How to Pay Off Student Loans in 5 Years (or Less)

how to pay off student loans in 5 years

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While the standard repayment term for student loans is 10 years, you might feel motivated to pay yours off sooner. To help you achieve this goal, we’ve put together effective tips on how to pay off student loans in five years — or less.

Remember that accelerated debt repayment isn’t just about money. It’s also about developing a strong mindset that will help you stay on track through sacrifices and setbacks. Read on for nine tips that will help you pay off your student loans in half the usual time!

1. Gather your loan information

Before you can start tackling your student loans in earnest, you need to know exactly what you’re working with. If you’re like most borrowers, you’re probably juggling multiple loans with different interest rates.

Track down each loan you owe, and write down the details of each, including,

  • The amount you owe
  • Your interest rate
  • Your repayment terms
  • Your monthly payment
  • Your lender or loan servicer

Once you have everything recorded, it’s time to crunch some numbers to see exactly how to pay off your student loans in five years or less.

2. Crunch the numbers

Now it’s time to calculate exactly what it would take to pay your student loans off in five years or less. I recommend using an online student loan calculator, such as this one from Credible.

A student loan calculator calculates all the complicated interest so you don’t have to. All you need to do is enter your loan amount, interest rate, and repayment terms.

Then, the calculator will reveal your monthly payment. Let’s say, for example, you’re paying off $35,000 at a 5.05% interest rate over 10 years.

Your monthly payment would be $372. But you want to know how to pay off your student loans in five years.

Simply enter 5 years instead of 10 into the calculator, and it will reveal how much you need to pay each month to reach your goal.

In this case, you’d have to pay $661 per month to pay off this $35,000 loan in five years. Want to get rid of this debt even faster?

Monthly payments of $807 would get you out of debt in 4 years, $1,050 per month would get you debt-free in 3 years, and $1,536 each month would pay off your student loans in 2 years.

Once you see what it would take to pay off student loans in five years or less, you can start to come up with a plan.

3. Set your goal

Your next step is to identify your goal for your student loans. Make sure to write it down, as this can make it feel more tangible. For example, you might write, “I will double my monthly student loan payments from $200 to $400 and get out of debt in five years.”

You should also write down all the things that will happen when you accomplish this goal. How will you feel when you pay off all your student loans? How will your life change? What will you be able to do or afford when you’re debt-free that you can’t now?

By connecting to how good paying off your student loans will feel, you’ll feel more motivated to achieve your goal, no matter how impossible it might feel right now. Cultivating a proactive and excited mindset might also help you see opportunities that weren’t in your field of vision before.

4. Find areas where you can save money

Now you’ve got your goal, and you’re feeling motivated and excited to accomplish it. So it’s time to figure out how to pay off your student loans in five years or less on your budget.

Take some time to write out a budget and figure out exactly how much money you’re bringing in and spending each month.

Identify major spending categories, such as rent, transportation, and food. Look for areas where you can cut back so you can prioritize paying off your student loans.

Maybe you have an expensive restaurant habit that’s eating up a large portion of your paycheck. Or perhaps you live in a pricey area but could move to a more affordable part of town.

Some student loan borrowers even move back in with their parents for a time to put their paychecks toward their student loans. Although you might not want to make extreme changes, you could find areas to reduce spending.

Then, use that money you’re normally spending to make extra payments on your student loans.

5. Boost your income

Reducing your spending could help you find more room in your budget, but it will only take you so far. The other part of the equation is finding ways to make more money.

Get a new job

If you’re not satisfied with your income, consider applying to new jobs. Switching employers is one of the best ways to raise your income, since staying at the same one usually only involves a 3-4% raise each year.

One way to make yourself a more attractive candidate is to boost your resume with extra skills. Maybe you can take an online course or gain a certification that will make you more employable.

Or maybe you need to spend some time improving your resume or cover letter or building your network. By putting some energy into the job hunt, you could land a new job with better pay.

Work a side hustle 

Alternatively, you could try boosting your income with a side hustle, such as a part-time job or your own side business. Some ideas include,

  • Driving for Uber or Lyft
  • Renting out a room or hosting an experience on Airbnb
  • Shopping or driving for a grocery delivery service such as Instacart
  • Completing tasks through a site such as TaskRabbit
  • Finding freelance gigs on Upwork, Fiverr, or a similar freelance marketplace
  • Starting your own side hustle, whether it involves providing a service, selling online, or blogging, to give a few examples

If you can find ways to increase your income (without increasing your spending at the same time), you could use this extra money to pay off your student loans in five years. Go get ‘em!

