In just two short months, I’ll make my final student loan payment. I literally can not wait.
I’ve had student loans since I took some out during my first year of college back in 2010. Each year of undergrad, I took out some student loans to help pay for my classes and other school-related expenses.
I’m so grateful for my time spent in college and for my degree, but I haven’t experienced adult life without having debt and I’m really looking forward to it.
I started out with a total of about $21,000 of student loan debt. This is much lower than the national average per borrower, but it’s still a lot of money to me. In 2014, I jumped on a 10-year repayment plan. But, I knew I didn’t want to wait until 2024 to rid myself of my loans.
These past two years have not been particularly easy. I faced some financial setbacks with having a lower income.
If you’re looking to pay down your student loan debt faster as well, here are 4 things I did that I’d highly recommend you try.
1. Get Serious About Paying Down the Debt
This should be a given, but if you want to pay off your student loans fast, you need to change your mindset and get serious about knocking out the debt. For me, I actually had to get pretty mad at my debt. This gave me the extra push I needed to commit to paying off my loans ASAP.
You can also start to think about the real reason why you want to pay off your loans. What end result do you want? What do you want your life to look like when you no longer have student loan debt hanging over your head. Paying off your student loans early is hard and it requires a lot of motivation and dedication.
There will be times when you’ll doubt your ability to meet your goal. Or when you just don’t see much progress and want to give up. There will be times when you’ll be tempted to go on a nice vacation instead of making extra student loan payments. Unexpected things will happen that will derail your progress.
Through all the ups and downs, you have to stay focused. The only way to do that is to get serious about your debt payoff. Don’t view failure as an option so you’ll have nothing to fall back on.
2. Continue to Live Like a College Student
This step is crucial. One of the best things you can do if you wish to pay off your student loan debt quickly is to continue to live like a student after you graduate.
You’ve probably heard of the term ‘broke college student’. But instead of trying to break that stereotype, use it to your advantage.
When I graduated college, I found an entry-level job about 40 minutes away. I commuted to work and remained in the 2-bedroom apartment in my college town for a year. I enjoyed the $600/month rent payment while throwing extra money toward my debt.
Two-bedroom apartments near my job at the time were around $1,200/month. So, my housing costs were essentially cut in half while I chose to live in my basic cheap apartment. I also focused on cooking easy meals at home and using a programmable Crock-Pot to prepare meals in batches.
I got rid of cable by switching to Hulu, and canceled my gym membership (even though I recently started going back to the gym this past year). I also took advantage of free and frugal entertainment in my area, and I made sure I was receiving the best rates I could possibly attain for car insurance.
Plus, I didn’t really buy myself too many new things. I always took advantage of Goodwill and clearance sales when I needed clothes. My college furniture was in good condition and I still have it in my home today. I haven’t had to buy essentials like a couch, bed, kitchen table, deep freezer, or a microwave since I graduated college.Keep living like a college student after college to free up more money! Click To Tweet
3. Use the Avalanche Method
Choosing a specific debt repayment method to implement can really help you make more progress in terms of paying off your student loans faster. Once you free up the money to start making extra payments, you want to make sure you’re sending those payments to the right loans and at the right time.
I favor using the avalanche method of debt repayment. This means you choose to pay down the loan with the highest interest rate first. Then, you tackle the loan with the next highest interest rate and so on.
I like the avalanche method because it saves you the most money in interest over time. If you’re making consistent payments on your student loans, interest can really set you back. This is because a portion of your payment won’t go toward the actual principal balance.
By knocking out the loans that have the highest interest rates first, you can pay off your student loans faster and save hundreds or thousands of dollars as well.
When using this method, it’s also important to make sure you know how your payments are being allocated. Usually, any payment you make will go toward interest first. Then, it can go to one specific loan or be broken up and applied to all your loans. I have federal student loans and can’t control how my minimum payment is applied. But, I can control it for my extra payments.
I usually allow my minimum payment to go through each month. Then a day or two after, I make my extra payment. When I do, I put it on the loan with the highest interest rate.
Another option to help you pay off your student loans faster and save money on interest is to refinance them with SoFi.
4. Focus on Earning More Money
Finally, you’ll want to focus on earning some extra money if you really want to get rid of your student loans faster. When I first got serious about becoming debt free, I was only earning around $28,000/yr.
I did get small raises and bonuses at my job. But, I also picked up a side hustle that allowed me to throw even more money toward my debt. I did brand ambassador gigs for a little while. Then I started offering freelance writing and virtual assistant services in my spare time.
Now I freelance full-time. But back when it was a side hustle, using the extra money I earned, in combination with freeing up money by living frugally, allowed me to double and triple my student loan payments each month. This way I could pay them off in just a few years.
Debt is not a life sentence. Everyone deserves to experience life without having to owe anyone money. Student loan debt can be a huge burden. But, the good news is that you can follow these steps to get rid of it once and for all.
Do you have student loan debt? What are your plans to pay it off?