With interest rates on the rise, now is the time to pay off student loans quickly and aggressively. Paying them down faster means you'll ultimately pay less interest over time. But finding extra money can be hard, especially on a limited budget.
Here are real strategies to pay off student debt quickly, from cutting expenses to earning more income. We'll provide tips tailored to both singles and parents so you can crush paying off student loans faster, whatever your situation. Read on to pay off student loans fast!
Lifestyle Changes to Free Up Cash
Making some lifestyle adjustments may feel difficult in the moment, but can pay off in the long run by helping you find money to pay off student loans quicker.
- Move to a cheaper apartment or take on a roommate to save on housing costs.
- Downgrade vehicles or use public transit if possible to cut transportation expenses.
- Limit dining out and resort to cooking economical meals at home.
- Shop thrift and consignment stores for clothing deals.
- Pause gym memberships (or find cheaper options) and any subscriptions you can live without.
- Meal plan, batch cook food for the week, and bring lunch to work instead of going out.
- Grow a small garden for fresh produce. Learn DIY skills to save on home services.
- Use less energy by adjusting the thermostat, caulking air leaks, adding insulation. Install a programmable smart thermostat.
Trimming expenses in key areas frees up extra cash flow you can redirect toward student debt.
Paying Off Loans Early in College
Current college students can take steps to pay interest down now to reduce loan burden later:
- Make interest-only payments on unsubsidized loans while in school - This prevents interest from being added to the principal balance when repayment begins.
- Work a part-time job - For 2023-24, students can earn up to $7,040 without impacting need-based financial aid eligibility. Use these earnings to pay down interest or principal.
- Become a resident assistant (RA) - Many colleges provide free room and board for students willing to serve as RAs in dorms. This saves substantially on costs.
- Apply for more scholarships - Even during college, look for scholarships from foundations, community groups, professional associations, etc. to help cover tuition and expenses.
- Take extra classes to graduate early - Adding summer courses or an extra class each semester can allow you to graduate in 3 years instead of 4, saving a whole year of college costs.
- Stick to a budget and limit borrowing - Track spending to only borrow what you truly need in loans.
Being proactive with payments, jobs, aid, and frugality helps you avoid large student loan interest and balances down the road.
Side Hustles and Creative Income Sources
Taking on a side gig generates extra money to also pay off your student loans faster. Some options include:
- Freelance work like writing, graphic design, virtual assisting, tutoring, delivering food or groceries.
- Turn hobbies into income - sell handmade crafts on Etsy, drive for a rideshare service, rent out a room on Airbnb.
- Participate in surveys, paid studies, user testing, and focus groups in your free time.
- Sell used electronics, clothing, furniture, and other items you no longer need.
- Earn cash back on everyday purchases by using apps like Ibotta, Rakuten, and Upside.
- Donate plasma to earn around $500 a month and put it all towards an extra monthly payment on your student loans
Finding creative ways to earn extra payments on the side accelerates your student loan payoff.
Getting Government & Employer Assistance
You may qualify for programs to make federal student loan payments even more affordable:
- Check if you're eligible for Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) through EASY Wireless. This provides free cell phone service, unlimited talk & text, and data, saving $50+ per month.
- Apply for income-driven repayment plans to potentially lower federal student loan bills.
- Research eligibility for public service or teacher student-loan-forgiveness programs.
- Ask your employer about any student loan payment assistance benefits they offer. Even small contributions help.
Taking advantage of assistance can provide relief during student loan repayment.
Managing Student Loan Payments
How you handle monthly student loans also impacts your payoff and repayment timeline because:
- Make biweekly or multiple monthly payments towards the principal to pay off student loans early.
- If you have multiple student loans, prioritize putting extra money toward the highest interest rate loans first.
- Lower your repayment term by choosing a shorter plan, which raises monthly payments but pays student loans faster.
- Enroll in autopay to get an interest rate discount for automated payments.
- Consider privately refinancing, but do not refinance federal loans as you will lose helpful protections and benefits.
Strategically managing payments takes years off repayment.
Special Tips for Parents
If you have a family your options for extra work may be limited, try these extra payment ideas to save money for student loans:
- Trade childcare with other parents - they watch your kids one day while you watch theirs another.
- Seek free kid activities like storytime, classes, concerts, and play time at community parks.
- Buy kids' clothes and toys secondhand.
Parents can take creative steps to pay off student loans fast too.
Bonus: Find the Best Rates When Taking Out Loans
Before borrowing student loans, make sure you get the best possible interest rate:
- Compare federal loan options like Pell Grants and subsidized loans with low fixed rates.
- Shop and compare rates from multiple private lenders. Rates differ greatly.
- A creditworthy cosigner can help you secure lower private loan rates.
Find Low Cost Federal Student Loans and Grants
Before taking out private student loans, make sure you exhaust Federal Government loan and aid options which are fixed, lower interest rate, and more flexible. You can explore federal loans, grants, and scholarships at:
- FAFSA - The Free Application for Federal Student Aid provides access to federal loans, grants, work-study and more. File a FAFSA at https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa
- Federal Student Aid Office - Get guidance on aid options like subsidized loans, Pell grants, etc at https://studentaid.gov or by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID
- College or University Financial Aid Office - Meet with a counselor about available grants, scholarships, and loan options through your school's aid programs.
Comparing Private Student Loans
Private student loan rates and terms can vary widely among lenders. Be sure to compare multiple lenders to find the best loan for your needs.
Some places where you can easily compare private student loan offers include:
- LendingTree - Compare rates from multiple lenders at https://www.lendingtree.com/student
- Credible - Receive personalized rates from vetted lenders at https://www.credible.com/student-loans
- NerdWallet - Compare based on loan amount, credit, and cosigner options at https://www.nerdwallet.com/best/loans/student-loans
- Forbes Advisor - View editor reviews of top lenders at https://www.forbes.com/advisor/student-loans/private-student-loans/
Taking the time to compare rates and terms will ensure you get the lowest cost loan possible. Be a savvy borrower!
Doing research upfront saves money long-term.
Time to Get Free of Student Loan Debt
As you can see, singles and parents facing student loan debt have options for paying it off quickly. Start implementing 2-3 strategies that fit your situation and accelerate your loan repayment plan. Small steps make a big difference over time.
Use these clever tricks to pay off student debt fast and put your hard-earned money from private loans back in your pocket!