Friday, September 5, 2014

How to Quickly Pay Off Your Student Loans

Student loans are a menace to the financial health of young adults all across the country. Many young borrowers are at a loss as to how to meaningfully chip away at their debt, and so they just give up, accepting a life of making minimum payments for the next 30 years or so. Whatever you do, don't take this route. Student loans do not have to be a semi-permanent feature in your adult life, and I promise by following the advice below you will be able to eliminate your debt in much less than 30 years.To pay your loans off quickly here are some things you can do:

1) COMMIT TO PAYING OFF LOANS ABOVE SCHEDULE. This is the first and most important step to debt reduction. That means no more thoughts like,"I'm going to be paying my loans forever!". Instead start thinking "When it comes to paying off my loans quickly, yes I can!".

2) THINK OF ALL THE BENEFITS TO PAYING OFF YOUR LOANS EARLY. Paying off your loans early leaves more money for retirement, for buying a home, for your kids (should decide to have some), for investing, and more money for giving. For more motivation read this STUDY on the impact of student loan debt on personal wealth.

3) DON'T LISTEN TO NAYSAYERS AND CRAZY SPENDERS. You may notice that some people have not come around to the wisdom of paying off loans early. This is fine, everyone becomes financially literate in their own time. Believe it or not, once upon a time I was a big spender. The key is to no longer keep up with the purchasing habits of crazy spenders.

4) DON'T LIVE ALONE. Unless you are lucky enough to find single living arrangements at the same price as a roommate situation don't live alone. Use the extra money you save by having a shared arrangement to pay extra on your loans. 

5) GET YOUR SPOUSE ON BOARD. If you are married and one or both of you have student debt make paying it off a priority. If only one of you has the debt it is not just that person's problem. It is taking money away from the entire household's pot of gold, and both partners in a secure marriage should be contributing to its elimination.

6) DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP IF YOU MADE A FINANCIAL MISTAKE, AND DON'T DIG A BIGGER HOLE. Some people wakeup and realize " What the heck was I thinking paying $100,000 for a degree in art!", or "Why the heck did I choose to go to fancy private school A when I could have gone to reputable public school B for 1/3 of the price and ended up in the same job?" Don't beat yourself up when you realize you may have made a mistake. The past is the past. Now it's time to swallow your pride, admit you messed up, release any anger, and more forward in paying down your balance. Also, do not under any circumstance dig a bigger debt hole. If midway through a program you realize you picked an overly expensive school transfer. If after getting a bachelor's degree in a low paying field you think you made a mistake, don't try to fix it by buying a graduate degree in that same area. 

7) DEVELOP A BUDGET. Budgeting and tracking your spending helps you to see where your money is going, and more importantly not paying down your loans. The more conscious you are of your expenditures the easier it is to control them.

8) PAY THE HIGHEST INTEREST RATE LOAN OFF FIRST. Mathematically it makes sense for you to pay your highest interest rate loans first, because this is the debt that is costing you the most. Some people advocate paying your smallest loan balance first, so you can get the psychological thrill of getting rid of a debt sooner. If you think you need that sort of motivation to keep paying down your loans, by all means use that strategy, if not, it's best to pay the highest interest rate first.

9) POSTPONE FANCY PURCHASES. Young adults are pressured into buying all sorts of fancy things, extravagant engagement rings, weddings, homes, new cars, and expensive vacations to name a few. Don't get caught in this trap. Pay your loans first, and buy fancy stuff later.

10) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH DEBT NINJAS. I once tried to encourage a group of friends to start an investment club, and they weren't interested. At first I was a little bummed, but in the end things worked out just fine because I was able to connect with like-minded people on the internet. On your journey it will be important to have the support of others, as you constantly fight the cultural tide of being told that debt is good and it's OK to live beyond your means.

If you managed to read through this whole post, there's a good chance you are on your way to financial freedom. Best of luck with your journey. I promise being debt free will feel much better than accumulating showy trinkets. 

"Sometimes it's better to spend one hour thinking about money than to spend a week working for it." ~unknown

"You will find there is more satisfaction in rational saving than in irrational spending." ~P.T. Barnum


  1. Great tips! My husband has loans from law school that we have been able to defer for the time being, as he chose to go back to dental school (on the Air Force, so thankfully we don't have dental school loans too!). We are going to begin paying them off soon though, and I know it will feel so good to have them out of the picture sooner rather than later. ps. thanks for your comment on my blog about our bathroom…I went ahead and took the plunge and bought the paint for the vanity; here's hoping I'll get around to painting it this weekend!

  2. Hi Anne. Yes, it'll feel great once they're gone. Can't wait to see what the vanity looks like after you finish. I'm sure it will turn out great!

  3. "Sometimes it's better to spend one hour thinking about money than to spend a week working for it."
    So true! It seems that finances and budget are so often unpopular subjects, when in reality our well being and relationships are very easily affected by both. I was so happy to read your take on paying off the higher interest loans first. Every time I read/hear advice to start with smallest balance to feel "more immediate satisfaction", I can't help but think, isn't that how a lot debt is incurred? Let's try to shift that habit instead.

    My Mother has said many times "You can throw more money out the kitchen door with a fork, than you can bring in the front door with a shovel". While I'm sure that this old saying referred to wasting food back in the day, in terms of current times and my budget, it applies to meal planning and shopping - and the biggie - drastically curbing restaurant meals. Paring down on meals eaten out, essentially got me through a lean period of time. When the impact of that one change was clear, it was hard to return to that habit. Bonus, I eat much healthier meals.

  4. Hi Paula. You made some great points. I've also wondered why talking about finances is so taboo in our culture, considering the stress misspending brings to so many families. I hope we can begin loosening up about this in the future.

    "You can throw more money out the kitchen door with a fork, than you can bring in the front door with a shovel." I've never heard that saying before, but I LOVE IT! I'm guilty of that one to an extent. I've drastically cut down on eating out over the past year, but I could definitely stand to do a little better.

  5. Some very sound advice here, which could also apply to the payment of one's home loan. Thank you.

    1. Yes, good point. These strategies could definitely be used to pay off a mortgage early.

  6. Well, you have shared one of the tips of trying to pay earlier than the scheduled time, which is a very nice and beneficial tip for the loan applicants. People who pay earlier can save huge amount of tax money as well. There are several money lenders who offer relaxation in interest amount if payment is paid earlier than the pre-scheduled time intervals, which allows applicants to improve the credit score for next time and also saves interest money.

  7. You have inspired me.
    I need to pay off the school loans asap...
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. You're welcome Marissa. I'm glad you found it helpful. Good luck with getting rid of your loans!