College offers the perfect opportunity for personal and intellectual development and growth. However, getting a degree is expensive, and most college students graduate with a sizable student loan debt amount that they’ll carry with them for most of their adult life. For many, it can be a constant source of worry and financial distress.
If you have student loans and are looking to get them all paid off as soon as possible, you’ll need a strategy. Here are some of the steps you can take to pay down your student loan debt quickly.
1. Pay More Than the Minimum
The easiest and most effective way is to pay more than the minimum required every month. It doesn’t have to be double or triple the amount—even an extra $20 or $50 will make a huge difference.
Just remember to ask your loan provider whether the extra payments you’re making are applied to the principal. Some providers may collect the extra payment but will only apply the amount to your next payment's interest. This actually won’t help you pay off your loan faster.
2. Pay Down Loans with High, Variable, and Capitalized Rates First
This strategy will help you pay down loans that can cost you more. Variable interest rates mean that the rates you’re paying can change over time. On the other hand, capitalized interest rates are usually applied to loans that are not subsidized by the federal government. Interest accrues even while you’re in school and during deferment, forbearance, and grace periods. Once you begin repayment, the interest capitalizes and is added to your principal.
By paying down these types of student loans first, you’ll have a smaller balance to get rid of. It’ll also protect you from future payments with unreasonable, exceedingly high interest rates.
3. Consolidate and/or Refinance
In certain cases, consolidating AND refinancing your student loans can lower your interest rate and help you better track your payments. Consolidating and refinancing means you can replace multiple student loans with a single private loan with, ideally, a lower interest rate. If you have good credit and a stable job, you may also opt for a shorter-term so you can pay down the debt faster and save money on interest payments. But in some cases, sticking with a federal student loan is more advantageous because of certain benefits such as access to temporary payment relief programs and various forms of income-driven repayment plans that offer loan forgiveness and discharge.
You could consider consolidating your loans and NOT refinancing them. Consolidating your loans into one direct consolidation loan, made directly from the Department of Education to borrowers allows you to still access income-driven repayment plans and forgiveness programs. When you consolidate your loans your new balance will be the sum of your old loans and the new interest rate will be the average weighted interest of your loans being consolidated. In other words, the loans you want to consolidate will be added up, the combined interest will be averaged, and you will have a single consolidation loan. This is beneficial if you have loans with high interest rates.
However, before doing any type of consolidation and/or refinancing, make sure that the terms and conditions are favorable to you!
4. Apply Windfalls
Windfalls come in many forms, including job bonuses, lottery winnings, inheritance, etc. If you get money from unexpected sources, allocate most, if not all, of it to your student loans.
5. Get a Job With a Repayment or Forgiveness Programs
Certain jobs and employers offer compensation packages that come with a repayment scheme for your student loans. Others may also provide access to a forgiveness program. Make sure to talk to your employer and identify whether you meet all of the requirements for the program. Just remember that some of these jobs may require you to stay with the company or organization for a specified period of time.
6. Round-Ups with Chipper
Round-up each transaction to the next dollar and Chipper will deposit the difference to your highest interest loan. This is a convenient way for you to chip away at your student loan debt from everyday spending. Essentially pay down your debt without even feeling it!
For example, coffee at your local coffee shop is $3.25 and will be rounded up to $4.00, and the $0.75 will be deposited toward your loans!
If you have a tight budget, it can be difficult to pay down your student loans as quickly as you’d like. However, it’s still best to pay them off as early as possible and pay extra when you can, because letting your loans get out of control can prevent you from investing in your future and your retirement.