancing through Credible.
It is a free service, so if you are on the fence about trying Credible you really do not have anything to lose.
LendKey is another online platform that will connect borrowers to credit unions and community banks for loan refinancing. Through LendKey, you will have the ability to work with a smaller bank or credit union which may be an attractive option for you.
In order to work with LendKey, you will need to go through a few extra steps. After you check your interest rate and complete an application, Lend Key will perform a hard credit check that could affect your credit score.
If you pass the check, you will be allowed to choose a loan term from the credit unions and banks that you are eligible to work with.
The process sounds long, but it really will not take that much time. Remember, this move could potentially save you thousands of dollars in the long term through interest savings.
One thing to note about LendKey, you will not be eligible to work with them if you live in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island or West Virginia.
SoFi will match your student loans to an appropriate refinancing option, but you will need to have good credit and a stable income to apply.
One great feature of SoFi is that it can help you transfer your parents’ PLUS loan to your name. If that is something you want to do, then this is one of the few companies that can help you with this.
You might ask why someone would want to do this? If your parents helped pay for your college with loans, then you may feel motivated to help back them back now that you are out of college. By having the loan transferred to your name, you are taking a huge burden away from your parents. As they approach retirement, it will be one less thing for them to worry about.
The platform is very easy to use and could potentially save you thousands of dollars down the line.
CommonBond was originally founded to refinance student loans and lend money to business students only. The company has branched out since then, so you are able to work with them as an undergrad or a non-MBA student.
You will be able to compare many different options through the platform. After you make your choice, you will need to complete an application, agree to a hard credit check and wrap up the paperwork. Remember the hard credit check will affect your credit score, but it may be worth it if you find a good refinancing option.
Purefy can help you refinance private, federal and parent PLUS loans.
In order to work with Purefy, you will need a good credit scored and have an employment history of at least two years. In addition to those requirements, you will need to earn at least $24,000/year.
The loan term options are 5,8,12, and 15 years. Choose wisely when deciding on a term. Even if you have a lower interest rate, a longer-term lease may end up costing you more money over time. Look carefully at the options before refinancing.
Earnest is a great option for anyone with a strong credit score and a high amount of student loan debt. You can refinance between $5,000 and $500,000 of student loan debt with this company.
Another plus is that you will have a choice between fixed and variable interest rates. The decision as to which interest rate will work best for your situation is completely yours. One drawback to Earnest is that they do not allow co-signers, so if that is something you are interested in you will need to find another platform.
Citizens Bank operates brick and mortar banks as well as through an online platform. The entire process can be done online, but if you feel more comfortable in-person, then you can visit a branch.
In addition to refinancing your loan with a lower interest rate, you can also qualify for rate discounts on top of the initial refinancing. You can save .25% if you have an account at Citizens Bank and an extra .25% by enrolling in Auto-Pay.
A really great feature of Citizens bank refinancing is that you can refinance your loans even if you didn’t graduate from college. Most lenders will only refinance the loans if you completed your degree. Citizens Bank will work with you if you did not finish college. If this is your situation, then this may be one of your best options for refinancing.
3. Apply to a Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Program
If you have federal student loans, then a forgiveness program may be able to help you out a lot. The loans that would be covered by a forgiveness program are usually administered by the Department of Education, but other student loan companies may also service these loans.
There are several different loan forgiveness programs, but the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) stands out from the rest.
This program is by far the most popular option. The PSLF program encourages graduates to work full time in public service jobs after graduation. The jobs are important to our society, but the pay is usually not as high as a private sector job.
The PSLF hopes to balance the high cost of education with a lower post-graduate salary. You are under no obligation to stay in a public service job after you’ve had your loans forgiven, but you may be tempted to stay where you are sure to be making a difference.
If you qualify for the PSLF, then you may qualify to have the entire remaining balance of your loans forgiven. It is really a great program to help any public servant to help get out of student loan debt.
In addition to working in a public service capacity, you will also need to have made 120 qualifying payments on their student loans while working full time at a qualifying institution. So what makes a workplace qualify?
The common workplaces include federal, state or local government jobs. Nonprofit organizations (501(c)(3)s) also qualify. A typical job that would qualify may be a firefighter, law enforcement, public education, public health services, biologist, and many others.
If you aren’t sure that your job qualifies, then check with a human resource representative at your workplace. It is likely that an HR rep will know the exact steps that you need to take for your specific organization.
