Are you one of the millions of people in their twenties that’s starting your adult life with 5 or even 6 figures in student loan debt? It’s pretty sickening. The astronomical costs of college, combined with the unfortunately ingrained idea that college is 100% necessary, means that most of us Millennials are looking at heavy debt burdens.
Add interest rates into the mix, and young people are scrambling for ways to pay off student loans quickly.
Some young people are lucky enough to receive massive scholarships that help offset costs, and those scholarships are worth working for, but scholarships or not the current student debt is… I kid you not… nearly $1.6 TRILLION dollars.
Sure, everybody is sharing it. Sure it’s spread out over a lot of people. But there’s no doubt that one of the biggest burdens that young adults face when they’re starting out in life is a negative net worth in the form of student loan debt.
The good news is, with a lot of discipline, a few hacks, and some creative strategies, you CAN pay off student loans fast!
What Did I Do?
I started my adult life after college with $25,000 in student debt (in May of 2017 to help you with the timeline of all this). I promptly married the love of my life, who had $18,000 of her own student debt. I’ll save you the math; that was a painful $43,000 sitting over our heads.
2 years later, at the age of 24, we were 100% debt free. Every penny of that $43,000 was paid off, and we were finally saving. By the time our debt was destroyed, we were wizards of financial planning (haha…. almost… beginner wizards), and we were able to redirect the massive dumping of our spare change into savings instead of debt.
That’s a good feeling. It’s so worth it. We suddenly went from having every spare dollar tied up in debt, to being free to travel, accumulate our money, invest, and even save for retirement!
Here’s why it matters. Student debt needs to be your priority not just because it’s a painful extra monthly bill, but because it’s a guaranteed return on investment.
This is something you’ll hear a lot from financial advisers, and books on healthy finances. Paying down a debt should even take priority over saving until you’ve beaten it, because paying down something with interest is a guaranteed return on investment. There aren’t really risks, or variations. The money you put into it is 100% positive growth in your favor, as it decreases your negative balances.
It makes sense, when you think about it. Paying off debt of any kind is almost always 1st priority.
So how did we do it? Keep reading, and I’ll lay it all out for you.
10 Creative Ways To Pay Off Student Loans Quickly
1. Become A Complete Ninja At Cutting Costs
Being a ninja at cutting costs is easier than you think, so let’s start there. If you want to know how to pay off debt fast, one of the best things that you can do is SAVE a lot more money. This will give you more money to put towards your loans.
Saving big chunks of mine simply starts with cutting costs.
Don’t believe me? Using nothing more than coupons and a few free phone apps I save over $3,000 a year through micro-earning and cash back rebates. Check out these posts below to see more details on how I do it:
Here are just a few of the things that saved me thousands in 2018, and 2019, to put towards my student debt.
– Bothering to find the lowest car insurance rate in my zip code. Not all car and home insurance companies are equal, and the one with the best, lowest rate varies from zipcode to zipcode. It could be Nationwide in one county, and Farmers Insurance in the next. Taking the time to get quotes from as many as possible could save you HUNDREDS of dollars every year.
Check out the free site Compare.com, and enter your zipcode to find the cheapest options in seconds.
And 2 bonus tips: if you’re an extra safe driver (no drag racing, no drafting, no slamming on the brakes or tailgating) you can get as much as 30% off with a lot of companies. And if you only drive super short distances (i.e. you live in a city and drive only a few full miles a month), you’ll save a FORTUNE by using a company called MetroMile. Check it out! They cost WAY less than the other companies for short distance drivers.
– Don’t overpay for rent or housing. It may be tempting to get the nicest apartment you can find, but keeping your costs as trim as possible will help you fight debt. Do your homework when picking a place to live. Websites like Realtor.com or Zillow may be good places to start, but you can often find the best rental costs by tapping into your network. As friends, check local Facebook groups, and you can often find low cost housing.
– Consider using a non-mainstream cell phone carrier. During the season of super-powered debt paying, it’s worth looking into alternatives to expensive carriers like Verizon. Consumer Cellular, Mint Mobile, or some internet providers like Spectrum, have mobile phone plans that use the main networks of Verizon or T-Mobile, but for a fraction of the cost. The difference really adds up!
– Take a look at some of your more expensive habits. You may have some slow drip losses that you barely even notice are happening. Subscriptions that you barely use, those little things you don’t know why you’re paying for… you may be surprised at how many of these slow bleeds you have!
