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Student loan debt can be a devastating weight to carry and get out from underneath.

According to a 2019 study from New York Life, it takes the average person 18.5 years to pay off their student loans, starting at age 26 and ending at age 45.

But you don’t have to be average! With a solid game plan and consistent dedication, you can reduce this substantially. You may be able to cut that time in half! Here are some ideas to help you pay off your student loans much faster.

1. Make bi-weekly payments*

This is a great way to help pay off your debt at a faster clip. If you get paid every two weeks, or on the first and fifteenth of the month, this can also follow your paycheck schedule.

How much does this help? Let’s do a case study. If you had $20,000 in student loan debt at 5% interest rate for 10 years (we’ll use this example repeatedly in this post) – and you did bi-weekly payments instead of monthly payments, it would cost you an extra $8.16 every two weeks. For that $8.16, you would knock off a full 12 months of payments and save $636 in interest.

*Check with your loan provider, as some providers allow this and others do not. Great Lakes and Navient, for example, do not allow this. Be sure to set it up (or ask your lender) to apply the extra amount to your loan balance instead of the next month’s payment. That will help you payoff your debt quicker.

2. Fill your 3-6 month emergency fund. Then dump all monthly, leftover cash in debt payoff.

Unfortunately, your money sitting in your checking or traditional savings account is losing value each month due to inflation. This is why you want to pay off your debt, then invest, so you can have your money earn for you by investing.

After your emergency fund is fully funded for 3-6 months of your monthly expenses, take all your additional funds and aggressively payoff your student loans. Just think how amazing it will feel to no longer have that debt over your head!

3. Sign up for Autopay

Some student loan providers offer a .25% reduction for signing up for autopay. Nice! However, regardless of whether or not there is an interest benefit, I highly recommend signing up for monthly autopay. You do not want to have a month (or months) where you forget and do not make your payment. These fees and penalties can be costly and will prolong your ability to become free of student loan debt. Also, it can disqualify (or delay) your ability to get student loan forgiveness.

After you set up your budget and have all your essentials covered, I recommend setting up an autopay, additional payment for each month. For example, if you set up an autopay for an extra $100/month on $20,000 in student loans (5% interest, 10 year loan), you will pay off your loans nearly 4 years earlier!

4. Use a portion of your raise or side hustle (make lump sum payment)

Taking a piece of any extra money you earn and throwing it at your debt is a great way to pay down your loans faster. It’s amazing how these lump sums can accelerate your debt payoff. For example, if you have a $20,000 loan balance (5% interest rate, 10 years), if you make one $1600 lump sum payment, it will save you nearly $1,000 in interest and pay off your loan a full 12 months earlier.

Use this calculator to help approximate how much you could save with a lump sum payment.

Need side hustle ideas? I’ve got you.

5. Leave items in your Amazon cart for at least 24 hours

Buying can often be an emotional decision – and one that we make quickly. With how easy it is to get anything you want delivered to your doorsteps within 48 hours, it can be tempting to purchase whatever we want, whenever we want it.

Need help slowing down your spending? Make a commitment to wait 24 hours before clicking “buy now” in your Amazon cart. If you still want/need it then – and it fits in the budget, then get it.

6. Create a budget (and stick to it)

A budget is not made to restrict your spending and joy in life. But I think that’s one of the reasons many of us struggle to create or stick to a budget. A budget is simply a tool to ensure your spending is matching your priorities. In other words, it’s a plan for you to ACTUALLY spend money on what you WANT to spend money on.

I use the Mint app, as it tracks all of my spending in a quick, automatic, and efficient way. Having a plan for your money is a proven way to help pay off your debt substantially faster.

7. Use Child Tax Credit Money and/or Tax Refund From Government

If you get any extra money on your tax refund, this can be a great way to use a lump sum to pay off your loans faster. Additionally, if you are a parent and do not need the child tax credit money from the federal government for things like childcare or essential expenses, this can be a great option for paying off debt faster.

Eligible households can receive a total of up to $3,600 for each child under 6 and up to $3,000 for each one age 6 to 17 for 2021. If you have two kids under 6, you could take that $6,000 each year and SLAY that debt in ~3 years. Then you’d be student debt free 7 years earlier!

8. Drive an older (cheaper) car

Housing, debt (i.e. student loans), and automobiles take up the biggest chunk of the typical American’s monthly budget. Downsizing your housing expense is the fastest way to get ahead financially and pay off debt. However, if you can’t (or don’t want to) take that drastic step, driving an older and cheaper car can be a substantial way to save and slay those loans.

For example, the average new car payment in America is $563/month (meaning ~half of those loans are more than that!). If you can drive a used car, like a 2017 Honda Civic, with zero dollars down, your monthly payment would be around $360/month. If you take this extra $200/month and apply it to your $20,000 in student loans, your payoff date goes from 10 years down to 4.5 years.

A simple downgrade in your vehicle could cut your debt payoff time in half!

I hope this has helped give you tools and motivation to help kill that student loan debt. Please share this with anyone else who may have student loan debt in case this could help them too!

What’s your favorite idea listed here for paying off student loan debt?