money saving tactics to pay off student loans early

Pay Off Student Loans Early: 10 Money Saving Tactics I Use to Crush Student Debt

Introduction

So you want to know how to pay off student loans early?debt

I have good news and bad news.

First, the good news:

In some cases you can get your federal student loans totally forgiven. 

[You cannot get private student loans forgiven.

Anything that says otherwise is a scam!]

How?

There are state and federal programs that allow for this.

The bad news is that, for the vast majority of people, you cannot get your student debt forgiven.

Maybe you don’t qualify for any of the loan forgiveness programs available (like me).

Or maybe you have private and federal loans (also like me).

So how do you pay off student loans early?

You pay off student loans early by cutting unnecessary expenses and using that money to pay much more than minimum debt  payments. 

I graduated college with over $80,000 of student debt for a liberal arts degree in French and a minor in business administration.

Yes.

I am aware this wasn’t the best choice of major in terms of return on investment.

But there’s nothing I can do about it now except learn from my mistake and pay off student loans early if possible.

So how am I actually doing that?

These are 10 money-saving tactics I use to increase the amount of money I can use to pay off student loans early!

1. Pay $15 a month for cell service (Seriously, it’s how much I pay).

Save Money With Cheap Phone Service

Because I have paid for my own cell phone bill since I first bought a flip-phone in high school, I have always been on the lookout for the cheapest cell phone plan money could buy.

I started with Virgin Mobile,

switched to Walmart’s Straight Talk,

experimented with the totally free Scratch Wireless,

used Republic Wireless,

and now have landed on MintSim as my cell carrier of choice.

 

Here’s a breakdown of the phone plans from MintSim’s website:

  1. $12/month – Unlimited talk and text on Sprint’s cellular network and 2GB of data for 3 months. 
  2. $17/month – Unlimited talk and text on Sprint’s cellular network and 5GB of data for 3 months.
  3. $20/month – Unlimited talk and text on Sprint’s cellular network and 10GB of data for 3 months.

These are introductory offer prices but you can get a discount from the regular price when you purchase cell packages for a longer time period. 

After spending most of my adult life without cell data, MintSim’s incredibly affordable data plan has made me quite happy.

I’ve been so pleased with the service that I recently bought a full year’s service which came out to about $15 a month.

 

I highly recommend MintSim as an affordable cell provider with a great deal on data.

 Estimated monthly savings: $50+

2. Drink more water and less alcohol and sodas.

pay off student loans early by drinking more water and less sodas

 

I quit drinking sodas in high school and have never regretted it.

Soda is cheap but it adds up especially if you are having a couple of cans per day like I did at one point.

It’s also unhealthy, highly addictive, and the markup is absurd when purchasing it at  restaurants. 

Getting rid of it is a no-brainer.

Also, I didn’t drink alcohol until I was 21.

By that time, I had become so interested in health and so accustomed to not drinking alcohol or much of anything besides water that it was easy for me to go without it.

I know I’m an edge case but even slightly reducing alcohol or soda intake can have a large positive effect on you wallet.

Estimated monthly savings: $20+

3.Have a friend or family member cut your hair instead of going to the shop.

pay off debt early by cutting your hair yourself

Ever since I got married, my wife has been cutting my hair.

No, she’s not a professional stylist.

But I’ll let you in a little secret.

Cutting hair is actually not that hard.

(Here’s a link to some videos that show you how easily it can be done.)

In fact:

I get compliments on my hair all the time.

When I tell people my wife cuts it, they are very surprised.

The only tool you need is the Wahl Pro Hair Cut Kit.*

For the price of one haircut, you can have unlimited haircuts for life.  

It’s what I’ve been using for over a year now and it works like a charm.  

Estimated monthly savings: $20+

4. Cut cable.

Rake in the Benjamins by Cutting Cable

 

With all the streaming services out there, it’s not difficult to cut cable and still enjoy much of what TV has to offer.

But I get it.

You probably have a few shows/sports games you don’t want to miss.

Usually, you can find a friend or family member who hasn’t (and won’t) cut the cable cord.

So take advantage of that and watch the game or your show at your friend’s house.

TV is more fun with company anyway.

Also, most cable services provide web logins that enable you to watch certain programs through their online portal.

So if a family member has a login they’re willing to let you use, you’re in business.

This is what my wife does with a few shows she likes that aren’t available via Netflix and she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out on cable in the least.

So cut cable, get Netflix, and use your friend’s or family member’s cable login when there’s something you don’t want to miss.

Estimated monthly savings: $100+

5. Cook most of your own food.

Preserve Moolah by Cooking at Home

 

Cooking most of your own food enables you to eat like a king for a relatively small sum.