– JOIN. REWARDS. PROGRAMS. I’m serious. Rewards programs may not seem like a big deal to you, but if there are any stores/brands that you regularly use, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table by not joining their rewards programs. Almost every company has a loyalty program of some kind. While some of these are useless, requiring you to get a credit card through the company or asking you to also sell them your soul and your first-born child to join, there are many others that will offer you great discounts!
I am on many rewards programs through companies like RiteAid, Walmart, Kroger’s, and Shell Gold (which gives me a minimum of $0.05 off per gallon on every gallon of gas I pay for). By using these rewards programs throughout a year you can save hundreds over time.
– If you can use a credit card responsibly ALWAYS USE A CREDIT CARD for your purchases! Obviously, if a credit card tempts you to overspend, or you spend outside of your means, then a credit card will just create MORE debt for you. You should pay off your entire credit card bill at the end of every single month. If you can’t, then stop using a credit card. But if you can use it responsibly then most credit cards will pay you cash back rewards. My Chase Freedom card pays me at least 1.5% back on everything I buy, and gives me 5% on a lot of special purchases.
2. Become A Wizard At Getting Deals (Check These Out!)
Like cutting costs, putting in a little extra effort to find the best deals on things that you buy can save you a lot of money. Every bit of extra cash that you save by finding deals is more that you have for paying down debt!
Here are a few good ways to find deals!
- It doesn’t take much to save hundreds of dollars on groceries. Go to the website Swagbucks.com, then go to Coupons.com through Swagbucks. Not only will it give you hundreds of coupons to get deals on stuff (I’ve gotten at least 50% off my espresso, and my hair gel just in the past week), but Swagbucks will pay you an extra $0.25 for every coupon that you redeem. Use 20 free coupons to get deals and you’ll get an extra $5 just for doing it.
- There are other great, free cash back apps like Ibotta that save me an easy $20/month on household costs too. You can even get stuff for free through some of their deals. If you buy a lot of organic products you’ll save a ton by using Brandless, or other wholesale, discount sites. And you can also save by buying in bulk through a Sam’s Club membership, or Boxed.com.
- Get money back for EVERYTHING that you buy online, just by going through Ebates or Swagbucks first. I’ve gotten as much as 75% of my purchasing cost paid back to me in a check, just for using Ebates. It’s simple, it’s easy, and if you’re buying online without using it you’re leaving money on the table.
- Price shopping on groceries isn’t fun. I know this. I’m a foodie, and I’m all too familiar with putting some food I desperately wanted back on the shelf. The truth is, when you’re paying off debt you should be price shopping everything that you buy. If there are more affordable options of the things you need, try them to see if they are of reasonable quality. If they are, switch to the cheaper or generic brand.
3. Direct Your Extra Cash At Student Debt
This is the main reason my wife and I were able to finish our $42,000 of debt in only 2 years. Money we made that didn’t go towards bills, or our slush/emergency funds went straight into our student loans. Because our expenses were trimmed down, our lifestyle frugal, and we lived within our means we were able to save about 60% of our earnings every month. That amount went into our loans.
Unfortunately, this means that for a while we had nothing going into our savings. We kept a cushion amount in our checking account (I would recommend around $10,000), but everything that would have gone into savings went straight to our loans instead.
I know this is painful. It probably rubs you the wrong way, the way it did for me, to pour money into paying debt instead of saving. But you have to remember that paying down debt is not spending. It’s not blowing money unwisely. It’s an investment. The money that you are putting towards paying off debt is an investment that gets you closer to the surface… closer to breaking past zero and getting your into the positive digits.
There’s a great financial blog called The Motley Fool, which I highly recommend, that breaks it down like this: paying down a debt with an interest rate is a guaranteed return on investment. It’s not a risky, or volatile investment. It’s a guarantee that the money is going towards 100% guaranteed gains.
4. Consider Refinancing
Could refinancing your student loan be a good bet for you? It really depends on your situation, but many people are able to save a fortune, and finish their loans faster, by switching to a different loan financier.
If you’re unsure, Student Loan Hero has 10 important questions to ask yourself to help you figure it out.
The biggest upside to refinancing is that you can assess if the interest rates that you’re paying are actually the lowest. If you’re NOT paying the lowest possible interest rates than it’s time to switch to a better company. I’ve used a sweet website called Credible to help me search and compare the different options. It keeps things easy.
The 3 most popular, and well-reviewed refinancing companies are:
Check each of them out and see what they have to offer, and search through Credible. You may find a lower interest plan that will save you a fortune in unnecessary interest costs.
