Ah, the student loan.
It made life so easy when we needed it most. Until the massive debt monster revealed itself after graduation. Most of us college graduates have them. If you do, don’t stress. I want to make the payoff process easier for you.
We paid off my wife’s $21,000 loan in less than a year, on a modest salary. You can do the same, you just have to be willing to put in the work.
If you’re ready to crush your student loans, keep your eyeballs moving. But first, some fun student loan facts (said no one ever).
If you have student loans, know you are not alone. 71% of college graduates have student loans.
Americans owe $1.3 TRILLION in student loans. That surpasses the GDP of New Zealand, Ireland, and Australia combined.
The average college graduate will have over $37,000 in student loans this year. This is up a whopping six percent from a year ago. Six percent may not sound like a big deal to you, yet if we kept this up, the average baby born this year will graduate with $118,664.01 in student loans by the time they are 21.
The majority of young adults will start their lives in a crater of debt. I made a baby student loan chart to prove it (What other personal finance blog can you find a baby student loan chart? I mean, come on).
This is becoming an astronomical problem.
Student loans are holding us back. They are changing the way we make decisions. They reduce the amount of freedom you have with your money. It causes us to put off getting married, re-think entrepreneurial choices, and kills our savings rate.
Let’s take a look at some ways that you can crush these student loans. Or, as the great philosopher Miley Cyrus once said, come in like a wrecking ball on those student loans.
Let’s get down to business.
1.) Make a Plan
A goal without a plan is a wish. We need to develop a plan to crush your loans.
Here’s the plan you don’t want to have.
This lady faked her own death to get out of paying her student loans. Some days, you may want to follow her plan, but stay strong, you can do this. Hey, at least she had a plan?
Before you set a plan to payoff your loans early, you need to understand something. You’re going to have to get a little uncomfortable. Sacrifice is part of the process. But, if you trust your pay down plan, you will know the pain is temporary.
Write down the date you want to have your loan paid off. You need to write it down to make it concrete. Then tape that date on your mirror so that you see it every day. When you brush your teeth it’s motivating you. When you are combing back your Johnny Bravo haircut, it’s staring right back at you. When you are putting on your Kylie Jenner lip gloss (I can’t believe I know that exists), it’s there. You are on a mission and by golly, it’s in your hands.
2.) Flex That Hustle Muscle
Odds are, many of you will not make much money right out of college. You’re going to have to pick up a side-hustle to fuel the student loan payoff fire. You may think your $50,000 salary will be enough to get you out of the hole. Let’s be honest, most people don’t have the discipline to make this salary work. You could be frugal weirdo’s like me, but that’s not a fulfilling plan to most.
Since you can only pay down as much as your salary allows, you’re going to have to earn more money.
Enter, the side-hustle.
Side-hustles are a fantastic way catapult to your debt pay down. They are the Robin to your day job Batman. Fair warning, it’s not fun spending your nights and weekends doing something you hate. So why not search for a side hustle that peaks your interest? It could be anything from starting a business, to working as a bartender. Just make sure it’s something that you will stick to. Heck, my side hustle might be the weirdest of all, I sold Christmas trees!
Find something you enjoy. It could turn into something you do forever. You get the double benefit of a debt crusher and investment in your future.
3.) Negotiate Your Salary
Your salary is not always concrete until your next yearly evaluation. Many people don’t take advantage of this fact. If you are truly valuable at your company, and I do mean truly valuable (We all know they guy who thinks he’s amazing in the office but is really the worst.) then this could be an option for you.
Now, there is an art to this. You can’t just walk into your boss’s office like J.G. Wentworth and yell,“It’s my money, PAY ME MORE NOW”.
(Did that go over your head? Here’s the commercial. I want to make sure everyone is included here).
You need to walk in with confidence. If that means rehearsing in front of a mirror to get a salary increase then do it! Show the value you provide and the ways you have gone above and beyond. I earned an extra 7% just by asking! Having a 7% pay down increase dramatically changes the rate at which you can crush your loan.
4.) Bro, Do You Even Budget?
Now before your eye balls roll out of your head reading another personal finance blog telling you to budget, know this. You have no idea where every dollar is going unless you budget. You may be a money wizard and take your savings off the top and spend the rest. That’s great, but you are not operating your money at optimal capacity. You have to track what you spend.
Now that I got off that soap box (what does that even mean?), I realize that I can scream budget until my lungs turn blue. Most of you won’t do it. So, here’s plan B for you budget rebels.
