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Here’s How to Pay Off Student Loans in Less Than 5 Years

Paying off student loans can be grueling—but imagine the freedom you'll have once you pay them down faster than you anticipated.

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education, school, graduation and knowledge concept - close up of books and mortarboard on wooden tableSyda Productions/Shutterstock

While some may argue that you can’t put a price on a good education, many millennials aren’t feeling quite the same. In fact, many of today’s graduates face the grueling task of paying off student loans within a reasonable timeframe.

If you’ve been left holding the bag (as well as a diploma), don’t worry. Bankrate consulted an expert who will show you how to pay off student loans quickly! Follow these money-saving habits of parents who didn’t take loans out to pay for their student’s college.

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Person depositing money in a pink piggy bank on top of books with chalkboard in the background as concept image of the costs of education TierneyMJ/Shutterstock

Treat the loan like a mortgage

If you can afford it, treat the loan like a mortgage and simply make larger payments to cut the principal more quickly, says financial planner Allan Katz, CFP professional, president of Comprehensive Wealth Management Group in New York’s Staten Island. It’s one of the best pieces of advice when you’re determining how to pay off student loans quickly. By diminishing the principal balance, you’re minimizing the duration of the loan period and the interest accrued. For example, a $25,000 student loan with 6.8 percent interest with a ten-year payback period would cost $288 a month. Paying $700 a month instead of $288 enables the borrower to repay the loan in just over three years, Katz says.

Another strategy is adding payments and sending in checks every two weeks rather than monthly. Once that college loan is repaid, the benefits proliferate. “It’s one less debt you owe. The money you make is now free to be invested and applied to owning a house, saving for retirement, or putting a child through college,” Katz says.

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A pile of coins and a blue tack on the calendar.Hyejin Kang/Shutterstock

Create a 3- to 5-year plan

A 3- to 5-year plan gives you a sense of scope when you’re paying off student loans. By having an end date in sight, it’s far easier to commit to eliminating that student debt. Say, for example, you have a couple with a combined college debt of $50,000. Annually, they are making $100,000 combined in salaries. By establishing a budget with a goal of 3-years completion, they can make the necessary adjustments in their day-to-day spending to meet that goal. This budgeting might even reveal more money they can put toward diminishing the principal balance.

In the end, budgeting for a 3- to 5-year end date could severely reduce the amount of time spent chipping away at student debt. And, there is no shortage of budgeting tools online. Our very own Home Budget Calculator can help you out when you’re figuring out how to pay off student loans. This is exactly how you should be saving for college, year by year.

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Establish a college repayment fund

Another great tip for how to pay off student loans quickly is placing your money into an account you can’t easily draw from with the swipe of a card.  Having money moved automatically into savings is effective because it’s forced. It enables people to set aside money to grow what otherwise would be spent on clothes or dining out, Katz says. Just make sure to set up an account that will be used only for paying back your college debt. Don’t use checking or savings accounts you already have because you might use that money for something other than your student loan. Compare savings accounts and put your money in an account with a higher yield to maximize your savings.

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Closeup macro shot of Caucasian woman hands making coffee. Barista pouring hot coffee in white mug cupAnna Kraynova/Shutterstock

Start early with a part-time job in college

Getting a part-time job while attending college is one way to keep college debt in check because it generates money you can use to help offset student loan debt. Say that you are able to work a part-time job that allows you to put away $500 a month. In a year, that’s $6,000 you can easily put toward paying off student loans. This is exactly where your student loan money is going.

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Avoid the usual traps

Ironically, the need for instant gratification is what prevents students from paying off their loans so quickly and, as a result, delays more fulfilling life investments. By planning ahead and knowing how your mind works, you can make some necessary sacrifices and avoid falling off the budgetary wagon. “Maintaining financial discipline is a difficult hurdle for many people,” Katz says. “Most people don’t have the discipline to save. Most people spend like goldfish eat, which is nonstop.” The people who succeed at cutting college debt are those who “live within their own means and are conscientious about saving,” Katz says.

Another alternative: Consider refinancing

If you’re not sure how to pay off student loans quickly or it doesn’t seem feasible, you may be paying too much interest. That’s where you might consider refinancing, and Bankrate can help you there. This will make it easier for you to compare refinancing rates with Bankrate’s trusted lending partners.

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