Are you one of the millions of people in America chained by crippling student loan debt? Do you wonder if you’ll ever be free from this particular debt . . . or have just given up on the idea?
We were in the same boat a few years ago.
We had over $65,000 in student loan debt and felt that we were always going to be responsible for it and the insane interest rates that came with it.
That was before we started using these methods to get out from under the thumb of student loan debt. Now, after just a few short years, we’re student loan debt-free as well as completely debt-free!
And you can be too!
Here Are 8 Ways To Pay Off Student Loan Debt as Fast as Possible:
1. Start a Zero-Based Budget first to pay off student loan debt as fast as possible
Making a budget and sticking to it forces you to face your financial situation head-on. Budgeting honestly and realistically leaves no stone unturned in the way of knowing what amount of money you owe, who you owe money to, and the amount of money per month that goes towards your expenses– including student debt payments. It also shows you your strengths and weaknesses.
With 25% of Americans living under the weight of student loan payments, getting on a budget is less of an option and more of a necessity these days. 44.7 million people are in student loan debt an average of $37,000 with a monthly payment clocking in at $393 per month.
Starting a budget is the first step to taking control of your personal finances, therefore, taking control of your student loan payments. Zero-based budgeting is even better because you are able to assign every single dollar you make to a task, meaning, no money is unaccounted for in your budget.
Put simply, a zero- based budget is:
Income – Expenses = Money you can put towards your student loan debt
A zero-based budget means that you make a plan for every single dollar that you earn, down to the penny, before the month starts. Zero dollars will be left unbudgeted, hence the name, zero-based budget. When you calculate your income minus your expenses you will have a “leftover” amount of money. With this leftover money you can pay off debt, save, or invest. For the purpose of this article, I’ll assume you’re going to use the leftover money for your student loans.
Getting on a budget to pay off student loan debt as fast as possible is the first step you should take before implementing any other techniques to pay your debt off faster.
You can take total control of your money by downloading this FREE Budget Spreadsheet. Don’t know how the heck to actually budget? Fear not! I will also send you full, detailed, and simple instructions on how to build an amazing budget with it!
2. Get a side hustle to pay off student loan debt as fast as possible
Earlier, I said that budgeting has a way of showing you your personal finance strengths and weaknesses. If you find that one of your weaknesses is that you don’t make enough money to get ahead, I suggest starting a side hustle to bring in more income.
There are many reasons why someone may want to begin a side hustle, but a huge one is the obvious lack of money. You may be in a position where you cannot move careers or ask for a raise. In that case, your options are limited in increasing your income in other ways.
Side hustles allow an opportunity for you to bypass those barriers and bring in more money. The best part is that there are so many different options when it comes to doing “extra” work! Everything from survey-taking and dog sitting to virtually teaching children across the world and selling handmade items on Etsy.
The sky’s the limit and your side hustle may open you to a world you never considered before. Just make sure that your side hustle is actually bringing in money for you to send to student loan debt and make sure you save 20-30% for taxes. If you’re interested in learning more about side hustles, peruse some of my side hustle articles:
- 60 Ways to Make Extra Money in 2020
- Side Hustles you can Start with Popular Companies
- 35 Best Stay at Home Jobs
- Side Hustle Alert: Earn Up to $200 for Giving your Opinion in Focus Groups
3. Put your windfall on student loans to pay them off as fast as possible
Oftentimes, the first instinct when you are surprised by a windfall of cash is to treat yourself or use the lump sum on other necessities. Before you do that, take a minute to consider putting your tax refund, raise, or holiday bonus on your student loans.
Taking this step is a way to considerably impact your financial life — way more than whatever you could purchase on Amazon!
The average tax return in 2020 was $3,100 according to The Washington Post. In 2020 the vast majority of people in the country were mailed or directly deposited the Coronavirus relief stimulus checks from the U.S. Government as part of the CARES Act. If you were blessed enough to be in a financially stable situation during the Coronavirus relief checks, that was another potential $1,200-$3,400 on your student loans at a time when payments were paused and interest was being deferred.
The point of bringing up the CARES Act is to imagine reducing your student loans by up to $6,500 in a single year — that would make a huge difference and you didn’t necessarily have to “work” to make that happen. Making the choice to put unexpected money on your student loans will have a lasting impact on the life of your loan and the amount of interest you pay on it.
While spending your tax refund, raise, or holiday bonus on your student loan debt isn’t the most glamourous, it is a smart way to pay off student loan debt as quickly as possible.
4. Make biweekly payments to pay off student debt as fast as possible
In my article 4 Methods for Paying Off the Mortgage Early, I go over how making biweekly mortgage payments allows you to pay off the mortgage faster. This is because biweekly payments add up to an entire extra payment per year on your home!
