Pay off student loans

How to Pay Off Student Loans Fast: 11 Strategies That Work 

how to pay off student loans fast

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Knowing how to pay off student loans fast will put you a huge step closer to a debt-free life. If you want to speed up your repayment timeline, these strategies will help. You’ve got this!

How to pay off student loans fast

1. Increase your monthly payment

The most effective way to pay off student loans fast is to increase your monthly payment. Let’s say you owe $30,000 at a 5.5% rate.

By paying $326 per month, you’ll pay off your debt in the standard 10-year time frame. But if you can bump that monthly payment up to $353, you’ll shave a whole year off your debt and save almost $1,000 in interest.

And if you can swing $387 monthly payments? You’ll pay off student loans two years faster and save nearly $2,000 in interest.

Lenders don’t charge any penalty for making extra payments on your student loans. But you do need to make sure your loan servicer is correctly applying your extra payments to your principal, and not to your interest or to the following month’s payment.

If you’re not sure, call up your loan servicer to figure out exactly how they’re applying your payments. And keep an eye on your student loan accounts to ensure your extra payments are in fact making a dent in your student loan balance.

2. Make a lump sum extra payment

Can’t afford to increase your monthly payments on a regular basis? Consider making lump sum extra payments whenever you’re able.

Maybe you get a holiday bonus at work; throw that toward your student loans. Or perhaps your aunts and uncles send you checks on your birthday; put those toward your loans, too.

Let’s go back to that example of the $35,000 loan with the 5.5% rate. If you make a one-time lump sum payment of $500, you’ll shave three months off repayment and save $361. If you can swing a lump sum payment of $1,000, you’ll get out of debt five months faster and save $712.

Obviously, it’d be a lot more fun to use that money on travel or, well, anything else. But if you can stomach putting it toward your loans, Future You will appreciate getting out of debt that much faster.

You can sign in to your student loan accounts and make lump sum payments anytime. But again, make sure the payment is correctly applied to your principal and not set aside for future payments.

3. Refinance your student loans for new terms

Refinancing student loans can be an effective way to pay off student loans faster. When you refinance, you give up one or more of your old student loans and take out a new one in their place.

If you have decent credit and a steady income (or apply with a cosigner who does), you should be able to snag lower interest rates, thereby making your loan less expensive and easier to pay off in a shorter time frame.

Plus, you get to choose new repayment terms with new monthly payments, typically between five and 20 years. If you opt for a relatively short term of five or seven years, you might pay down your student loans faster.

That said, make sure you’re able to swing the higher monthly payments. If you choose a short term and fall behind, you’ll run the risk of going into delinquency or default.

So even though you want to pay off your student loans fast, make sure your plan is realistic for your budget. Remember, you can always make extra payments at any time without penalty if you can afford to in the future.

Side note: Student Loan Gal is excited to bring you up to $200 cash back from our recommended refinancing lenders! Check out the full list here.


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4. Work toward student loan forgiveness

Another way to pay down student loans faster is to get them forgiven. Federal forgiveness programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and Teacher Loan Forgiveness will pay off your federal loans in exchange for service.

The PSLF program, for instance, pays off your remaining balance after 10 years of working in public service. And Teacher Loan Forgiveness pays off between $5,000 and $17,500 of your student loans after five years of working in a high-need school.

Here are a few other programs that forgive federal student loans:

  • NURSE Corps Loan Forgiveness Program for nurses
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Program for health professionals in research careers or qualifying settings
  • Students to Service Program for primary healthcare providers

Head here for the full list of student loan forgiveness and repayment assistance programs.

Income-driven repayment plans also end in student loan forgiveness, though not for 20 or 25 years, so they wouldn’t really help you pay your student loans off fast.

Although none of these programs offer student loan forgiveness overnight, they could help you get out of debt years ahead of schedule while building a meaningful career.

5. Qualify for student loan repayment assistance

While federal forgiveness programs only forgive federal student loans, there are some student loan repayment assistance programs that help pay off both federal and private student loans.

Most states offer loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) to qualifying professionals. Some common careers that qualify are doctor, nurse, teacher, pharmacist, dentist, lawyer, and veterinarian.

Typically, these programs ask for two to three years of service in a high-need or low-income area. Check with your state to see what programs it offers.

Some states also offer incentive programs for student loan borrowers. Kansas, for instance, offers the Rural Opportunity Zones program, which offers $15,000 in student loan assistance for borrowers who move and live in qualifying areas for five years.

Finally, some companies are now offering a student loan assistance benefit to employees, which works much like a 401(k) matching benefit. If you’re open to getting a new job, consider applying to companies who will help you pay off your student loans fast.

