If you're drowning in student debt, you're unfortunately in very good company. An estimated 44.7 million borrowers carry student loans, and collectively, Americans owe a whopping $1.59 trillion in educational debt.
But new data reveals that some borrowers may be willing to go to unhealthy extremes to shed that debt. In a recent study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Splash Financial, 39% of Americans said they'd be willing to spend a week in jail if doing so meant wiping out their student loans. Meanwhile, 40% said they'd be willing to sign up for no time off from work for an entire year to get rid of their loans, and 40% pledged to permanently forgo caffeine.
If you're struggling to repay your student debt, the good news is that you don't necessarily need to resort to such drastic measures to make it more manageable -- or make it go away. You just need to be a bit strategic.
Easing the burden of student debt
If you're having a hard time keeping up with your student loan payments, it pays to explore the remedies that may be available to you. If you took out federal loans, see if you're eligible for an income-driven repayment plan. That way, your monthly payments will be recalculated based on your actual income, and potentially lowered a lot in the process. You can also look into deferring federal student loans for a period of time if you're experiencing a specific financial hardship that's currently making that debt more difficult to pay.
If you took out private loans, you should know that they don't offer the same official borrower protections as federal loans. But that doesn't mean you can't attempt to negotiate with your lender. If you reach out and ask for a lower monthly payment, or to hit pause on your payments temporarily, your lender might comply, especially if your account is in good standing.
Knocking out your student debt
If you're not at risk of falling behind on your student loans, but you're also tired of paying them, there are a few things you can do to eliminate them ahead of schedule. First, see if you can refinance your student debt to a lower interest rate. If you do, but you keep making the same monthly payment you're used to, more of your money will go toward your loan's principal, thereby knocking down your balance more quickly.
Another option? Cut back on spending to free up more cash to apply to your student loans, or get a second job to achieve the same result. The more money you pay into your debt, the less interest you accrue, and the easier it becomes to get rid of it for good.
The fact that 39% of Americans would subject themselves to a week behind bars to knock out their student debt is troubling -- yet understandable. But there isn't a "swap jail time for student debt" program in place. Which means your next best bet is to negotiate your repayment terms if you're having a hard time keeping up, or take steps to pay down that debt as quickly as possible.