If you happen to be one of the 44 million U.S. adults who have student loan debt, making a plan to pay it off in a timely manner can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to.
By being smart and strategic about how you go about paying down your debt, you can pay off your student loans a little quicker and with a lot less pain. Here are some strategies you can try.
Refinance your loans
Refinancing your student loans can save you thousands of dollars over the life of a loan.
By swapping out your existing loan for a new one with a lower interest rate, you’ll be able to direct more of your monthly payment towards your loan principal so you can pay down your debt faster.
Both federal and private student loans can be refinanced.
Pay more than the minimum
Any amount of money you can add to the minimum payment will help reduce your debt faster.
If you’ve only been paying the monthly minimum, start by adding $25 to that payment. Each month, increase the amount by $10 until you reach the maximum amount you’re comfortable paying.
This strategy is the exception to the rule when it comes to paying more than the minimum each month.
If you have multiple student loans, target the one with the highest interest rate and direct your extra payments towards that balance. The goal is to pay this one off first while continuing to make the minimum payments on the loans with a lower rate.
Use your tax refund
Skip upgrading to the latest tech gadget this year and instead put your tax refund to work on debt reduction.
In 2016, the average American received a tax refund in the amount of $3,050. If you take 10% of that refund and apply it to your student debt, it could equal an extra payment. If you do that every year, you could shave months off the back end of your loan, while also reducing the amount you’ll pay in interest.
Double your payments
Here’s another way to “trick” yourself into making an extra payment every year.
Split your monthly loan payments into two half-payments. Then, schedule your payments every two weeks. This simple strategy will result in one extra monthly payment per year.
Use your raise to pay down debt
If you get a financial boost at work, make sure to set aside a percentage of that additional money to pay down your student loans. Aim for 50% of the increased amount per month.
Set up an automatic deposit to a savings account or change the amount of your monthly loan payment so the additional money never touches your checking account.
Upromise: online purchases = cash back
Upromise.com is a free shopping portal that also offers Loan Link, a special benefit for Upromise members. Link your eligible loan with your Upromise account and your cash-back earnings can be automatically transferred to help pay down your loan.
Let's say you earn $300 back in the first year. Maintain that over a decade and you'll have put $3,000 toward your loan debt.
How it works: Start by signing up at Upromise.com to open your account. Whenever you shop online, start at their website—home to more than 850 retail partners—and search by item or store. Make your purchase and earn up to 5% cash back.
Want to get started on some of these strategies right away? See how much you could save with our Student Loan Refinancing Calculator.