Student loan debt can be a heavy weight to carry. The best way to lighten the load is to get rid of it. How do you do that? By paying off your loans faster than you have to.
The best ways to pay off your student loans fast include finding ways to save more money, making larger monthly payments each month, restructuring your loans, receiving assistance from your job, or qualifying for student loan forgiveness. In this article, we’ll discuss each of these strategies so you can decide which one best fits your repayment needs.
Save more money
Saving more each month could help you make larger payments. This might seem to be an impossible task but it’s totally feasible if you have a plan. Here are a few ways you can set aside a little extra cash.
Cut your budget
Take a look at your after-tax income against your monthly expenses. If you’re spending more than you’re saving, you should tweak your budget to cut down on non-essential items. Making small changes could help you repay your debt sooner. For doctors and other professionals, we recommend trying the 50/30/20 budget model to help you easily keep track of expenses.
Take advantage of tax credits
In many cases, you can deduct student loan interest payments on your taxes, with a maximum deduction of $2,500 per year. And if you’re getting any tax refunds, consider applying those funds to reduce your loan’s principal. If you’re returning to school, you could also deduct tuition/fees as well. For more information on taxes benefits, visit: studentaid.gov/resources/tax-benefits.
Use a student loan cashback card
Some credit cards are now offering cashback rewards to help you pay down your student loans. With the Laurel Road Student Loan Cashback® card, you’ll be able to redeem 2% cashback toward your student loans with 95% of U.S. servicers.1 You’ll be able to make progress on your loans with every dollar you spend.
Pay more each month
The more you pay each month, the sooner you’ll retire your debt. Paying more each month may allow you to reduce your principal amount, which could reduce the amount of interest you ultimately pay, saving you money over the life of your loan. Learn more about the benefits of paying extra on your student loans here.
Extra monthly payments
Whether you decide to pay more than the minimum, use windfalls for extra payments, or schedule bi-weekly payments, the simplest way to pay back your loans faster is to set aside more money for them.
Earn more income
Taking on extra hours and/or a side gig can boost your income, which may allow you to make larger loan payments. Be careful to manage your time and not overstretch yourself – it’s important to pay down your debt but not at the cost of burning yourself out.
Restructure your student loan
Restructuring your loans by refinancing or streamlining your payments could help you pay off your student loans sooner.
Refinance your student loans
Refinancing your student loans could potentially reduce your interest rates, which could in turn help you pay your loans off faster with the money you’ll save in interest. It may be worth checking your rate to see if you can qualify for a lower interest rate by refinancing. With Laurel Road, you could also get an additional rate discount during refinancing when you open a Laurel Road Linked Checking® account and set up qualifying monthly direct deposits. Learn more here.
Keep in mind that if you have federal student loan debt, refinancing to private loans will mean you’ll no longer enjoy benefits including, but not limited to, Income-Driven Repayment plans, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, federal forbearance, and any other benefits offered to federal borrowers. If your finances and job are stable, the appeal of the money you could save might outweigh the advantages of the safety provided by federal benefits.
Change repayment terms
You can work with your lender to try and shorten your loan term. This would mean your monthly payments would increase but you could reduce your interest costs over the life of a loan.
Adjust your servicer settings
You can also work with your lender to make larger payments towards the principal of your loan. Reducing your principal amount may lower your interest costs, driving your overall loan costs down. Remember to speak with your lender to see how you can restructure your payment settings.
Automate student loan payments
Some loan programs offer discounts in exchange for automating payments. This could help you lower your interest rate and guarantee that you always pay on time. If you refinance your loans with Laurel Road, we offer an additional discount for setting up automatic monthly payments from your bank account, click here for more information.
Investigate your job’s student loan repayment assistance
Depending on your job, you might qualify for student loan forgiveness and assistance programs.
Student loan forgiveness
Some jobs in public sector fields, such as education, health care, and public service, may allow you to forgive parts of your student loans. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a federal program available to those employed by the U.S. federal, state, local governments, or not-for-profit organizations that forgives your remaining loan balance after you make 120 qualifying payments. Read more about federal student loan repayment programs here, or learn more about PSLF at studentaid.gov.
Student loan assistance
Some public sector jobs may also provide loan repayment assistance to help you pay off your student loans, and some private companies are also beginning to offer student loan assistance as an additional benefit. Laurel Road partners with employers to set up this type of incentive for student loan benefits.
Best strategies to repay your federal student loans
If you have federal student loans, here are a few strategies to consider depending on your repayment goals:
If you want to qualify for student loan forgiveness: For those working in the public sector, you can apply for PSLF to be eligible for student loan forgiveness in 10 years. Other options are income-driven repayment (IDR) plans which can help make monthly payments more manageable, especially early in your career, and you could qualify for loan forgiveness in 20-25 years. Read more below.
If you want lower monthly payments: Go with income-driven repayment. IDR plans establish monthly payments ranging from 10%-20% of your discretionary income. They’ll extend your loan term to 20-25 years, after which any remaining balance will be forgiven (though you may owe taxes on the amount forgiven). Note that decreasing your monthly payments will typically result in you having to pay more interest overall.
If you want to pay less interest over the life of a loan: Go with a standard repayment plan. This is the default repayment plan if you don’t select another repayment option. You’ll make equal monthly payments for 10 years and pay off your loans faster and with less interest than other federal repayment plans.
How much can refinancing save you?
Qualifying for a lower interest rate or shortening your loan terms could help you save money on your student loans. Calculate how much refinancing your loans with Laurel Road can save you with our student loan refinance calculator.
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