Paying off your student loans is no easy feat. It takes years to knock out student debt, and with high minimum payments and interest rates that go through the roof, it can feel near impossible. Unfortunately, unless you suddenly get a huge raise (or win the lottery!) it still won't be easy—but with these simple tips and tricks, you might just be able to pay off your student loans a little quicker, reducing how much interest you pay overall.
Calculate Your Repayment
Not everyone can afford to pay more than their minimum payment, but if you're able to pay a little extra, it's worth it in the long run. CNN Money has a super easy-to-use student loan repayment calculation tool, and you can use it to play around with different monthly payment amounts. You'll be able to see how long it'll take before your loans are paid off, and how much interest you'll pay in the end.
This gets a little tricky if you have multiple loans and don't or can't consolidate them (consolidating condenses all of your smaller loans into one larger loan with a longer repayment period, but it can mean paying more interest in the long run). If you've got several loans that all have different interest rates, you'll have to plug in each loan individually and see the differences on a loan-by-loan basis.
But let's say your loans are consolidated, your principal balance is $20,000, you have a 6.8% interest rate, and your monthly minimum payments are $250. If you pay that minimum, according to the calculator, it'll take you 8 years and 11 months to pay off your loan, and you'll wind up paying an additional $6,719 in interest charges. But say you have enough left over in your household budget to pay an additional $25 per month, making $275 payments instead of the $250 minimum. That extra $25 a month would actually save you an entire year of making payments (you'd pay them off in 7 years and 11 months instead) and ultimately pay $1136 less interest.
Squirrel Away Money with Apps
Saving money to reach your financial goals isn't always easy, but the good news is there are plenty of apps that can help. One such app, Qapital—available on iOS and Android devices—is actually really great for helping you save up extra money without you noticing all that much.
With Qapital connected to your bank account, you establish the money goals you'd like to reach, and the app recommends rules you can follow to reach those goals based on your spending habits. For example, you can set up a goal to pay off your student loans, and then set up a rule that every time you use your debit card to make a purchase, the app rounds that purchase up to the nearest dollar (or tacks on an extra dollar or two) and puts that money away towards your goal, slowly adding up over time. You can then withdraw the money from the app to put it towards a payment.
Other rules include putting away money you didn't spend from your budget, setting aside a fixed amount that you choose at certain intervals, rewarding yourself for hitting fitness goals, and more. You can also set up "if this then that" rules, so for example, the app can squirrel away a little bit of money every time you post a photo to Instagram or add a song to your Spotify playlist.
Pay Weekly, Not Monthly
It's budget magic: Making weekly payments lets you pay off your loans even faster, without necessarily paying much more than what you'd pay once a month.
Here's how it works: Take whatever your monthly repayment currently is (whether it's the minimum, or another amount you've calculated), divide it by 4 and pay that amount weekly to your lender instead. Since interest on your student loans is likely accumulating daily, making more frequent payments will make sure more of your hard-earned money goes towards the principal balance, and slowly drops the total amount of interest you'll pay on the life of the loan.
Also, by paying weekly instead of monthly, you'll actually be making an additional 4 weeks' worth of payments—your "monthly divided by four" total has you split your loan expense into 48 payments per year, but since there are 52 weeks in a year, you'll actually be making 4 extra payments. That's an entire extra month's payment slowly coming out of your bank account and going towards your loans each year, and it can be seriously helpful.