Tips for paying off your university student loans faster
Mortar board hat on a piggy bank

Graduating from university and landing your first full-time job is an incredible feeling. Some people even say that’s when you truly become an adult. However, reaching this milestone may have come at a cost in the form of student debt.

Having student debt is not unusual, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of. That said, having debt can be crippling if you don’t take steps to eliminate it as soon as possible. Here are 7 tips to help you pay off your university student loans faster.

Get a roommate or live at home

Many people who want to move out prefer their own space. While renting a spot for yourself may fit within your budget, there’s no denying that getting a roommate will save you money. Even if it’s just a few hundred dollars you’re saving, it’s worth it since that money can be applied directly to your student loans.

It’s also worth considering staying at home with your parents if you can commute to your job. Living at home rent-free is arguably one of the greatest gifts your parents can give you. As an added bonus, the odds are your parents will continue to feed you for free, so you don’t need to worry about spending money on groceries. Even if they charge you a little bit for rent, it’s usually still worth it since it’ll probably be lower than the market rate.

Get a side hustle

One of the easiest ways to pay off your student debt is to earn more money. That may not happen right away with your career, but nothing stops you from getting a side hustle, which will get you some extra income.

Some gigs that you could look into include bartending, food delivery, ridesharing, teaching English online, and walking dogs. If you have any hard skills, you could advertise your services online.

Alternatively, see if your employer offers overtime and take as many hours as they’re willing to give you. Working more may be tiring, but it’ll be worth it if you can reduce your debt.

Use found money

If you ever come across some extra money, resist the urge to spend it. Put it towards your student loans since you would basically be giving yourself a gift. What do I mean by extra money? I’m talking about things such as your tax refund, annual raises/bonuses, and any cash gifts that you may receive.

Using your tax refund can go a long way in your first few working years as you may still have tuition credits available, or you may be in a lower tax bracket. That may result in a higher tax refund.

Increase your monthly payments

Student loans usually have a set monthly payment that begins six months after you graduate or leave full-time studies. You may not realize that you can increase your payments or make additional payments that would go directly towards the principal amount.

That means you could make additional payments, increase the amount you’re paying every month, or make bi-weekly payments. All of these extra payments would immediately decrease the remaining balance of your loan.

Consolidate your debt

Depending on your loan’s interest rate, it may be worth consolidating your loan, so you pay less in the long run. For example, let’s say that your student loan is currently charging you 4.5% interest, but your bank offers you a line of credit for 3%. If you used your credit line to pay off your student loan, you’d save 1.5% on interest.

While this strategy can be useful, it’s worth noting that the interest rate on a credit line can fluctuate. You’re also getting access to more credit, so you need to ensure you’re not making additional purchases that would increase your overall debt.

Make a budget

Your first full-time salary likely means you’re earning more money than you ever have in your life. It’s okay to spend some of it, but make sure you create a budget, so you’re not blowing all your money.

List your income at the top of your budget and then your hard expenses (including your student loan payments) below it. Follow that up with your wants, such as entertainment and vacations. As long as you’re spending less than you make, you’ll be okay. That said, don’t forget to factor in any saving goals you have.

Avoid excessive spending

Hopefully, your budget will keep you in check, but sometimes you need a reminder to not overspend. It’s easy to convince yourself that you need or can afford that car or vacation. I’m not suggesting you not spend any money on personal interests. However, you want to make sure you’re not overspending in one area when you still have a debt to repay.

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. As a completely self-taught, do-it-yourself investor with no formal training, he makes money easy to understand for all Canadians. His specialties include personal finance, budget travel, millennial money, credit cards, and trending destinations.

Barry Choi is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.

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