14 Ways to Pay Off Student Loans Faster — Ranked by Difficulty | Finder Canada

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14 ways to pay off your student loans faster

Say goodbye to your student debt faster and save on interest.

Students Working On Laptops In Classroom

With such high student debt loads, getting out of debt can feel impossible, especially if you don’t make six figures. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. Here’s how you can speed up your student loan payment period more quickly.

1. Figure out your payoff date

  • Difficulty level: Easy

    Knowing when you’re due to completely pay off your student loan is the first step toward calibrating your repayments. It can help to budget how much extra you’ll need to pay monthly to move that date sooner.

    Not interested in doing the math yourself? Reach out to your lender to find out when you’re set to be free from your student debt. Once you know this, you can be strategic about how to speed things up.

2. Make extra payments

  • Difficulty level: Easy

    The quickest and easiest way to pay off your student debt is to pay a little more than you owe each month. It’s not always as simple as it sounds though: You might have to notify your loan servicer or lender that you want your extra payments to go toward your principal, not toward future repayments (which happened to us). If it’s applied towards a future repayment, then the lender will ask you for less next month and the extra payment won’t have an impact on lowering your overall loan principal.

    You don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars extra for it to be worth the contribution. Even setting up autopay at an amount $10 to $50 higher than the amount due can make a significant dent in how much time you need to pay off your student loans.

    Say you had $40,000 in student debt with a 5% interest rate and a 15-year term. Here’s how much time you can save by making extra payments to your principle.

Extra repaymentMonthly repaymentTime needed to pay off loanTime savedSavings on interest
No extra$31615 years0 years$0
$10 per month$32614 years, 4 months8 months$808
$20 per month$33613 years, 9 months1 year, 3 months$1,440
$50 per month$36612 years, 2 months2 years, 10 months$3,444
$100 per month$41610 years, 3 months4 years, 9 months$5,712
$200 per month$5167 years, 9 months7 years, 3 months$8,376

3. Avoid deferment

  • Difficulty level: Easy

    If your finances run into a rough patch, consider cutting down on other areas of spending first before applying for payment deferment or the Repayment Assistance Plan (RAP). These not only increase how much you’ll pay towards your loan from the added interest, they can also lengthen your loan term, depending on the situation, keeping you in debt longer.

4. Spend extra money on repayments

  • Difficulty level: Easy

    You can make a big difference in paying off your student debt if you use money you didn’t count on receiving — birthday presents, inheritances, lottery winnings, tax refunds — to make an extra repayment on your student loans.

    If it’s not something your budget is going to miss and you don’t have any other pending large expenses, these can make enormous dents in your student debt and can save you potentially years of repayment, depending on the amount. That vacation to Hawaii or 16th pair of kicks can wait until you’re debt-free.

    5. Make payments every two weeks

    • Difficulty level: Easy

      Take your monthly repayment, divide it in half and make that payment every two weeks. Two weeks is just under half a month — enough that it’ll make a difference but not enough for you to really notice it, especially if you get paid every two weeks.

      By the end of the year, you’ll have made one extra payment without feeling any major financial pinch.

    6. Use your tax deductions and credits to pay off debt

    • Difficulty level: Easy

      One of the nice things about paying off federal loans — and some private loans — while you’re just starting out in your career is that you can often deduct the amount you pay in interest from your income taxes. If you’re still in school, just graduated or are in a training program for your job, you might qualify for additional tax credits on your tuition and textbook expenses.

    7. Refinance or consolidate

    • Difficulty level: Medium

      If you’re stuck with high-interest or long-term student loans, you might want to consider consolidating or refinancing your student loan. This involves taking out a new loan with lower rates or a different loan term — or both — that better fits your personal needs.

      Refinancing can take some time, and can be as involved as it was to apply for your original student loans, if not more involved. You also might need a cosigner to qualify for the rates you want if your credit score isn’t excellent or if you don’t meet the minimum income requirements.

      You might want to skip this one if you have federal loans and consider refinancing only your private student loans at first. Federal student loans come with benefits that private lenders don’t offer — and could potentially help you get out of debt even faster.

    Compare personal loans

    Before applying for a personal loan, contact the lender to see if they allow you to refinance the specific type of student loan that you have (federal, provincial and/or private).

    Name Product Interest Rate Max. Loan Amount Loan Term Fees Min. Credit Score Link
    Loans Canada Personal Loan
    Secured from 2.00%, Unsecured from 8.00% to 46.96%
    $50,000
    3-60 months
    No application or origination fees
    300
    Go to site
    More Info
    Loans Canada connects borrowers to lenders offering both secured and unsecured personal loans in amounts from $300 to $50,000. Submit one application to get rates from multiple lenders across Canada.
    Fairstone Personal Loan (Unsecured)
    26.99% - 39.99%
    $20,000
    6 months - 5 years
    None
    560
    Go to site
    More Info
    Fairstone offers unsecured personal loans up to $20,000
    Mogo Personal Loan
    5.90% - 46.96%
    $35,000
    6 months - 5 years
    NSF fee - $20 - $50
    540
    Go to site
    More Info
    Mogo offers loans up to $35,000 on flexible terms.
    LoanConnect Personal Loan
    Secured from 1.90%, Unsecured from 9.90%-46.96%
    $50,000
    3-60 months
    No application or origination fees
    300
    Go to site
    More Info
    LoanConnect is an online broker that matches borrowers to lenders offering loans in amounts from $500 to $50,000. Get approved for multiple loan offers from different lenders in as little as 60 seconds with any credit score.
    Fairstone Personal Loan (Secured)
    19.99% - 23.99%
    $35,000
    3-10 years
    Varies by province
    560
    Go to site
    More Info
    Fairstone offers secured personal loans up to $35,000.
    Magical Credit Personal Loan
    19.99% - 46.80%
    $20,000
    6 months - 5 years
    A single administration fee of $194 for $1,500 loans and up
    300
    Go to site
    More Info
    Magical Credit offers unsecured personal loans in amounts up to $20,000.
    LendingMate Personal Loan
    43% (British Columbia and Ontario) and 34.90% (Quebec)
    $10,000
    1-5 years
    None
    300
    Go to site
    More Info
    LendingMate offers loans to Canadians with poor credit with no credit checks. Co-signer required for application.
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    Compare up to 4 providers

