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The most effective way to pay off student loans fast is to pay more than the minimum payment in any way you can. The more you pay down the principal balance, the less you’ll pay in interest overall.

Here are 11 creative payoff strategies to help you pay down your student loans faster:

1. Pay more than the minimum payment

Effectiveness: High

The simplest and best way to pay off your student loans is to just pay more. But sometimes that’s easier said than done.

You don’t necessarily have to pay double or triple; maybe you can just afford to pay $20 or $50 more every month. Whatever is possible — do it! Any amount that you can pay over the minimum will help you erase your student loan debt sooner. Just make sure your loan servicer is applying your extra payments to your loan principal. And over time, as your situation allows, increase the extra amount you’re paying.

Use a student loan payoff calculator to see how increasing your monthly payments can impact the total cost of your loan (and how much interest you’ll save!).

Find Out: Which Student Loans to Pay Off First

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2. Avoid certain repayment plans

Effectiveness: Depends

Government repayment programs such as income-based repayment can be a saving grace for those struggling to repay their loans, as they can help you avoid default on federal loans. But if you’re trying to pay off your loans faster and have the budget to do so, repayment programs can actually work against you.

Most repayment programs lower your monthly payments by lengthening your loan term. So not only will it take you longer to get out from under your debt, you may end up paying more interest overall, particularly if you don’t qualify for loan forgiveness. So, if you’re truly trying to pay off your student loans faster, avoid repayment programs that extend your payment terms.

Find Out: How Long to Pay Off Student Loans

Have you considered refinancing your student loans? Refinancing may be able to help reduce your monthly payment or pay down your debt faster, depending on what your goals are. Credible makes comparing refinancing options easy and is 100% free. Check Your Rates Now
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3. Use your job to your advantage

Effectiveness: Medium to high

Speaking of jobs, there are a few ways that your day job might help you pay off your loans, too. A number of jobs offer student loan forgiveness in exchange for working in a service capacity. Some public servants, doctors, lawyers, nurses, volunteer organization workers, federal agency employees, and automotive workers may be eligible for student loan assistance or forgiveness, so check whether your career goals align with the criteria for each forgiveness program.

Some employers have started to offer student loan assistance as part of their benefits package, so it could be worth taking this into account as you look for your next job or asking your current employer if they offer (or would consider offering) this perk. Even if it’s not explicitly stated, it could be worth negotiating something into your compensation package if you expect student loans to be a significant burden on your finances.

Learn More: Should You Pay Off Student Loans or Invest?

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4. Consider refinancing your student loans

Effectiveness: High

Student loan refinancing is an increasingly popular option for borrowers with good or excellent credit and relatively high interest rates.

When you refinance, you essentially consolidate your student loans into one by taking out a new loan with a private lender and use it to pay off your original loan. This allows many borrowers to secure lower interest rates because they’re more financially stable than when they took out the loan in the first place.

Keep in mind that if you refinance your federal loans, you’ll no longer have access to federal programs like income-driven repayment or student loan forgiveness. But if you think refinancing could be a good fit for you, use this student loan refinancing calculator to estimate how much you could save.

Here are some lenders that will allow you to refinance your loans over the course of just five years (which will help you pay them off faster and save money in interest):

LenderRates from (APR)Min. term (years)
Variable: 4.01%+
Fixed: 3.91%+
5Get Rates
Citizens Bank
Variable: 2.29%+¹
Fixed: 3.45%+¹
5Get Rates
College Ave
Variable: 2.62%+2
Fixed: 3.54%+2
5Get Rates
Variable: 2.39%+3
Fixed: 3.14%+3
5Get Rates
Variable: 2.42%+
Fixed: 3.48%+
5Get Rates
Variable: N/A
Fixed: 3.49%+
5Get Rates
Variable: 2.31%+4
Fixed: 3.46%+4
5Get Rates
Compare rates without affecting
your credit score. 100% free!

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All APRs reflect autopay and loyalty discounts where available | 1Citizens Bank Disclosures | 2College Ave Disclosures | 3 ELFI Disclosures | 4SoFi Disclosures | 5EDvestinU Disclosures

Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR") published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of November 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.80%. Variable interest rates range from 2.15%-8.82% (2.15%-8.82% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower's loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 3.45%-9.02% (3.45%-9.02% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.

Keep Reading: Best Student Loan Consolidation and Refinancing Companies

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5. Take advantage of tax deductions and credits

Effectiveness: Medium

There are two types of school-related tax deductions that can help reduce the tax burden for students and recent graduates.

