While we’re already a ways into the year, it’s important to reflect on those resolutions that are meaningful and actually achievable. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are—as long as you stick with them and work to make them a reality.
Paying off your student loans may sometimes feel like a pipe dream, but it doesn’t have to. Of course, if you have other forms of debt, those might take precedence over your student loans. For example, if you have credit card debt with a higher interest rate, you may want to be focusing your efforts there (while paying the minimum on your student loans, of course).
But if knocking out a chunk of your student loan debt is your top priority, let’s talk about how to make a bigger dent on your loans this year. As long as you tell your loan servicer you’d like to have extra money go toward your principal instead of interest, you could start to chip away at that balance a little at a time. Here are a few ways you can make student loan payments bigger in the coming year.
1. Budgeting for It
Review your budget to see if you can move money around. Perhaps try going to one less work lunch a month or one less coffee shop each week. You can put that extra cash toward your student loan principal each month.
If you’re having trouble making ends meet and you can barely afford the minimum payment, this might not be the right option for you. But if you have the opportunity to chunk away at your loan by spending less elsewhere, it may be worth trying.
2. Putting Your Bonuses Back into It
Sometimes the minimum payment may be all that you can afford, which is still okay—but when you get a little extra cash, that could be a great opportunity to get ahead on your student loans.
If you get a raise, you can start to increase your monthly payments. A little bit can still make a difference every month and may help you pay off your loan sooner.
If you get a bonus or a tax refund, you can make a big, one-time payment. And as we said earlier, consider contacting your loan servicer to let them know the extra payment needs to go towards your principal balance—otherwise your lender may be required to apply your extra payment to your outstanding interest first.
3. Finding Your Match
Sometimes, companies will match student loan payments up to a certain percent, like a retirement match. See if your company offers this and if so, consider taking advantage of what is essentially “free” money.
If you aren’t sure what student loan-related benefits your company offers (if any), it might be a good idea to schedule a sit-down with Human Resources. Student loan repayment is becoming a more popular employer benefit as student loan debt continues to rise. As millennials further populate offices across the U.S.—they’ll make up 75% of the workforce by 2025—they’re making it clear to their employers that student loan reimbursement is a benefit they want.
4. Refinancing Your Student Loans
Refinancing your student loans can be a smart way to potentially pay off your loan sooner. While refinancing may help you secure a lower interest rate on your loans, you could also shorten your loan term such that you’re required to make higher monthly payments, thus chipping away at your debt faster.
For example, let’s say you want to pay your loan off in, say, five years instead of 10. Refinancing may allow you to select higher monthly payments and a shorter term to meet that goal. Refinancing can help lower your interest rate, which may help you pay off your loan faster if you also shorten your loan term.
A lower interest rate and shorter term could ultimately mean you pay less interest over the course of your refinanced loan. One caveat to keep in mind: If you refinance with a private lender, you’ll lose access to federal loan benefits like income-driven repayment plans, forbearance, and deferment.
5. Getting a Side-hustle
Whether you capitalize on your hobby or you like to walk the neighborhood dogs, a side-hustle can help you make some cash.
Sometimes day jobs don’t pay enough for “extras.” If that’s the case for you, getting a side-hustle can be another way to earn additional income to pay for those “extras.” And one of those extras might be increasing your loan payments.
If your student loan payment strategy is to put more money toward your principal but your full-time job doesn’t cover it, there are plenty of side-hustles available. If you’re crafty, you can sell your goods online or at a local market. If you’re a math whiz, you could consider tutoring high school or college students. And if you have an extra room, you could think about renting it out.
The options are endless! And who knows? Maybe your side-hustle will start earning you enough to become your full-time gig.
6. The Debt Snowball Method
Slogging through debt isn’t that fun. But if you’re only earning enough to make minimum payments—or not make any payments at all—there are a few debt elimination tactics that may be worth trying. One of those is the debt snowball method.
The debt snowball method is when you pay off your debt in order from smallest balance to largest balance, regardless of interest rate. You’d continue to make minimum payments on all your different debts except the smallest—that’s where you’d pay as much as you possibly can.
When the smallest debt is paid off, you would then start to pay off the next smallest debt while still making minimum payments on the rest. You’d repeat this until all your debt is paid off.
The downside to this method is that, because you’re disregarding the interest rates attached to your loans, you may end up paying off lower-interest loans before the ones with high interest rates. And that could mean paying more interest in the long run.
Making Your Contributions More Impactful?
Regardless of how you choose to make student loan payments this new year, remember there are options. As we discussed, one such option is refinancing, which could get you a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying on your student loans.
If you’re committed to increasing your student loan contribution this year, consider learning more about student loan refinancing with SoFi. With increased contributions and a shorter loan term, you could get out of debt faster than you thought possible.
The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.