Heyyoo everyone! Today we have an amazing guest post on about why and how Joe over from Paper Stackers blog has decided to pay off his debt as fast as possible! You’re going to love this one 🙂
Throughout college, I never really thought twice about my student loan debt.
I knew I was racking some up, and that I would eventually have to repay it, but I wasn’t too worried about coming up with a plan for repayment or how it would impact my day-to-day finances when I entered the “real world.”
After I graduated in 2016 and quickly went through my grace period*, reality hit. My first bill came in the mail, and I was looking at a monthly payment of $250.
Luckily, I had a decently-paying job, unlike many of my college buddies, so managing this wasn’t too difficult for me.
Of course, there were some downsides.
I couldn’t go out to eat or go on weekend trips with my friends as much as I wanted. I also had this terrible anxious feeling every time the thought of my student loan balance popped into my head (which was pretty much every day).
I just couldn’t fathom making these payments for another ten years.
I decided that, as long as I could live comfortably and save some money for my future, I would work as hard as possible to pay down my student debt as fast as possible.
Since I didn’t do much planning towards the end of my college career, I gave myself a crash course in student loan repayment to get caught up.
I worked hard to learn the ins and outs of how my student loans worked, the different repayment plans I could use, and the strategies I could utilize to expedite my repayment. Though I tried many, here are the ones that stuck that I still use today:
One of my favorite ways to pay down my student loans faster than the standard repayment plan of 10 years is to make half of my monthly payment every two weeks.
When I make a half-payment every two weeks, I end up making 13 monthly payments.
Check the math:
52 weeks in a year / 2 = 26 half-payments. 26 half-payments = 13 full monthly payments.
So, as you can see, I end up making an entire extra monthly payment per year. This extra payment helps reduce my principal balance and, in turn, reduced the next interest charge.
I have one private student loan that I had to take out during my college career. Even though my parents cosigned on it, it still has an interest rate that is about 75 percent higher than my federal student loans.
Since a higher interest rate means a more expensive loan, I am trying to pay off that one first.
How do I do this? Simple.
Anytime I have a cash windfall or end up spending less than I budget for, I put that money towards my private student loan.
If you do try this, just make sure you are still making the minimum payments on your other loans. Paying off your high-interest loan or loans won’t mean much if all of your other loans are in default!
When I first started my job, my employer didn’t offer student loan repayment assistance. If you don’t already know, this is when your employer offers to pay a certain amount of your student loans each month.
One day I was presently surprised when our CEO sent out a memo telling us about the new company benefit. They offered to pay $150 per month – or $1,800 in total – towards all employees’ student debt!
This was a huge help, especially for someone like me who was trying to get rid of my debt as fast as possible.
If you are lucky enough to find a job that offers this benefit, my recommendation is to still make your monthly payments as if your employer wasn’t helping at all. This way, your employer’s contribution will go directly towards your principal, knocking it down and helping you pay down your debt more quickly.
Though I haven’t personally done this yet, I am hoping to soon refinance my student loans.
If you are approved for refinancing, a private lender will pay off your loans (federal and/or private) and give you a new loan – ideally with lower interest. Often you can change your repayment term to better fit your financial situation too.
Since eligibility is based on creditworthiness, you will need to have an established credit history and a good credit score to be approved. The lender is taking a risk on you, so they will want to see that you are likely to make your payments before offering you a better deal.
Refinancing can save thousands of dollars in interest, especially if you have high-interest private student loans. I’ve even seen rates under 3 percent – considerably lower than most private loans and even some federal loans.
Warning: Be sure to know what you are giving up before refinancing your federal student loans. Since you are refinancing with a private lender, your federal loan will turn into a private student loan without the benefits and repayment plans that the federal government offers. You will no longer be eligible for student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans – among other things. Since I’m not planning on using any of these, I’m not really too worried about these downsides of refinancing, but they are definitely worth considering.
Student loans suck, but they are a necessary evil for many young adults like myself.
Though I hate having debt hanging over my head at such a young age, it allowed me to get a higher education. My education has consequently unlocked opportunities that I would never have without my degree.
If you are one of the 45 million Americans paying off student debt, my recommendation is to explore your options instead of just assuming you will be stuck paying your loans for 10+ years.
As of now, I am on track to pay off mine in a total of 5 years and let me tell you; I can’t wait to exhale that sigh of relief once I see that balance hit $0.
*This is the time after graduation before you have to start making payments. It is six months for federal student loans.
Joe is a new personal finance blogger over at Paper Stackers. When he’s not working or blogging, you can find him doing fantasy football research, reading a good book, or daydreaming about getting his first puppy.