Put a Dent in Your Student Debt: 9 Summer Saving Ideas
Summertime is all about sunshine, much-needed vacation time, and relaxation. It’s also a great time to make significant headway on your student loans.
We know that might sound crazy—after all, there’s nothing fun or relaxing about dealing with student loan debt. But here’s the thing: if you want that debt out of your life ASAP, it won’t help to take a vacation from it. Follow a few summer savings tips now, and you’ll see some satisfying progress by the time winter rolls around.
In between mixing the tastiest margarita and chilling out on the perfect pool float, make a go of a student loan strategy that even the laziest summer schedule can handle.
Accelerating student loan payoff: a primer
Before we get into the tips, it helps to understand the two main levers that speed up loan payoff: prepaying (paying more than the monthly minimum) and reducing your interest rate through refinancing. By doing either of these things, you can pay off student loans sooner and save money on interest. Do both, and you’ll soak up even more benefits.
Save money to spend money
So you want to bump up your student loan payments, but between pricey vacations and warm-weather activities (jet-skiing, anyone?), it’s tough to find extra money during the summer months. Luckily, saving money this summer doesn’t have to mean forgoing the fun. For example, you can:
Keep vacation costs low. If you’ve just got to get away, consider cutting travel costs by taking short road trips or going on camping adventures. Better yet, use your vacation days to recharge at home and plan the epic trip you’ll take after you pay off your loans.
Quit the gym. The average gym membership costs $58 per month. Ask if you can freeze your contract for the summer, and then take your workout outside and send the savings to your student loans.
Start a supper club. Nothing says summer like dining al fresco with friends, but you can save a substantial sum by partying at home instead of downtown. Keep the $12 restaurant cocktails to a minimum by scheduling regular potlucks and BBQs. Take turns hosting, choose a fun theme each time, and encourage everyone to keep costs low.
Increase your income
Smart summer spending will net you some extra money for loans, but if you really want to accelerate debt payoff, think about increasing your cash flow. Summer is a great time to do this, because you can:
Angle for a raise. Between early Fridays and your colleagues’ revolving vacation schedules, summer is a great time for you to get noticed at work. Skip the 4 p.m. happy hours, ask your manager for more responsibility, and watch it all pay off at your next performance review.
Sell some of your stuff. Who says spring cleaning can’t happen in the summer? Take advantage of the nice weather by holding a yard or sidewalk sale, or sell clothes, furniture, and other unwanted goods on online resale sites.
Get a side hustle. Whether you enjoy writing, tutoring, or DIY projects, use the longer summer days to turn your hobby into a moneymaking proposition. You can even create passive income by participating in the sharing economy. From sharing your knowledge to renting your car, your house and everything in between, it’s easier than ever to make some extra dollars off your brainpower and items you already own.
Fine-tune your loans
Once you decide to put extra money toward your loans, it’s crucial to make sure your student debt setup isn’t working against you. Here’s how:
Look into refinancing. One of the most effective ways to reduce your debt burden is to lower your interest rate, and the only way to do that is through refinancing. If you’re able to refinance student loans at a lower interest rate, you can save a significant amount of money on interest while also reducing monthly payments or shortening payment term.
Sign up for autopay. If you haven’t already signed up for automatic loan payments, do so now. Not only will it save you time and hassle, but also lenders like SoFi offer an interest rate discount (usually 0.25%) for signing up. As a bonus, autopay can help keep your credit in good shape, since even one missing or late payment can do serious damage to your credit score.
Move to bi-weekly payments. Paying one-half of your loan payment every other week instead of a full payment once per month is a commonly used mortgage strategy, but it works just as well for student loans. Bi-weekly payments add up to one extra monthly payment each year. For example, let’s say you have a $50,000 student loan at a 6% interest rate and 10-year term. Making the monthly minimum payment of $555.10 would cost you $16,612.30 in interest over the life of the loan. Split that into bi-weekly payments of $277.55, and your total interest goes down by almost $2,000—savings that can go a long way to funding the ultimate summer trip.
If you’re one of the 40 million Americans with student loans, that debt can feel like a constant threatening storm. Rather than let another lazy summer pass you by, make a few small changes now that can have a big impact over time—and maybe by this time next year, you can break out the champagne, pour some summer cocktails and celebrate being debt-free.