If you’re like most college graduates, odds are you left school with more than a degree and fond memories: You probably racked up student loan debt.
For many Americans, this debt totals tens of thousands of dollars and often feels like a huge financial weight. Furthermore, repaying student loans can take some borrowers over 20 years. To help alleviate that burden and pay off your student loans faster, here are six strategies to consider:
Go Beyond the Minimum
Although a minimum payment is the least amount you have to pay each month, there’s no penalty for paying extra. In fact, making monthly payments higher than your minimum is one of the simplest and most effective ways to tackle student loan debt. Because the extra money usually goes straight toward reducing your principal, you’ll likely owe less interest and eliminate the loan balance faster.
If you can only afford to pay $20 or $100 above the minimum, that’s fine. Every little bit helps. To simplify the process and stay on track, sign up for automatic monthly payments that include the extra amount. You could always decide to add even more to your payments later.
Split Monthly Payments
If you need an easy way to trick yourself into paying more on your loans, split your monthly payments in half and pay that amount every two weeks instead. This simple strategy, which works particularly well for people who get biweekly paychecks, will result in your making an extra full month’s payment each year.
Refinancing might allow you to consolidate multiple student loans into a new, single loan with a lower interest rate, thus helping you pay off your debt faster. However, loan terms and eligibility requirements vary, so consult a professional before making any changes and shop around for lenders.
Apply Cash Windfalls
Even if you can’t afford to increase your monthly payments, try paying more toward your loans whenever possible. If you suddenly find yourself with extra money, such as a tax refund, lottery winnings, a pay raise or another type of cash windfall, resist the urge to spend it all on a nicer car or lavish vacation. Devote a chunk of the money to paying off your student loans, then save or enjoy the rest.
Earn Extra Income
If you have the time, consider getting a side gig and putting all the supplemental income toward your student loans. You could get a part-time job, freelance, rent out a spare bedroom or take advantage of online services, whether it be driving for Uber or selling unwanted items on eBay. Regardless of how you earn the extra money, consider putting it in a separate bank account dedicated to paying off your loans; that way, you won’t be tempted to spend the cash on other items.
If you can’t boost your income, try trimming your monthly expenses. For example, you might save big by canceling your cable TV, getting a cheaper cellphone plan or eating in instead of going out to restaurants. When it comes to household savings, get creative and make cuts where you can. Using that extra cash to pay off your student loans faster could be worth the sacrifice.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional or legal advice.