These days, it's not unusual to graduate college with a pile of student loans. But if you're tired of grappling with that debt, a few key moves on your part in the coming year could help you end 2020 with a completely whittled-down balance. Here's how to shed that debt -- and gain the peace of mind that comes with not having student loan payments hanging over your head.
1. Refinance your loans
If you took out private loans for college that came with a high interest rate, refinancing to a lower rate could make that debt much easier to ditch. By lowering your interest rate, you'll lower your monthly payments. If you apply the money you save to your loan's principal, you'll be able to knock it out sooner. Best of all, it doesn't cost any money to refinance student loans, so there's no harm in exploring your options.
2. Get on a tighter budget
The less you spend on discretionary expenses, the more money you'll have to pay down your student debt. Take a look at your budget, or create a budget if you don't have one already, and see where you're potentially spending more than you need to. It could be that you're a little too free about ordering takeout, or treating yourself to entertainment outside the home. Or, it could be that you're paying for a larger apartment than you need, or for a car when you can get by without one. Scaling back in all of these areas could go a long way toward helping you shed your student debt permanently.
3. Find a job that'll help you pay off your debt
It's common to enjoy perks like health insurance, paid time off, and 401(k) plan matches when you work for someone else. But here's a new benefit that some companies are incorporating: student loan payoff assistance. If you're sitting on your fair share of debt, it pays to either find an employer that will help you pay off your debt, or ask your current employer to consider adding this benefit to its existing package.
4. Get yourself a second job
When you work on a full-time basis, the last thing you want to do in your free time is work some more. But if you're eager to pay off your student debt, a side hustle could be your ticket to being debt free. And with the gig economy booming, you don't have to resign yourself to a rigid evening or weekend schedule. Rather, you can find a job that works with your lifestyle, whether it's designing websites or blogging from the comfort of your home, or monetizing your vehicle by driving for a rideshare company.
5. Take advantage of windfalls
In the course of the upcoming year, you're likely to come into money outside of your regular paycheck. You may, for example, get a large performance bonus at work, a sizable tax refund, or a generous gift from a family member. If you use all of that money to pay down your debt, then that, combined with your other efforts, might really help you knock it out for good.
Many people with student debt feel compelled to put off key milestones, like buying a home, getting married, or having children, because of it. The sooner you stop making student loan payments, the more financial flexibility you'll have. So make every effort to eliminate your student debt in 2020 -- you'll be thankful for that freedom once it's yours.