Other forgiveness programs include the Teacher Loan Forgiveness and the military service loan forgiveness. Both are more specific to one set of professionals, but there are other forgiveness programs out there.
You should check into a federal loan forgiveness option for your situation very thoroughly. It is one of the best ways to get rid of your student loans fast. You will have to put in your time at a public service job, but the rewards will be well worth it.
4. Check with Your Employer
You may already know that some employers offer tuition assistance programs to help their employees pay for school. It can be a good option to avoid student loan debt in the first place. You may already have student loan debt so that option will not help you out.
However, some employers are starting to offer Student Loan Repayment Programs. While each program will vary by company, the general idea is that your company will help pay off your loan.
You can check with your HR rep to see if your company offers a program like that. If you haven’t started a job yet, then a student loan repayment program is something worth looking for at a potential company. As you are negotiating your salary, you may want to bring this up. It never hurts to ask!
5. Apply to a State Assistance Program
Almost every state offers a student loan forgiveness program of some kind. In fact, only five states do not offer at least one student loan assistance program which will only affect you if you live in Alabama, Connecticut, Tennessee, Utah or West Virginia.
The type of student loan program offered by your state will vary, but it may be worthwhile to check into the options offered by your state. Many states offer multiple programs, so you may qualify for an amazing program.
Some states limit their help to certain professions, others will require a certain amount of volunteer hours, and some will just help because you live in a certain part of the state. Assistance from these types of programs can really help your student loan debt to disappear.
6. Find a New Repayment Plan
Right after you graduated, you were automatically enrolled in the Standard Repayment Plan. The plan involves 10 years of even payments. It may seem like that is the only repayment option available to you, but it is not!
Many people struggle with this 10-year repayment plan but aren’t aware that they can change it.
If you have federal student loans, then you have plenty of options when it comes to repayment plans. Some plans will allow you to pay a lower monthly bill over a longer period of time, while others will gradually increase your payment over time. It is likely that you will be able to find a repayment plan to suits your financial needs.
7. Find an Income-Based Repayment Plan
If you couldn’t find a repayment plan that worked for you, then you may need to consider an income-based repayment plan. This option will only work for your federal student loans.
The basic idea is that you will pay back your loans in a way that is proportionate to your income. So, if you have a low income your payment will be low. However, when you get a higher paying job, then your payment will be higher.
You have multiple options for an income-based plan, but the two most common are the IBR (Income-Based Repayment) and PAYE (Pay-As-You-Earn). Either will be able to help you choose a repayment plan that works well with your income.
In addition to allowing you to pay your student loans off based on your income, both of these plans come with an extra benefit – student loan forgiveness!
It seems to be a little-known fact, but at the end of the repayment period, both plans offer student loan forgiveness. An amazing extra benefit! The only catch is that you will still owe taxes on the amount forgiven, but it will be a small price to pay in exchange for finally being free of those student loans!
In order to sign up for these plans, you will need to provide proof of income and the Department of Education will calculate your monthly payment. The payment should only be 10% of your discretionary income, which is very affordable. Each year you will have to resubmit your income.
8. Make More than the Minimum Payment
You may have the means to add extra money to your payment every month. If you have the cash, then you should spend it on your student loan payment.
It is an extremely effective way to get rid of your debt faster, simply pay it off faster! Your additional payment will go straight to the principle, so it can really help to make a difference.
Even if you can only add a few extra dollars every month, it will really help to pay down your debt over time. I recommend just adding the extra month into your automatic payments. It is much easier to add the money to a regular monthly payment because you won’t have to make a conscious decision to pay more than the minimum every month.
9. Use Surprise Cash
Everyone loves surprises, especially when the surprise involves cash. Sometimes windfalls happen, but not everyone will take advantage of them. Instead of spending your surprise cash on random stuff that you will forget about or break in a couple of years, use the money to pay down your student loan debt.
You may think you never get surprise windfalls, but you may. If lady luck finds her way to you, then make sure to use the cash effectively.
10. Use Your Raises and Bonus
You may be lucky enough to have a job that gives you yearly raises and bonuses. Instead of spending the money on something you don’t really need like a new car, use the money to pay down your debt.
Over time you may be surprised how much this method will help.
11. Tighten Your Budget
Take a look at your expenses, anything that you can cut back on will help you to pay off your student loan debt faster. Use the money you are able to save to add to the monthly payment. As previously mentioned, any extra money you add to your payments will help you to pay off your debt faster.
