Some students are looking to save money on their monthly student loan payments. Others are looking to pay off their loans as fast as possible–either just to get out of debt, or to save interest over the long term. These two goals usually run contrary to one another, since lowering your monthly payment will likely result in you paying on your loans for a longer period of time and paying more in interest over time.
If you’re hoping to pay off your student loans faster, the obvious way to do that is to simply pay more on your loans each month to reduce the balance more quickly. But, that’s only so effective–you can only afford to spend a certain dollar amount per month on student loan payments.
But there are some strategies you can use to accelerate your progress, even if you don’t have a lot of extra money to throw at your loans.
1. Consolidate to make the process easier
If you’re hoping to get your student loans paid off faster, a good first step is probably to take advantage of any consolidation options.
Whether you have a number of loans from various lenders or you just have federal direct loans that can be consolidated, this step will usually help you save some money on your loans and simplify the repayment process.
2. Refinance to lower your interest rate
If your monthly payment is $100/mo and you’re shoveling $200/mo at it to help pay down the balance more quickly, that will help you pay off the loan a bit faster. But, you’ll probably be paying a higher interest rate for having a longer-term loan (say, 10 years at 5%) versus what you would get if you refinanced your loans over a shorter-term loan (say 5 years at 3.5%).
So, if you’re planning to pay more than your minimum payment on your loans, it’s likely to be worth your time to refinance based on your new timeline for repayment.
3. Get all of the perks and discounts you can
Many student loan companies offer specials deals and discounts for borrowers who do things like setting up automatic payments or subscribe to their email newsletter.
If there’s a chance you can snag one of these–do it! Many times the perks seem small, like a .25% reduction in interest, but that quarter percent can mean hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the life of your student loan.
4. Make payments every two weeks to pay off your loans faster
You don’t necessarily have to double your payment to pay off your student loans faster. By paying every two weeks rather than once per month, you could slightly reduce the interest that accrues, and you’ll also end up making one extra payment over the course of the year.
This tactic will also probably help you stay on top of your student loan debt, as your payments can coincide with your paycheck.
5. Apply bonuses, tax refunds, and other windfalls
Have a big influx in cash coming from a work bonus or tax refund? Before you even think about spending it, put it right toward your student loans.
These big payments not only help to knock off some of your principal balance, but they also help to reduce the amount of interest that is accruing and set you on a path to get ahead on your student loan payments.
Plus, if you do this before you even consider spending it on anything else, you’ll never miss the money anyway, right?