If this is your first time here, Molly’s Money is a series I write on this blog that includes all things personal finance. Got a question about money that you want answered? Leave it in the comments below or email me!
One of the most common forms of debt is the oh-so-lovely student loan debt. It’s also one of the things I get emailed most often about, “How do I pay off my student loan debt faster?” Student loan debt is often treated very differently than credit card debt, or a car payment, or even a mortgage. It’s often a whole ‘nother animal of debt altogether.
Whether it’s a bank loan or a government loan or a subsidized loan or an unsubsidized loan – at the end of the day – it’s still a loan and it’s still a huge pain in the rear to pay off. It can also be really overwhelming and feel really daunting when you graduate college or grad school or medical school or whathaveyou and you immediately have this giant mound of thousands and thousands of dollars of student loan debt staring you in the face.
So, today’s I’m giving you just a few tips and tricks for paying off your student loan debt faster! (Remember, these are not the be-all end-all of tips…)
1. Pay 10% extra each month. I realize this may seem fairly self-explanatory, but so often people don’t think to do this. They think they only have to pay the minimum amount due each month. Well, you CAN and you SHOULD pay more each month. A good rule of thumb is 10% extra each month. So, if you have $150 a month you are paying towards your student loans, try paying $165 each month instead. That’s only $15 extra dollars each month and over time, it really adds up and you can knock a few YEARS off your payment schedule if you do that. Think about it, $15 is just not going to Starbucks three days each month. Or not eating at Chipotle once. Or walking to the store instead of driving.
If 10% seems like a lot to you, just try small with 5% or something like that. If you are interested, you can use this Student Loan Calculator to try entering different amounts to see what your payoff schedule would look like if you paid extra each month.
2. Use a bonus at work or your tax refund to pay off loans. I know when you get extra cash in your pockets from a bonus or a tax refund, it can be SO tempting to take that money and put it towards something fun like a vacation or shopping or a night on the town. But, instead, take the WHOLE thing and put it towards paying off your student loans. The more you do that, the sooner you’ll be done with the loans and you WILL be able to enjoy the bonuses and refunds later in life.
3. Sell stuff! Do you own anything of value? Sell it! Clean out your closet and take stuff to consignment stores, Plato’s Closet, Clothes Mentor, or other cash-on-the-spot places. There are also great places online like eBay, Poshmark, or ThreadUp where you can sell your clothes and accessories. What about your car? Maybe sell your car and downsize to something cheap… take the money you’ve made and throw it at your loans! You will really be surprised how quickly it adds up and how easily you’ll be able to pay off loans sooner this way.
4. Get an extra job. Pick up a part-time job nights or weekends and take those paychecks and use that money ONLY for student loan payoff. Consider that job to be your job that you’re working off your education for. Work retail at the mall, wait tables a few nights a week, or even babysit for friends. Every single penny you earn from that extra job should go RIGHT to your loans.
5. Consolidate loans. This should be done carefully, but can be really helpful. There are a lot of loan consolidation companies that can help you out, however, make SURE the interest rate on the consolidated loans is SMALLER than the original interest rate. DO NOT consolidate a low interest rate loan to a higher interest rate consolidated loan.
6. Ask your employer to help you out. MANY companies will offer to help pay off your student loans if you agree to work for them for a certain number of years or provide another assistance to the company. This may not work for everyone, but once you have a good standing with your employer, it can’t hurt to sit down with your boss and say, “I have some student loan debt that I’d like to pay off. Can you help me? What plans can you offer me? I will do “x” in exchange for student loan forgiveness, etc…” You can also ask for bonuses or raises to go towards student loans. The worst they can say is no!
Now, what about you? Do you have any tips or tricks for paying off student loans faster? Share them in the comments!