10 Tips for Paying Back a Student Loan

Student loans are on the rise, with national debt now totaling $1.56 trillion — an average of $32,731 per student. While many lenders offer an interest-free grace period, students just starting their careers are often focused on other life goals. As a result, paying off student loan debt often takes years — or decades — and can add significant stress to the lives of former students.

Wondering how to pay off student loans fast? We’ve got you covered.

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In this article

    10 Best Ways to Pay Off Student Loans

    1. Pay more than the minimum payment

    When it comes to paying back student loans, think of them like credit card debt. If you only pay the minimum payment, it’s almost impossible to get ahead. The reason? Nearly all of your minimum payment goes toward paying down the interest that accrues on your debt every month, with only a tiny portion going directly to the principal. Even if you increase your payment by small amounts — $20 or $50 per month — you can save thousands in interest over time.

    2. Avoid certain repayment plans

    Not all repayment plans are created equal. As an example, consider federal government programs for income-based repayment designed to help students who can’t afford their minimum payment each month. These repayment plans lengthen your term from the standard 10 years to 20 or 25 years. This makes paying back your student loans take much longer, and you’ll pay significantly more interest over 20 years than 10.

    3. Use your job to your advantage

    Wondering how to get out of student loan debt without paying? Some jobs make this possible. For example, many front-line service staff — such as doctors, nurses, government workers and volunteer organization employees — are eligible for loan forgiveness or assistance programs through their organization. Some private sector companies have also started bundling loan assistance into benefit packages to help attract new hires.

    4. Consider refinancing your student loans

    Under certain circumstances, the best way to pay off student loans is to refinance your debt with another lender and reduce your interest rate. This is worth considering if your financial situation has improved significantly over time — since you’re in a more stable income and savings position, private lenders will often offer lower interest rates on your remaining student loan balance. It’s worth noting, however, that if you move federal student loans to private lenders, you’ll no longer be eligible for government assistance or debt relief.

    5. Take advantage of tax deductions and credits

    There are two tax deductions that can help reduce your overall tax burden and make it easier to pay student loan debt.

    First is the Student Loan Interest Deduction, which lets you deduct up to $2,500 of interest paid on student loans from your taxable income. If you’re still in school or have returned for post-graduate work, you can also leverage deductions up to $4,000 per year for tuition and fees.

    6. Enroll in autopay

    If you’re worried about how to pay off student loans without missing a payment, autopay is a great option. Setting up autopay with your bank and lender means your payments are automatically withdrawn on a specific date, which lowers your chance to default. But many lenders also offer interest rate discounts of 0.25%–0.50% when you sign up for autopay, in turn lowering the total amount you’ll pay over the life of your loan.

    7. Start a side hustle

    Paying back student loans is easier with more money. Simple, right? Not always, but it’s possible to make a little extra cash by taking on a job from the gig economy, such as working for a ride-share or food delivery service or clearing out your closets and selling things you don’t need on local online market boards.

    8. Cut from your budget

    It’s not fun, but if you’re wondering how to pay back student loans ASAP you can cut from your current budget wherever possible. From cooking at home instead of eating out to canceling cable or limiting your online shopping, any money you save can go directly toward your debt.

    9. Make extra payments whenever you can

    Whenever possible, make extra payments on your loan — even if they’re relatively small. Set up your student loan as a bill you can pay directly through your financial provider’s website to streamline the processes of adding extra payments. Keep in mind, however, that other debts with higher interest rates, such as credit cards or car payments, should be higher priorities for extra payments.

    10. Make bi-weekly payments

    Most student loan payments are made monthly, but if you switch to bi-weekly, you’ll pay off your debt faster. Here’s why: While it makes sense that paying every two weeks would give you 24 payments each year — two per month — there are actually two “extra” payments because there are 52 weeks in a year, which works out to 26 bi-weekly payments.

    Check Your Student Loan Rates

    View our top-rated lenders and find the best rates today. It’s quick and easy.

    Refinancing student loans

    Refinancing your student loans is a great way to capitalize on lower interest rates once you’ve landed a secure job and are on solid financial footing. By transferring your current loan — public or private — to another lender, you can often secure better terms and lower interest rates. Always do your research and find the best student loans lender for your budget.

    Pros

    • Lower interest rates
    • Choose your own lender
    • Reduce your total term length

    Cons

    • You must be financially stable
    • Limited flexibility for payments
    • No access to federal assistance

    Doug Bonderud

    Contributing Writer

    An award-winning finance, technology and security writer, Doug has a knack for distilling complex concepts down into actionable, readable copy that generates interest and drives engagement.

    Reviewed by

    • Courtney Mihocik
      Courtney Mihocik

      Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in insurance, personal finance, and loans. Previously, she wrote and edited for Interest.com, PersonalLoans.org, Ballantyne Magazine, Thread Magazine, The Post, ACRN, The New Political, Columbus Alive and the Institute for International Journalism.