Student loan interest tax deduction

The student loan interest tax deduction allows you to reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500 for interest paid on student loans in the year for which you’re filing. In order to qualify for this deduction, you must:

  • Have paid interest on a loan in your name
  • Have been enrolled at least half-time in a degree program when you took out the loan
  • Be filing as a single taxpayer or as “married filing jointly”
  • Have a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of less than $80,000 as a single taxpayer or $160,000 if you’re filing jointly
  • Not have anybody else claiming you as a dependent on their tax return

Tuition and fees tax deduction

The second type of deduction is for up to $4,000 per year for tuition and fees. Unlike the student loan interest tax deduction, this can only be claimed for tax years in which you paid for educational expenses. This will generally only be an option while you’re in school, or if you go back to school while repaying your student loans.

To be eligible for this deduction you must have paid qualified education expenses of higher education (including tuition and fees, but not room, board, transportation, etc.) for yourself or an eligible student (your spouse or your dependent for whom you claim an exemption on your tax return).

If you’re still in school or have gone back to graduate school, you might also be eligible for tax credits, which directly reduce the amount of tax you owe.

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6. Enroll in autopay

Effectiveness: Low

Many loan servicers offer an interest rate discount of 0.25% when you enroll in automatic payments. This is a small amount, but can add up to some major savings over the life of your loan.

Plus, autopay is generally a good idea, as it decreases the chance that you’ll get into trouble by forgetting a payment. Talk to your servicer about any interest rate discounts they offer that you can benefit from.

Learn More: How to Lower Your Student Loan Interest Rate

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7. Start a side hustle

Effectiveness: Medium to high

One way to pay down your student loans faster is to make more money. But you can’t always get a raise or a better job on the spot. So start by increasing your income with a side hustle.

Getting a side gig doesn’t always mean driving for Uber or Lyft (but you can!); sometimes it just means doing something simple like selling your unwanted stuff on eBay or Craigslist, delivering with Postmates or Grubhub, or starting a dog walking business. You can even rent out a room or your entire residence on Airbnb just once or twice a year and put that money toward student loan payments.

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8. Cut from your budget

Effectiveness: Medium to high

The last thing you can do to really get your foot in the door when it comes to paying off your debt is to reduce your monthly spending wherever possible.

Whether it’s $50 less per month because you canceled cable or $200 of spare cash per month you didn’t spend going out to eat, look for extra wiggle room in your budget — and put that toward your student loans.

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9. Make extra payments whenever you can

Effectiveness: Medium

In addition to paying more on your monthly bill, think about making extra payments. This can be particularly easy if you find yourself with extra cash.

  • Grandma sent you a check for your birthday? Put it toward your loans.
  • Got a one-time bonus at work for a job well done? Put it toward your loans.
  • Tax refund? Put it toward your loans.

Spending that money on your loans now will pay off down the road when you’ve paid less in interest — and therefore have more money to spend how you wish.

10. Make bi-weekly payments

Effectiveness: Medium

Another smart way to make extra payments and eliminate your debt is to pay your bill bi-monthly. Instead of making one payment every month, simply cut your bill in half and pay that amount every two weeks.

Even though this sounds like it won’t do much, this strategy adds one extra payment to your loans each year. That can make a significant difference — especially if you’re paying off a large balance.

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11. Pay off capitalized interest

Effectiveness: Medium

Capitalized interest is interest that isn’t paid off. That interest adds to your balance which causes you to pay more on your student loans overall.

Typically, interest accrues while you’re still in school or in deferment or forbearance. But if you make payments every month while the interest accrues, your student loan balance will be less and therefore easier to pay off since you’ll avoid capitalization.

Alternatively, if you’re still in your grace period, focusing on paying off the accrued interest can help lower your balance immensely.

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Stick with it and you’ll finally pay your student loans off

It’s easy to talk about ways to pay off your student loans faster, but actually doing it is the hard part. Once you decide which loan payoff strategies make sense for your financial situation, put a plan in place that includes regular check-ins to keep you on track.

While you’ll likely need to make some short-term sacrifices in order to pay off your student debt faster, you’ll reap the benefits once you’re loan-free, and be happy you put some extra effort (and funds) toward paying your loans off early.

If you stay motivated to follow all of these methods, you’ll be free from debt faster than you can imagine.

Learn More: How Often Can I Refinance My Student Loans?

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Napala Pratini contributed to the reporting for this article.

About the author
Jamie Young
Jamie Young

Jamie Young is a Credible authority on personal finance. Her work has been featured by Time, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Forbes, CBS News, and more.

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