One way to help cut down your expenses is by using a service like BillShark or Trim to help lower your bills. You may also consider eliminating some bills altogether
12. Make More Money
If none of the methods above are working for you, then you may have to start making more money if you want to pay down your student loan debt faster. Making extra money may sound like a daunting task, but it is totally possible for everyone.
In fact, it would really surprise me if you couldn’t make an extra $150 every month. That is $1,800 you could use to pay back your student loans with. just havehave to put in the time. So, what are some of the best ways to make more money?
Sell Your Stuff
You likely have plenty of stuff just hanging around your home. We are all guilty of letting things come into our homes and stay there. The clutter might be annoying, but mostly it is the money we spent needlessly staring us in the face.
You can get some of that money back! Just sell the stuff. You can stick to small things like books, kitchenware, and furniture. But, it is possible to sell bigger items like your car, too.
Selling things may difficult for you. I understand, it is a good feeling to have nice things. However, you will need to make a hard choice. Will you continue to have nice things, or will you sell them and get out of debt?
Tip: One great place to sell things and get money to use toward your student loan debt is Decluttr.
Ask for a Raise
I am sure you have heard the phrase “It never hurts to ask.”
It could not be truer in this case. You can potentially earn more money for doing the exact same job you do now. If you are trying to earn extra money, then this is a great move to make. The worst that could happen is that your request is denied.
The best thing that could happen is that you have extra money to use on your student loans.
Most companies encourage overtime hours. You can easily rack up some extra cash through just a couple of overtime hours a month. Remember, overtime pay is 1.5 times your normal wage.
It is always a good idea to check with your supervisor before working any overtime hours. Make sure that they are willing to pay you for this extra time that you put in.
Start a Side Hustle
There are countless ways for you to make extra money on the side. Be creative! You might surprise yourself and come up with a really lucrative idea. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Start a blog. It is more than possible to start a profitable blog. You will have to work hard, but it success will come.
- Freelance writing. Check out the ideas on Earn More Writing to get started. Holly Johnson earns over $200,000 every year from writing and can teach you how to get started in this field.
- Babysit. One of my friends makes hundreds of dollars every single month with this one. You will be able to maximize your rate by babysitting more children and offering to watch the kids overnight.
- Take Surveys. It won’t make you rich overnight but taking surveys consistently could be an easy way to add extra money to your monthly payment. Even if you just make a few dollars a day from your survey, every penny will help!
- Find a local part time job. You can work for a business in your area to work for on the side. It could be a great option if you find a flexible business to work for.
- Rent out your extra space. You could rent of a part of your home in order to make extra cash. If you live in a touristy area, then you may be able to work with Airbnb. Otherwise, you can try to find a renter. This is a great option because it will cost you no extra time.
- Become a Virtual Assistant. As a virtual assistant, you would help businesses run more smoothly. The type of work you can get as a virtual assistant varies, but if you find the right fit for you it can be a lucrative side hustle. Check out $10K VA to find out more on becoming a virtual assistant.
The bottom line when it comes to a side hustle is bringing in more money. As this money comes in, use it to pay down your student loan debt faster. You may be surprised by how much of a difference a side hustle will make for your debt repayment journey.
One thing to remember about side hustles is that you still have to pay taxes on this money. Make sure to set aside the taxes before you start paying down your debt. Otherwise, you could be left in a sticky situation at the end of the year.
Final Piece of Advice
I am not going to lie, paying off your student loans may not be an easy journey. It can be hard, and you may want to give up along the way. It will require some hard work and dedication, but the end goal is worth it.
Envision your goal. Imagine how happy you will be once you finally get out from the crushing weight of your student loan debt. You will be able to breathe easier knowing that you no longer owe a pile of money for the degree you may have earned years ago. The long journey will eventually come to an end. The tips outlined in this article will help you to reach the goal faster.
When it gets hard, remember that it will be worth it. The idea of a debt free future may be just the thing you need to keep working towards the goal but use whatever you must to motivate yourself.
How will you pay off your student loans faster?
Refinance Your Student Loans or Credit Cards
With the average credit card interest rate around 15%, this could save you a ton of money over the long haul. Check out Credible who will help you refinance your credit card debt to as low as 4.99%. Use this link to get a $50 bonus if you get approved.
Want to refinance your student loans? Credible can help you get as low as 2.78% APR. Use this link to get $150 cash back if you get approved for refinancing your student loan. The average graduate who refinances through Credible saves $18,668!