Biweekly payments are basically the lazy man’s method of making an extra payment per year. But this method is nothing to stick your nose up at. Making a biweekly payment on your student loans can reduce the life of your loans and the amount of interest you pay over the life of those loans significantly!
Something to keep in mind (this is often a misconception about the biweekly payment method) is that paying a loan biweekly doesn’t mean paying the monthly payment twice per month. You pay one half of your payment the first two weeks of the month and the second half of your payment the last two weeks of the month. Those two payments total the full monthly payment.
Using the biweekly payment method you end up making 26 payments per year instead of just 12 full monthly payments. That means you make an extra payment each year!
This method is also very convenient for your budget if you get paid biweekly!
Check out Nerdwallet.com for their Biweekly student loan payment calculator. If you have $37,000 in student loan debt with a 6.8% interest and you make biweekly payments, you can pay off your student loans 16 months early and save over $2,000 in interest. Wow!
5. Enroll in auto-pay to pay off student loan debt as fast as possible
One of the best things about managing your student loan debt online is that most online portals reward you for signing up for autopay. Typically, the easier you make it for your loan provider to take your money, the more they reward you.
Signing up for autopay, or having your student loan payments automatically drafted from your checking account, savings account, or debit card, sometimes lowers your monthly payment. Of course, we’re not talking about hundreds of dollars, but it is a good way to shave around 0.25% off of your interest rate.
Make sure you check your service loan provider for other “perks,” like going paperless. Sometimes, these little alterations can save you hundreds of dollars in interest.
Note: you can still sign up for autopay while making extra payments to your student loans!
6. Take advantage of tax advantages to pay off student loan debt as fast as possible
Did you know that you can write off your student loan interest? Well, now you do! Always take advantage of tax advantages when it comes to your debt, especially if you’re paying a large amount in interest – it really can make a hue difference and put you on the path to receiving a large tax refund, which as we discussed, can help you pay off student debt as fast as possible.
You can deduct $2,500 per year for student loan interest. The great thing about this tax deduction is that you can deduct this for all student loans, not just government student loans. So many people leave money on the table each year because they aren’t aware of the many tax advantages that are available to them. Don’t be one of those people!
7. Make extra payments as often as possible to pay off student loan debt as fast as possible
If you’re wanting to take paying off student loan debt as fast as possible to the next level, make extra payments as often as possible.
Over the course of 2 years and 8 months we paid off $65,000 in student loan debt and made over 92 extra payments! Since the minimum payments were coming out on auto-draft anyway, this meant that we were hammering that total debt as much as we could.
When it comes to making those extra payments, no payment is too small — just start attacking the debt and using all of your firepower on it. You’ll be surprised with how quickly it comes down!
8. Use the Debt Snowball Method to pay off debt loan debt as fast as possible
By far the most effective way to pay off student loan debt as fast as possible is by using the Debt Snowball Method. This is especially true if you have multiple student loans and not just one lump sum.
The Debt Snowball Method is simple in theory and execution, but can change your entire life. As I said before, my family paid off over $65,000 in student loan debt and that is because we followed the Debt Snowball Method.
Here’s how to use the Debt Snowball Method to pay off student loan debt as fast as possible:
- List all of your student loan debt from smallest loan amount owed, ignoring the interest rates:
|Loan Type||Amount Owed||Interest Rate|
- Make a zero-based budget: List all of your expenses and subtract them from your income
- Use the money leftover from your income minus your expenses and put it towards the lowest amount student loan debt that you owe
- When you are finished paying off your lowest amount owed student loan, move on to the next lowest amount owed
- You will use the minimum payment from your first lowest amount owed student loan, plus all of your leftover money from your zero-based budget to this next loan
- As you progress through your loans, the money you are putting toward your debt amplifies, allowing you to pay off your student loan debt as fast as possible
The Debt Snowball Method is all about the momentum you build in paying off debt. Looking at $51,508.36 is intimidating and may turn you away from attempting to pay it all off. When you break down your student loan debt into digestible pieces, it makes it easier to conceive that paying it off is possible.
Looking at $12,567.34 is way easier on the mind than looking at the entire amount of student loan debt you owe.
The Debt Snowball Method also uses every technique that what we spoke about in this article:
- Creating a zero-based budget
- Getting a side hustle to put more money towards your student loan debt
- Putting any windfalls on your student loan debt
- Enrolling in autopay to reduce your student loan debt interest rate
- Making biweekly payments on your student loans
- Making payments as often as possible on your student loans
- Taking advantage of tax deductions on your student loan interest
Paying off your student loan debt isn’t easy, but it’s totally possible. Using these methods, especially the Debt Snowball Method, will help you pay off student loan debt as fast as possible and put you well on your way to creating financial independence for you and your family!
Did you enjoy this post? I hope it gets you fired up about paying off your student loans!