Determining the Best Way to Pay Off Student Loans
How to choose the best loan repayment to handle your student debt.
Bottom Line Up Front
- There are strategies that can help you pay down student loan debt.
- You may be able to save on interest, pay off your loan faster or lower your monthly payment by refinancing your loans with a credit union or bank.
- Put tax refunds, money from side hustles and other extra cash toward student debt to help pay it off more quickly.
Time to Read
May 12, 2022
If you’re between the ages of 25 and 35, chances are you’re paying off student loan debt. As you’ve chipped away at your debt, you may also have thought about other ways you could use the money you put toward student loan repayment—like buying a house, saving for retirement or going on vacation. Whatever your financial goals, there are ways to get there faster.
Here are 4 tips that may help free you from from student loan debt:
Before you tackle your higher education debt, make sure you fully understand all the numbers that come with your loan. Get familiar with:
- Principal balance
- Interest rate
- Loan term
The principal tells you the total amount of money you borrowed from the lender. The interest rate is the percentage rate charged by the lender, and the loan term is the amount of time it will take to pay off the loan. Together, they tell you how much you owe, how much the loan is costing you and how long you have to pay it off. Use the loan term information to figure out your payoff date.
Add a Little Extra
At the very least, you should be making minimum monthly payments on your student loans. But, did you know that by adding even a small extra payment, you can cut your debt faster?
Any extra money above the minimum payment may go toward the principal, which in turn, could mean less interest you’d pay over the life of the loan amount. Check with your loan servicer to see how they handle extra payments. If you can't quite fit making higher payments in your budget, some people do this by earmarking income from a side hustle to their student loans.
It’s okay to start small—even if it’s just an extra $20—and then work your way up. Make additional payments when you can. Some student loan servicers allow biweekly payments among their repayment options, which can be a pretty painless way to pay off loans faster than monthly.
Set up automatic payments with the extra funds included. Autopay will help keep you consistent, and you’ll have one less due date to think about. If you have a student loan with Navy Federal Credit Union, you could also get a .25% interest reduction when you sign up for automatic payments.1
Consolidate or Refinance
Consolidation and refinancing can be helpful tools for managing and paying off your loans. With both, you can combine multiple education loans together for just one monthly payment to keep track of. Here are some of the differences.
Student loan consolidation is available through the Department of Education and is limited to federal loans. You could lower your monthly payment by extending the amount of time you have to repay your loan. To find out more about which loans can be consolidated and the the pros and cons of doing this, visit the Federal Student Aid website.
If you have both federal and private education loans, refinancing through your bank or credit union might be a good option. You may have a better chance at lowering your interest rate if you’ve kept a good payment history not just on the loan but on other bills such as rent and utilities. You might also be able to lower your rate by applying with a co-signer.
Student loan consolidation or refinancing can be good options. Before making any decisions though, make sure you understand all the details and have a clear picture of any benefits you might lose. Your financial institution can help guide you through the process and decide if either option is right for you.
Apply Bonus Cash to Debt
Every now and then, you may come into some extra money, be it your birthday, a work bonus or a tax refund. Instead of spending it, think about applying that extra cash toward your loans.
Every little bit can help. Did you know that according to a personal finance survey conducted by the Student Loan Report, roughly 69% of all student loan borrowers said they'd rather receive a student loan payment instead of a gift for the holidays? That doesn’t mean every extra windfall has to go toward paying off your student loans, but it can be helpful if you’re serious about paying back your loans sooner rather than later.
Student debt affects 44 million Americans today, which means you’re not alone. When you get organized and make a plan, you can knock them out quickly, without stretching yourself too thin.
- See how Navy Federal can help with student loan refinancingNext Steps - Learn about refinancing.
- A Navy Federal student loan specialist can help you decide if refinancing is right for you. We're available M-F, 8 am - 8 pm ET at 1-877-304-9302. Or email us as NavyFederal@lendkey.com.
1Automatic Payments Discount: The discount requires continued enrollment of automatic payments. The borrower authorizes automatic payments from a personal account via Automated Clearing House (ACH). If automatic payments are canceled at any time after enrollment, the rate reduction will not apply until the automatic payments are reinstated. Automatic payments may be suspended during period of forbearance and deferment. For variable rate loans, the APR, including the 0.25% rate reduction, may not fall below the floor rate.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.