If you’re one of the 45 million student loan borrowers in the U.S., you’ve probably received advice on how to pay off your school debt. And some of that advice might sound old and not so original: cut out drinking lattes, move in with your parents, etc. But there are other ways — unusual and creative ways — to pay off student loans a little faster.
If you’re looking for hacks to get ahead on your student loan payments, consider some of the following moves:
1. Teach abroad
2. Live in other people’s houses and watch their pets
3. Become a vagabond and live rent-free
4. Join the tourism industry
5. Go vegan
6. Or just cut back on meat and dairy
7. Go on a no-booze budget
8. Bring a flask
9. Be a medical guinea pig
10. Sell your blood plasma
11. Sit in on mock juries
12. Donate your eggs or sperm
More creative ways to pay off your student loans
We all know that rent can be one of the most expensive chunks of our budgets, especially if you live in a big city. When I lived in New York, even with a roommate, I was paying $800 a month in rent. It’s hard to get ahead on your student loan payments when so much of your budget is allocated to housing.
In fact, Rent.com’s 2019 National Apartment Rent Price Analysis shows the average rent for a studio apartment in the 100 largest cities in the U.S. at $1,179, up 6.7% from last year. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,362, an increase of 4.3%.
There are ways to save money like moving back in with your parents, but if you’re like me, that is not a feasible option. Luckily, there are other unique ways you can live rent-free or have super-low rent.
I have a friend who made very good money teaching in South Korea. His rent was paid by a company and his expenses were very low, so he pocketed a lot of his salary each month. Imagine if you could live rent-free, have a decent salary and experience another culture, all at once. Before heading overseas, though, make sure to research your rights as a foreign resident and what your job will — and will not — cover.
If you’re up for the challenge and don’t mind moving around, being a pet sitter or house sitter can give you a place to stay for free in exchange for a little bit of work. If you’re interested in doing this, even just temporarily, check out DogVacay, Rover, Care.com or TrustedHousesitters. Keep in mind that you may not be able to find tons of listings in your area for when it’s convenient for you.
Many hostels have work-trade opportunities where you work part time and live for free. Again, there may not be work-trade opportunities in your area, but if you can swing going a bit out of your way, it could still be worthwhile.
Many seasonal jobs at tourist hot spots offer good pay and lodging. Look into opportunities to work at a ski resort or help out during fishing season in Alaska.
Cut out the extras in your food budget
Food and drink play a major part in your budget — average annual expenditures hovered at $7,923 in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Between groceries, drinks with friends and the occasional takeout meal, these items can eat up your food budget quickly.
It’s no secret that meat and dairy can be expensive — I, for one, have no problem spending $8 on a block of fine, delicious cheese. But if things like fancy meat and cheese are ruining your food budget, consider going vegan. If you go this route, be sure to get your protein and B12 from other sources, like supplements and fortified foods.
I’ve personally cut back on eating cheese because of the cost — insert sad face. Take a look at the food items that are costing you the most, and consider cutting them out or replacing them with more affordable alternatives.
We all know that drinking has us consuming a lot of empty calories, but it can also be sucking up a lot of your money. Depending on how much you drink, you could save hundreds of dollars each month.
Maybe you don’t want to cut out alcohol completely, but you still want to save money to pay off debt. Consider bringing a flask with you when you go to bars or are out with friends (though, of course, make sure you’re following all the laws in your locale). After all, alcohol is much cheaper to buy at the store than the bar.
Do your part for modern medicine
If you’re wondering how to get out of student loan debt, you’re probably thinking of ways you can make a lot of money in a short period. One alternative way to pay off student loan debt that’s legal is through modern medicine. Just make sure you’re not compromising your health, as no amount of student debt is worth that.
One way to make money is by participating in medical research. You can make hundreds or even thousands of dollars by taking part in research studies. Find studies on ClinicalTrials.gov and CenterWatch.
By donating your blood plasma, you can make some extra cash and help save a life. Each donation center will have its own set rates, but you could make a few extra bucks to pay off debt.
Mock juries can be a fun and unique way to pay off your student loan debt. By sitting on one of these panels, you give lawyers a chance to see if their arguments or talking points are effective before they go to court. The pay varies, but you can earn anywhere from $5 to as much as $100 or more a day. Try sites like eJury or Sign Up Direct or do an online search for “mock jury duty” in your area.
Women who meet certain requirements can make thousands of dollars by donating their eggs. It’s not an easy process — you will be going through a medical procedure, after all — but donating your eggs could get you anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars per donation. Unfortunately, men get a much smaller amount for donating their sperm, as the process is less invasive. Men can expect to make less than $100 for every donation.
These creative ways of making money and getting out of debt can significantly cut down on your repayment term. Of course, these options are best for those who are adventurous, open-minded and sick and tired of their debt to the point where they want it gone.
If you’re looking for a more conventional route, consider strategies to boost your income at your regular job through working toward a promotion or switching companies. Or consider a side hustle, such as freelance writing or driving for Uber.
Some student loan borrowers have even paid off their debt ahead of schedule with creative side businesses, such as baking fidget spinner cookies or teaching group fitness classes. And others have earned loan forgiveness through Public Service Loan Forgiveness or another forgiveness or repayment assistance program.
Sarah Li Cain and Rebecca Safier contributed to this article.