    8. Get out of that repayment assistance plan ASAP

    • Difficulty level: Medium

      That repayment assistance plan might have sounded great while you were working as a freelance journalist in a foreign country (aka broke). But once you have a steady income that’s high enough to pay more than twice that amount, move on to another repayment plan with the shortest term you can afford.

      If you have federal loans, you can usually change your repayment plan by contacting your servicer. If you have private loans, however, you might have to refinance your loan with another lender.

      9. Use your raise — or part of a raise

      • Difficulty level: Medium

        Just got a raise? Up for one soon? Consider putting it toward your student debt instead of buying a new car or apartment. In fact, if you hold off on large purchases that require financing, you’ll likely get a better deal on interest anyway because your debt-to-income ratio will be lower.

        You don’t need to use your entire raise amount if you need extra funds to cover cost of living expenses or other essentials. Even taking half of your raise could help you pay off your student debt more quickly.

        10. Cut expenses and stick to a budget

        • Difficulty level: Medium

          This can be as involved as you want it to be. If you’re desperate to get out of debt as soon as possible, consider moving to a cheaper apartment, bargain hunting and holding off on dining out until your debt is paid off.

          But it doesn’t have to be that extreme. Something as simple as canceling your cable, cutting back on the booze or limiting how often you dine out can help you pay off your student debt faster.

          Don’t want to do that? Even making a realistic budget can help you cut down on excess spending.

        How to make a budget

        11. Start before you graduate

        • Difficulty level: Medium

          Most college students are strapped for cash, but paying what you can toward your student loans, even while in school, can reduce your loan principle, which in turn lowers the interest you owe in the long run.

          Even if you start making interest-only repayments while in school, this could reduce your loan principle because once your student loans begin, your lender will capitalize your interest, or add it to your principle.

          Just a few repayments here and there from part-time jobs or one-time gigs is all it takes to potentially save you thousands of dollars in the long run and get you out of debt sooner.

        12. Get a job that offers forgiveness

        • Difficulty level: Hard

          The federal government forgives student loans from borrowers that participate in its public service or teacher loan forgiveness program. This involves working at an approved institution for several years in exchange for having part or all of your student debt forgiven.

          While you might not want to change your entire career path, it could be worth it to read up on the requirements if you’ve considered these jobs.

          If you go this route and stand to have most of your debt forgiven, consider signing up for a repayment assistance or income-based repayment plan. That way, you won’t have to make quality-of-life sacrifices in the meantime, as many of these jobs don’t come with high salaries.

        13. Pay off your debt strategically

        • Difficulty level: Hard

          If you have multiple student loans, you can use one of these two popular strategies to pay off your debt more quickly:

          • Avalanche method. You pay off your loan with the highest interest rate and continue until all of your debt is paid off. The logic is that this method will help you save the most on interest, which translates into less time spent repaying your loans.
          • Snowball method. Involves paying off your loans in size order — with the lowest debt amount first. The logic of this is that paying off your smaller loans first will give you an emotional boost that can motivate you to stick to your plan. You won’t save as much on interest.

        Interested in refinancing? Compare providers now

        14. Move back in with your parents

        • Difficulty level: Somehow both easy and hard

          There’s no way around it: Rent is one of the largest expenses you’re responsible for each month. If you can keep your job and moving expenses are reasonable, consider moving back in with your parents — especially if you live in an expensive city like Toronto and Vancouver.

          Live as you would while living on your own — or as much as you can — and put the money you’d be spending on rent, and possibly food, toward your student loans to pay them off quicker.

        How to get in that student debt-free mindset

        Understand what good debt really means

        You might have heard that student loans are a type of good debt. And it’s partly true — borrowing to pay for higher education can help you get a higher salary and live a more fulfilling life.

        But just because it comes with rewards doesn’t mean it’s good to keep around. The longer you take to pay off student loans, the more you’ll end up paying in interest. And while a long loan term can help you build up a long credit history, it also means you might have trouble qualifying for other types of credit because you have a high debt-to-income ratio.

        Visualize a debt-free you

        If The Secret taught us anything, it’s that it’s difficult to achieve goals that we can’t even imagine. This might sound a little nonsensical, but it can seriously help you reduce stress and stay focused on what really matters.

        If just thinking about living a life without student loans isn’t enough, try adding up how much you’ll save each month and envision what you could do with that money. Maybe it’s moving to a nicer apartment. Maybe it’s having cable again (ha, just kidding — cable is basically dead). Maybe it’s checking off some items on your bucket list. It’s up to you: It’s your imagination.

        Bottom line

        Cutting down on the time it’ll take to pay off your student debt isn’t impossible, but it takes some planning. Staying sane while you’re doing it is also a challenge. Keep your eye on the goal and don’t deprive yourself of the things that make your life worth living — otherwise you could get discouraged and give up.

        Have more questions about student loans? Check out our guide to student loans or our article on common student loan myths — debunked.

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