Just keep a few things in mind (as mentioned by Student Loan Hero), there are a few reasons why refinancing could be a BAD option for you, so don’t jump into anything too hastily. You generally need a good credit score to refinance, so if you don’t have a good score it may not be available. Also, if you currently have Federal Student Loans they DO offer you levels of forgiveness and patience that a private lender may not. Lenders will usually work with you – SoFi, for example, will willingly put your payments on hold if you lose a job – but do your homework.
5. Side Hustle Like A Ninja
I’m of the belief that everyone should have a good side-hustle or two. If you’ve got any skills, or even no skills at all, there are ways for you to make extra cash on the side.
By diversifying your income, and adding extra cash to your accounts, you’ll find that the money you’re able to put into your student debt keeps getting bigger. And this is without finding a new job, or depending on a raise to get there!
Side hustles was one of the most important things for us when paying off our debt in 2 years.
So what are the side hustles that made us money? Check out some of the best below. Half or these are things that ANYONE could do!
– Transcribing audio and video for cash. Yes indeed, there are companies out there that will pay you to listen to audio and video files, and type the words that you hear. You can do this from the comfort of your own couch, and make it decent amount of money doing it! A quick typer can land $30/hour doing this, and by using websites like Rev.com (which is the one I use), there are unlimited work opportunities.
Tips for Transcribers: #1 keep in mind that you do have to go through an application process with Rev and other sites like it. And #2, this gig isn’t always easy. Audio files for transcribing are often very hard to understand, like the people are talking with their mouths full of marbles and marshmallows. Yikes!
– Filling out Surveys. WAIT, before you run away! I know, survey sites can be one of the worst paying time wasters out there. There are tons of survey sites out there. Too many to even keep track of. And the truth is, most of them are a complete waste of your time. They underpay you for the amount of time you have to put in. That’s why, after trying way too many of them, and finding the experience mostly traumatizing, I’ve narrowed down the top 5 survey sites out there for making cash.
You can read my blog post on it here – Top 5 High Paying Survey Sites
The best one by far is Pincecone Research. Many of the best ones, like Pinecone Research, Survey Junkie, and PaidViewpoint will pay you $3 or even more for a survey that only takes a minute or 2. Short surveys with decent pay like that have added hundreds of dollars to my pocket.
– Creating a cash flow through a blog. If you’ve ever looked into making money online, than you’ve likely heard of affiliate marketing. It takes a lot more work than other methods, but you can also make a fortune. If you’re willing to put in the work of building a formidable blog, or social media following, you can make commissions by promoting brands through special referral links.
With enough volume you can completely replace a full time income with something like this. My blog took over a year to take off, and for people without much time to invest this is pretty normal, but the long-term payoff is fantastic for those that stick with it.
I used a program called Wealthy Affiliate to get started with affiliate marketing through a blog, and I’ve never looked back.
– Speaking of blogging, you can find some EXTREMELY lucrative writing gigs online. I’m currently writing blog posts for a client that is paying me $100 per post, and there are many of these clients out there.
Using marketplaces like Upwork, Fiverr, Hubstaff Talent, and Freelancer.com you can find people looking to hire writers for decent pay. And writing isn’t the only available side hustle out there for a freelancer! My wife and I have brought into a large amount of extra income by creating logos, marketing flyers, t-shirt designs, and many more things for start up brands.
You can too.
Don’t expect to land every gig that you try to land, but with enough persistence a freelance opportunity can present you with a lot of extra cash. You just have to be willing to try.
– sell your artwork on t-shirts, mugs, and a myriad of other items by using sites like RedBubble, TeeSpring, and Threadless. It’s pretty straightforward. Get your artwork into a digital file, upload it to a bunch of products on one of the aforementioned sites, and launch them. You’ll have to set your own profit margins, and then they take care of the rest. It’s free to list products on, and they only take a cut when a sale is made.
If you have artwork or funny quips that people will like, you can make a lot of money doing this.
If you’re really serious about building a business around selling your artwork online, here’s a guide on how my wife and I do it. For a committed seller, it’s actually better to launch your own Shopify store, or to use Etsy. You can connect with a lot of different print-on-demand dropshippers through those places. These allow you to have more ownership over the store right from the start.
My wife and I landed over $500 in sales within 10 hours of launching our Shopify store, so trust me when I say it has potential!
– Teach english online through companies like VIPKid and Whales English. My wife is a VIPKid teacher, and has had a lot of success teaching Chinese students in the mornings. Even though you’re an independent contractor, you book your students directly through the companies like VIPKid.
