Whether you’re a current college student, a freshly minted graduate, or a seasoned professional, if you have student loans, creating a plan to pay them down can be a wise investment of your time. With the right resources, you can get ahead of schedule and pay down your student loans faster.
1. Get organized
If you haven’t yet started paying down your student loans, or if you’re in the process, but could use some help, take a moment to get organized.
First, you may have used federal or private student loans or both for your postsecondary education. If you have federal loans, you can visit the National Student Loan Data System. If you’re not sure whether your loans are federal or private, or who your private loans are with, pull your credit report.
After you figure out who you owe, it’s just as important to figure out how much you owe, when your payments are due, and the interest rate for each loan. By creating a spreadsheet with your loan amounts, interest rates, and servicers, you can pinpoint the loans with the highest interest rates. The loans with the highest interest rates are the loans you should prioritize to pay down the fastest.
2. Enlist the right tools
Once you have a full understanding what your student loan payments will be, there are other tools, like a monthly budget worksheet, that can compare your student loan payments to your other monthly expenses. By mapping out your monthly expenses line-by-line, you can see which expenses are most important each month and decide from there how to manage the rest of your spending.
Still in school? Now’s the best time to start planning how to pay down loans. There are tools, like a student loan payment estimator, that can help you estimate your student loan payments. Additionally, if you want to set yourself up now for a faster paydown in the future, you can choose to make payments while in school. If you pay student loan interest, or even a small fixed amount every month while in school, you may be able to lower your total loan cost, make your post-school payments more manageable, build your credit, and graduate with less debt.
3. Enroll in auto debit
Most federal student loan servicers offer a quarter-point interest rate discount if you allow them to automatically pull payments from your bank account. Many private lenders also offer an auto debit deduction as well. Enrolling in auto debit will help ensure your student loan payments are paid on time each month.
At Sallie Mae, for example, enrolling in auto debit may also qualify you for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate deduction on your eligible loan(s). By lowering your interest rate and making on time payments each month, you will save money on your total loan cost.
4. Make bi-weekly payments
Another way to pay your student loans faster is by making a student loan payment every two weeks.
Since many people get paid every other week, this effective repayment strategy allows customers to fit their student loan payments into their biweekly budgets.
On a typical monthly repayment schedule, a borrower makes 12 student loan payments per year. By making 26 payments (52 weeks in the year, divided by two), a student could end up making 13 months’ worth of student loan payments over the same 12-month span.
5. Take advantage of “extra” money
Who doesn’t love extra money?
Whether it’s from a birthday gift or a year-end bonus, use your extra income to make more than the minimum payments on your student loan. This will also help you save money on interest and total loan costs over the life of your student loan.
Additionally, there are companies that will reward their customers for paying down their student loans. For example, Sallie Mae’s Accelerate credit card is the only cash back credit card that gives you a bonus when you use your rewards to pay down a student loan. By signing up for the credit card, you can earn a 25% bonus on any cash back rewards used to pay down your student loans. That’s more free money for the taking!
Now more than ever, many employers are beginning to help employees pay down student loans. This may come in the form of direct payments to lenders, or online tools to help employees track loan balances. Some are also matching payments with contributions to an employee’s 401(k).
Tip: If you ever find yourself having trouble paying down your student loans, don’t hesitate to contact your servicer, they may be able to help.