4 winning strategies to help you get unburdened from debt.

The average college grad leaves school with around $30,000 in student loans which, according to the DOE, takes about 20 years to pay back.

If you don’t want student loans weighing you down for the next two decades, there are some strategies that can help you pay them back faster -- and save you thousands on interest.

The obvious first step is refinancing. 

If you have good credit (600 or above) and a stable income you’re a prime candidate for refinancing -- and now’s the time to do it. Student loan refinancing rates have dropped to 2.24% - a near-term low. 

There’s no limit on how many times you can refinance and it doesn’t carry any fees or additional costs, which means as long as you find a lower rate, refinancing will be financially lucrative.

To find out what rates you can qualify for, head to one of these two loan marketplaces. Submit one application and instantly receive a list of rates and offers from top lenders. 

1. Credible

Compare pre-qualified rates from up to 10 lenders 

  • 100% free 
  • Best Rate Guarantee: Credible will give you $200 if you find a better rate
  • Get a final offer in as little as 1 day after applying

View Rates

2. LendKey

Find, customize, and fund your loan through their network of banks and credit unions.

  • 100% free
  • Refinance loans up to $300,000
  • Extended forbearance for 15- and 20-year loan terms.

View Rates

If you don’t think you’re a good candidate for refinancing just yet, here are some more strategies you can employ to pay down that debt faster. 

1. Pay more than the minimum each month

The more you pay toward your loans, the less interest you’ll owe — and the quicker the balance will disappear. Unlike other loans, student loans carry no penalties for prepayments or paying more than the minimum. Interest is constantly accruing on your principal balance, so if you can swing the extra payment it’ll save you a lot in the long term. 

2. Make extra payments

The same logic as above applies here. An extra payment every few months will chip away at your balance. 

One thing to note: be sure your lender is aware of the extra payment and that it should be applied to the principal only. Otherwise, the lender will hold the payment and apply it to next month's payment.

If you get a bonus, tax refund or any other kind of cash influx, make a lump payment towards your debt. It will hurt to miss out on a vacation or shopping spree because you’re being fiscally responsible, but the payoff in the end will be even bigger. 

For example, let's assume that you have $50,000 in student loans at an 8% interest rate and a 10-year repayment term.

Here's how much a lump payment can save you:

  • $1,000 payment: Save $1,019 and pay off 3 months earlier
  • $5,000 payment: Save $4,675 and pay off 16 months earlier
  • $10,000 payment: Save $8,423 and pay off 30 months earlier

3. Remember that every little bit helps

Start a side hustle. Set savings goals and stick to them. Take the student loan interest deduction on your taxes and use the savings towards a lump sum payment. Living frugally because you’re focused on paying back your student loans is definitely not fun. But trust us when we say that as anticlimactic as it may be, being debt free is worth it.

And once you do pay back all of your loans, be sure to treat yourself, just a little.