6. Make biweekly payments instead of monthly ones

Here’s a little-known secret about paying off student loans: paying every two weeks, instead of once a month, could pay down your student loans faster.

When you make monthly payments, you make 12 payments per year. But if you go biweekly, you’ll likely make 26 payments per year, resulting in two extra payments.

As you saw above, extra payments can cut time off your loan and save you money on interest. Consider switching to a biweekly payment schedule to pay off your student loans faster.

Bonus tips for paying off your student loans fast

The tips above will directly chip away at your student loan balance, while these bonus tips will help you get the funds or motivation you need to make extra payments on your student loans.

7. Use student loan calculators to make a plan

When it comes to doing out the math on your student loans, you don’t have to use a pencil and paper and try to figure out how compound interest works.

The handy-dandy internet has done the work for you with student loan calculators. Sites like Student Loan Hero offer a variety of student loan calculators to help you crunch the numbers on your debt.

Just enter your balance, interest rate, and loan terms to see your monthly payment and total interest paid over time. You can adjust the numbers to see how extra payments will change your terms and save you money on interest.

You can also use the lump sum or extra payments calculator to play around with numbers. Or check out the student loan refinancing calculator to see how refinancing will save you money on interest.

Not only will you gain a better understanding of how your loans work, but you’ll be able to come up with a clear plan for paying off your student loans faster.

8. Apply for a new job with a higher salary

Although you can work toward a raise at your current job, studies show that getting a new job is a more effective way to make more money. At your current job, you can probably only expect an annual raise of 3% to 5%.

But at a new job, you can start at a whole new salary level, perhaps jumping thousands of dollars from what you were making previously. And as mentioned above, some employers even offer a student loan benefit to help their employees get debt-free.

If you’re open to a new job, consider searching around for your options. It could also help to take a continuing education course to add new skills or certifications to your resume.

9. Supplement your income with a side hustle

Another way to increase your income is by working a side hustle. Maybe you start your own online business or take on freelancing gigs online.

Or perhaps you drive for Uber, rent out a room on Airbnb, or rent your parking space to commuters. I have a friend who started embroidering small hoops and now has increasing numbers of people paying her to make them as gifts for their friends and family.

Think about where your talents and interests lie, and consider ways that you could use them to make extra money. If you can find something with flexible hours that you enjoy, you can make some extra money without getting totally burnt out. And then you can use those funds to pay off your student loans faster.

Check out this guide for more ideas on how to increase your income!

10. Cut expenses and put the extra money toward your loans

Besides increasing your income, you could also free up room in your budget by decreasing your spending. Start by taking inventory of your income and expenses so you have a clear idea of what you’re making and spending on a weekly or monthly basis.

Then look for areas where you could cut back, whether big areas like rent or smaller areas like cooking at home more often rather than going to restaurants.

Set goals for yourself, and do your best to follow them. Consider using an expense-tracking app like Mint or YNAB to take some of the legwork out of the process. You could even implement a no-spend month where you cut out discretionary spending completely.

How you go about the process is up to you, but if you can cut down expenses for a bit, you could move closer to paying off your student loans in full.

11. Stay focused on your goal of freedom from student debt

While there are a lot of technical ways to pay off student loans faster, like refinancing for lower rates or making biweekly payments, a lot of it comes down to focus and motivation.

Feeling pinched for money is no fun, and it’s tough to push back other goals just to feed the student loan beast. It’s also normal to feel anxious and stressed about your debt.

So be careful not to go too extreme, as you might just end up giving up or feeling like you failed before you even started. Set realistic goals, and don’t forget to celebrate your successes along the way.

If possible, share your debt payoff journey with others so you can get support along the way. With 45 million Americans owing $1.56 trillion in student debt, you’re definitely not alone in your struggles.

We put together a community of women managing student loans to help borrowers get the support they need while cheering on others. Join the tribe here, and take a big step closer to your debt payoff goals!


Want better rates? Here are the best banks to refinance student loans:

Variable rates start at...Fixed rates start at...Repayment termsWelcome bonus Check your rates
refinance student loans4.54%4.49%5 - 20 years$200Visit LendKey
refinance student loans4.99%4.47%5 - 20 years$200Visit Earnest
refinance student loans4.22%3.97%5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years$120Visit Laurel Road
refinance student loans4.53%4.40%5 - 20 years$100 or $200, depending on the amount you refinanceVisit Credible
refinance student loans5.09%4.74%5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years$100Visit SoFi
refinance student loans4.53%4.83%5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years$100Visit ELFI