If you can live like you did in college, DO IT. Don’t inflate your lifestyle just yet. See if you can live on the same expenses that you did when you had a dorm room full of Bob Marley posters and ate Hot Pockets every day.
This will make you a frugal genie without you even knowing the difference. You will have a big chunk of your juicy paycheck (why do we describe money with food adjectives?) leftover to pay down your debt.
Get yourself some roommates to save money. Plop those Bob Marley posters on the wall for old times sake, and have the time of your life. If you’re married like I am, the posters probably won’t fly. (My sports posters did the walk of shame to the garage the second we moved in.)
There is nothing worse than watching all of your student loan payment going to interest. It can make you feel deflated, as if you will never pay off your loan. EVER.
The good new is, we now have options.
If you have a high interest rate, refinancing your student loan can be a lifesaver. In the past, people would have to sit on a 9% interest rate throughout the life of their loan, and suffer through the majority of their payment going to interest. Well, the market found a solution. That solution is the loan refinance companies.
You can refinance your loan as low as 2%. This can really ramp up the speed at which you can pay off your loan.
LendEDU is a fantastic company that will help you refinance your student loans. Instead of having to go to every site and get a quote, LendEDU does it all for you in one spot. The best part is, it’s free! It’s comparison tool will ask you 10 questions that take 3 minutes of your time.
It is basically the Expedia for student loan refinancing.
LendEDU works with all of the top student loan lenders including SoFi, DRB, U-fi, LendKey, CommonBond, iHelp, Education Success Loans, College Ave Student Loans, and Upstart. They also give you a number of tools including a repayment calculator that will help you track your debt crushing progress.
Let’s face it, we have it easier than any other generation in the past. I don’t know about you, but I still want life to become even easier. Automating your student loan payments helps you do that. Here’s why:
You never miss payments.
If you are one who forgets to pay their bills on time, or can’t even remember what day it is, then automating is a great solution. Automating will pay your bills right on time and you don’t even have to think about it.
You can make extra payments
Since we want to pay off our student loans faster than the average Joe, you can set up your account to make auto-payments greater than the amount due. That means letting the money leave your bank account before you can miss it.
You may get a better interest rate.
When you automate your student loans, many companies will give you a .25% reduction to your interest rate. This may sound like peanuts, but it can add up to hundreds of dollars.
7.) Make Bonus Payments
Imagine you were buried underground, and you have been trying to dig your way out with your hands. Then, someone hands you a shovel, which would help you dig your way out much faster. Instead of using that shovel to dig your way out, you use it to dig yourself deeper in the hole.
This would be ludicrous right?
That is what you are doing when you have debt, but blow your tax return on something else.
My favorite question to ask people who always complain about money. Hey Johnny, what are you doing with your tax return? Chances are, if they struggle with money, they will describe 10 different options they are considering. None or which are responsible. None of which go towards their student loans they constantly complain about. They may be planning to buy a four figure watch, take a trip to Ibiza, or buying a second car to tow their jet-ski.
Don’t be like Johnny.
If you earn an extra chunk of money, you better be paying down debt. If grandma gives you $100 for your birthday and tells you not to spend it all in one place. You say, “Hey Grandma, don’t tell me how to live my life.” Just kidding. You put $99 towards your student loan debt and obey your grandmother. She is a saint for crying out loud.
Making bonus payments will truly add up. Every extra dollar you earn that does not go to paying down debt or investing is just causing you to spin your financial wheels.
Consider Bi-Weekly Payments
If you want to be a debt pay down ninja, then consider making bi-weekly payments. This can cut your student loan payments by over a year.
12 Months in a year = 12 payments
52 Weeks in a year/ 2 = 26 (half) payments
26 (half) payments / 2 = 13 full payments
You have just squeezed in an extra payment every year. In addition to paying off extra interest. This gives you momentum. A feeling of control. Something that we don’t usually associate with student loans.
So, if you plan to pay $500 a month, split that in half, and pay $250 every two-weeks. In the end, you won’t notice the difference.
There you have it. If you implement some of these tips, you’re certain to pay off your student loans much faster than your peers. Imagine what you could do with that extra monthly income? The road to the last payment isn’t easy, but it’s totally worth it. So get out there and show those loans who’s boss. Here’s a hint – It’s YOU!
You should never stop investing when paying down debt. Especially if you are young. I talk about why here.