6. Consider the debt snowball or debt avalanche method

Besides finding the extra money to pay off student loans in five years, you also want to have a game plan for making extra payments. If you’ve got multiple loans, the debt snowball or debt avalanche method might help.

With the debt snowball, you line up your loans in order from smallest balance to biggest. Then, you make extra payments on the smallest loan until you pay it off completely. After that, move on to the next smallest loan, and so on.

According to financial expert Dave Ramsey, the debt snowball is the most effective because closing a small loan gives you the psychological boost you need to keep going.

That said, this approach doesn’t necessarily save you the most on interest. To save more interest, you could instead use the debt avalanche strategy.

With the debt avalanche, you line up your loans from highest interest rates to lowest. Then, you make extra payments on your loan with the highest interest rate. If and when you close that account, move on to the loan with the next highest interest rate, and so forth.

Both the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods work well for accelerated debt repayment — you really just want to choose the one that will keep you feeling motivated and progressing toward your goal.

7. Make sure your extra payments are being applied correctly

You can prepay your student loans at any time without penalty. You might set up recurring payments that are greater than the minimum amount. Or you could throw an extra payment toward your loans here or there when you have room in your budget.

But it’s important to double check that your extra payments are being correctly applied to your principal balance, and not just saved for a later date or used toward interest.

Some loan servicers might use your payment toward the following month’s bill or put it toward interest charges. But you want to pay down your principal so that you can get out of debt faster and save on interest.

So keep an eye on your online accounts to make sure your payment is making a dent in your principal balance, and call up your loan servicer to give them the heads up about your extra payments. If you see any problem, make sure to call your loan servicer to get it resolved right away.

8. Consider refinancing student loans for lower rates

Another strategy that could help you pay off student loans in five years or less is refinancing for lower rates and a shorter repayment term.

When you refinance, you exchange one or more of your old loans for a new one. This new one will hopefully have a better interest rate, saving you money on interest and allowing you to pay off your loan faster.

You can also choose new terms. If you can afford the monthly payments, go with a five-year term to pay off your student loans in five years. If not, choose a longer term while still making extra payments when you can afford to do so.

To qualify for refinancing, you’ll need strong credit and income (or a cosigner). You should also be aware that refinancing federal student loans turns them private, so you lose access to federal repayment plans and programs.

But if you don’t need federal protections, refinancing could be a savvy way to save money on interest and choose new terms that help you achieve your goal of paying off student loan debt in five years.

Our partner lenders even offer welcome bonuses of up to $200 to qualifying borrowers (which you could use as an extra student loan payment). Check out the full list of the best refinancing lenders here.

 

See the Full List

 

9. Search for ways to stay motivated

Paying off debt can be a long and difficult road, and you might have to make some sacrifices along the way. When the going gets tough, it’s crucial to find ways to stay motivated. Here are some tricks that can help:

  • Write down your goals and check in with them regularly. Keep a journal to document your progress and reflect on your wins and challenges.
  • Create visual reminders, such as post-it notes, affirmations, or a vision board to remind yourself of how awesome life will be after you make your last student loan payment.
  • Reach out to friends and family for support, especially ones who have dealt with student loan debt themselves.
  • Join an online group for support, such as the Student Loan Gal Facebook group. This group connects women who are dealing with student loan debt so they can support one another.
  • Check out success stories of other borrowers who have paid off their student loans ahead of schedule. You might learn about unique side hustles or other tips and tricks for fast student loan repayment.

By finding sources of inspiration, you can stay focused on your end goal of paying off your student loans in five years and move closer to a debt-free life.

 

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 loans1.90%3.39%5 - 20 years$200Visit LendKey
refinance student loans1.99%3.20%5 - 20 years$200Visit Earnest
refinance student loans1.99%3.50%5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years$120Visit Laurel Road
refinance student loans2.00%3.10%5 - 20 years$100 or $200, depending on the amount you refinanceVisit Credible
refinance student loans2.31%3.46%5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years$100Visit SoFi
refinance student loans2.39%3.14%5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years$100Visit ELFI
refinance student loans1.81%3.21%5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 yearsN/AVisit CommonBond