For instance, I eat wild caught, Alaskan, sockeye salmon (some the highest quality salmon on the planet) about once a week.

You know how much I pay for a serving?

$4 or $5 depending on how hungry I am.

Let’s say my meal is $8 when I factor in the cost of vegetables and grass-fed butter.

That’s still a great deal when you consider that my most expensive meal cooked at home costs me less than a Chipotle steak burrito bowl.

And if you’re really strapped for cash, you can reduce your meat intake and your grocery bill will really plummet.

But I understand.

It’s hard to cook most of your own meals when you have a full time job.

Here’s how I do it:

For breakfast, I have a cup of bulletproof coffee* and that’s it. 

It’s fast and easy to make, delicious, nutritious, fat-burning, and satiating.  

For lunch at the office, I reheat leftovers from the previous night’s dinner.

When I get home from work, I cook one large meal that feeds my wife and me for dinner and provides leftovers for my lunch at the office the next day.

It’s not easy but it’s manageable.

When I compare my habits to those who purchase lunch and/or dinner nearly every day, I know I’m saving some serious dough.

Estimated monthly savings: $100+

6. Avoid buying snacks.

Keep Your Cash - Don't buy Snacks

 

If you quit buying snacks, you will slim down, be healthier, and save a lot of money – no question.

But maybe you feel like you will be hungry all the time without snacks.

You might consider eating more fat like grass-fed butter, avocados, and coconut products.

Healthy fats are very satiating for the long-run and can reduce the impulse eating and never-ending hunger that often accompanies carbs and sugar.

Quality fat like grass-fed Kerrygold butter* is definitely more expensive when compared to the price of industrial butter or other industrial vegetable oils.

But paying a slight premium for fat of a higher quality should outweigh the premium you pay for snacks.

Estimated monthly savings: $50+

7. Do minor car maintenance yourself.

Preserve Capital By DIY Car Maintenance

Until recently, I knew absolutely nothing about car maintenance.

When my car needed servicing, I would take it to the shop and hope that they weren’t dishonest with me.  

But after seeing a neighbor in my apartment complex working on his car day after day, I thought to myself:

“Wow, he’s probably saving a lot of money doing that himself.”

So I asked him if he could show me a few things about car maintenance and help me change my oil.

It was a great learning experience and I saved good money.

This neighbor also showed me that there’s a YouTube video for almost every conceivable car repair.

So check out YouTube the next time you’re thinking about taking your car to the shop and see if it’s something you can do yourself.

Estimated monthly savings: $10+

8. Set an allowance – reign in that spending.

 

I know.

Spending is fun.

And (IMO) having the freedom to spend money on worthwhile hobbies, delicious and nutritious food, and/or amazing experiences is part of having a full life.

However, I’ve found it’s helpful for me to have a spending guideline each month especially since my income is not as high as I would like.  

I don’t stick to it religiously because life sometimes gets in the way.

But for the most part, I don’t spend more than $50/month on myself.

$50 might not be your magic number but it can be helpful to have a guideline like that, whatever it is.

Estimated monthly savings: $50+

9. Purchase incredibly affordable eyeglasses online.

The last time I tried purchasing glasses at brick and mortar, the bill was going to be about $400…

With insurance.

After I spat out my imaginary drink, I promptly left in search of a cheaper online solution.

And eureka.

I found zennioptical.com

This website doesn’t accept insurance but it didn’t matter.

I got a new pair of glasses with the works (UV protection, anti-scratch lenses, lens thinning, etc.) for $50 total.

I wear these glasses every day and they work wonderfully.

Estimated monthly savings: $20+ (~$200/year = ~$20/month)

10. Use credit cards with rewards.

Stash Cash with Credit Cards

This last one is fun and controversial depending on which financial guru you follow (looking at you Dave Ramsey).

Why controversial?

Because there’s good science behind the fact that using credit cards makes the purchase process more abstract leading to a significant increase in spending when using cards instead of cash.

But what about those instances where you must use a card of some sort (like online purchases)?

This is where credit cards have saved my wife and me some good money.

But the only way that credit cards actually save you money is if you pay off the entire balance every pay period.

That way, you never incur their insanely high interest rates but you collect all the benefits.

I could get into the nitty-gritty of different credit cards and rewards but I’ll leave it to the pros at Nerdwallet.  

Estimated monthly savings: $10+

Conclusion

If you add up these conservative ball-park estimates for monthly savings, you get a total monthly savings of $430!

An extra $430 per month towards debt would really help pay off student loans early.

But you don’t have to use all of these tips and tricks to save serious cash.

Just choose one or two, start slowly, see what works for you, and watch your school debt get smaller and smaller!

What strategies do you use to pay off student loans early?

I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

The Author

Harrison

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