These companies tend to have a competitive application bid, but the opportunity is worth it. Not only can you comfortably land $18-$20/hour in pay (some teachers with Whales English are even paid $30/hour), but you can do the job flexibly from home. This gives you a lot more freedom, and can even allow you to work it as an easy side-gig in the early morning, or evenings. And you don’t even have to live the comfort of home.
If you want to hear some more details about the process of applying to VIPKid, check out my wife’s detailed review below:
Does this sound like something you can do? Are you high energy, expressive, and looking for a flexible side-gig? Check out VIPKid.
– User Testing. Ah yes, last but not least, we have user testing. There are dozens… no… HUNDREDS of other side gig opportunities out there for you, but this last one should at least get you started. There are many companies out there that will pay you just to try out their website and critique it.
Companies like User Testing, UserLytics, and TryMyUI set you up with 20 minute tests, where you record yourself trying a website or app. They will want you to simply speak your mind as you do it, mention if parts of it are clunky or hard to use, and just generally give an honest opinion.
You will find that these gigs will only pop up sporadically, so make sure you apply to all of them to give you a better chance of getting frequent work.
6. Put Your More Expensive Hobbies On Hold
There I said it. If you have an expensive hobby, the season when you’re buried in student loan debt is not the season to pursue that hobby. This is not one of my more popular recommendations, but it’s also one of the most important.
I happen to really enjoy Broadway shows, concerts, and other live events. I’m also a big fan of traveling, and flying to new places (though luckily there ARE ways of traveling very affordably). But when we were crunching down on our debt, we had to really discipline ourselves to not indulge in our hobbies to excess.
Guess what… you can reward yourself when your debt is destroyed with some of those great things! And the best part is, you’ll actually be able to afford it.
7. Sign Up For Givling!
Now I don’t want to instill any false hope here, so I’ll start with a disclaimer: Givling is an app that crowdfunds the student loans of its users! But your chances of getting your own loans funded are admittedly distant.
Givling is a trivia game app, and every bit of the money that’s generated by users watching ads on the app goes towards the weekly trivia award, and the student loan of one of its users.
It’s a brilliant idea, and I’m a huge fan.
The catch is, when you sign up for the app you’re entered into the bottom of the queue. And there are now so many Givling users, it’s hard to ever imagine it being your turn. Now can you improve your chances? Definitely. If you have the patience to watch the maximum 30 ads per day offered by Givling they will move you up the queue every time. When I joined I was person number 50,000 something. Now I’m in the top 1,700.
Even though Givling is now paying off each student loan in a matter of days, it will still take a long time for it to be my turn. Or anyone’s. But it’s worth the dream!
The nice thing is, it doesn’t matter too much if you pay off your student loan long before Givling gets to you. They also give you the option of receiving $50,000 towards your choice of a mortgage or a retirement fund. Not a bad deal, if you have the patience to stick with it.
8. Make A Game Plan
Seriously, write out a plan. If you want to destroy debt, then take a look at your finances, your bills, and then set a number that you can realistically do.
After all of your trimming, cost cutting, hobby controlling, frugal living, and side hustling… where does it leave you?
If you can set a goal for yourself, the whole process will have more structure. This not only helps you stay organized, it’s also good for your psychological determination. When there are clear goals in site, then each milestone adds fuel to your fire. Setting milestones is one of the most important things you can do.
For Renee and I, every time we made a giant payment, instead of making us sad about giving up the money, it just got us excited because it was an investment in our future.
9. (If Married/Partnered With Someone) Communicate About Your Goals
… Which sort of brings me to my next point. If you’re married, or in a serious, permanent relationship, make sure that you communicate together about what your goals are. If you’re not on the same page about your debt payment plan, it will cause nothing but trouble and conflict.
Encourage your significant other to take debt seriously, and to join you in killing it off. Being single minded about it does wonders for resolve.
10. Don’t Forget To Envision Life After Death… I mean Debt
And this brings me to my last point nicely. Do you really want to do yourself a favor? Envision what debt-free life will be like! Imagine all of the money that you were putting towards loans suddenly having nowhere to go but into your savings account. The giant vacuum left behind by the disappearence of that bill can now be redirected into GROWTH.
And oh are there a lot of good ways to grow your money.
You can save for a house, other investments, traveling, your retirement, or anything else in existence. It will even give you more freedom to spend a little money for fun. It releases stress, like the passing of a dark cloud over your head.
It’s just good.
These are my most creative ways to pay off student loans quickly. It worked for me, and it can work for you. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below, or shoot me a message on Facebook!