Wednesday, March 18, 2015

5 Smart Ways to Pay Off Student Loans

I loved my time at Cornell but it’s time to pay up in blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of cash. If you’re in the US, you’ve probably heard politicians talking about the scourge that is student loans. President Obama only paid off his shortly before taking office in 2008, and he’s issued executive orders to help students and graduates shoulder the burden. So many of my friends related to Quinn Perkins when Shondaland’s Scandal poked fun at the loan collection services (“Who has money? All I have is student loans. It doesn’t matter how many times you reinvent your identity, Sallie Mae will find you”). We all laughed somewhat uncomfortably because, really, ain’t that the truth? 

I graduated with about $100k in loans, which means that most of my salary each month goes toward paying them off. I’ve been making these dreaded payments for a couple of years now, and although I’m no expert, I thought I’d share some tips for paying off that mountain of student loans. Without further ado…

You can start paying off interest will you’re still in school.  This is something I wish I had known at the time. I’d still double-check with your loan company to make sure that making a payment won’t mean you forfeit your grace period, but if not, and you can afford to, put some money toward the interest on your loans each month. A large chunk of what you end up paying monthly is interest (not the money you borrowed, “the principle”), so doing this will give you a bit of a jumpstart. Trust me, any little bit helps.

Keep organized. You don’t want to be charged late fees on top of everything else, so it’s important to know when your payments are due and how much you’re expected to pay. Simple enough, right? Well, if you’re like me, you will probably have a loan for each year you were in school at the very least (I happen to have seven individual loans). To keep track of everything, I created an Excel spreadsheet with info on each loan (due date, payment amount, and interest rate). Whenever I pay a loan, I make sure to jot it down so I know what’s been paid and what hasn’t. I also have Google Alerts set up in my iPhone.

Make a budget. I use one simple equation for this: Monthly Salary – Cumulative Loan Payments = Spending Money. It’s easy to overspend, especially if you buy small things here and there. It turns out that even a $5 purchase here and a $10 purchase there add up. It’s important to know how much you can afford to spend each month so that you have enough money to pay up when the time comes.

Don’t pay your loans with credit cards. This is basically like paying off one loan with another, and you’ll quickly find yourself in a sticky situation.

Pick the payment plan that works for you. Whether you have ten year or twenty-five year loans, a graduated payment plan or an income-based one, make sure it works for your budget. You can also contact the loan services to change the due date if necessary. Just remember that although an extended term means smaller payments now you’ll end up paying more in the long run.

Loans are evil, let’s just put that out there. There are so many other things I’d like to do with that hard-earned money of mine (shop, travel, move out of my parents’ house) but, sadly, I have to be a grown-up and be responsible and all that stuff. 

Adulthood can be lame sometimes.


  1. My student loans pretty much make me wish I had never gone to college :(


    1. I know the feeling. It feels like the loans will never be paid off.