13-Step Plan to Jumpstart Your Student Loan Debt Repayment

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

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You’re stuck with student loan debt and want to pay it off, but you’re not really sure where to start. You’ve heard of different repayment options and strategies, but they all seem overwhelming.

You’ve come to the right place. By following this guide, you can take easy, actionable steps toward launching your loan repayment and paying off your debt. Even if you don’t do everything on this list, tackling at least some of these tasks should help move the ball forward on your student debt.

Step 1: Add up your debt
Step 2: Review your interest rates
Step 3: Calculate your daily interest
Step 4: Choose a repayment method
Step 5: Sign up for autopay
Step 6: Evaluate all of your expenses
Step 7: Have a no-spending day each week
Step 8: Create a meal plan
Step 9: Sell your old stuff
Step 10: Pick up a side hustle
Step 11: Check your credit score and credit report
Step 12: Consider refinancing
Step 13: Make an extra payment

Step 1: Add up your debt

Many of us graduate without an accurate picture of how much student loan debt we actually have. Between various loans and different interest rates, the total damage may not be as clear as it should.

To conquer your student loan debt once and for all, it’s crucial to know exactly what you owe — right down to the penny.

To get started, log in to your loan servicer’s website and, one by one, add up the amounts that you owe on all of your loans in an Excel spreadsheet or on a piece of paper.

If you’re not sure who your loan servicer is or which private lender you owe money to, then check out our guide on how to track down all your student loans.

Step 2: Review your interest rates

Once you know the amount your total debt and identify your loan servicer, it’s time to review your interest rates. Your interest rates could vary widely depending on the types of loan you have. Federal and private loan interest rates differ, and some might be variable-rate loans while others are fixed-rate.

Understanding your interest rates is important not only for knowing what you’re being charged for the loans, but also for devising a smart plan for repayment. You can learn what your interest rates are from the information provided by your loan servicer. As a final step, write down the interest rate for each loan next to its outstanding balance.

Step 3: Calculate your daily interest

Once you have all of the interest rates written next to the outstanding balances on your loans, it’s time to calculate your daily interest. First, find out what the average weighted interest rate is for all your loans, using this interest calculator. Next, take the weighted rate and plug it into the following formula:

(Weighted interest rate) × (Current principal balance) ÷ (Number of days in the year) = Daily interest

For example, let’s say that you have $50,000 in debt at a 7% interest rate:

(0.07) × ($50,000) ÷ (365) = $9.58

That means that you have to pay $9.58 per day in interest. Calculating your daily interest is a painful but necessary step, for it puts into focus how much you have to pay in interest each day. That amount should help motivate you to pay off your debt.

Step 4: Choose a student loan debt repayment method

If you’re struggling to keep up with your student loan payments, then it might be worth looking into an income-driven repayment plan (at least for your federal loans — private loans aren’t eligible for this).

But if you’re able to keep pace with repayment and want to use a little extra from your income to speed things up, then there are a couple of methods available for tackling your debt. For one, you can use the debt snowball method, which involves paying off the loan with the smallest balance first and the minimum amounts due on the rest of your loans.

Or, there’s the debt avalanche method, which involves paying off the loan with the highest interest first and the minimum amounts due on the rest.

Though the debt snowball method can be more motivating, the debt avalanche method is usually more cost-effective, since you pay off the most expensive loan first. In any case, choose the method that feels right for you.

Step 5: Sign up for autopay

One major drain on your mental energy as you repay your student loans is simply remembering to make the payments on each one on time. So, instead of relying on your memory or setting up calendar reminders, sign up for autopay.

As the name implies, autopay automatically withdraws payment from your checking account and typically comes with a 0.25% interest rate discount. If you’re worried about overdrafts, then make it a daily habit to check your account balances. Enrolling in autopay can make student loan repayment easier as well as save you money.

Step 6: Evaluate all of your expenses

Because you want to pay off your student loans, you need to evaluate all of your expenses and identify areas where you can cut back. Start by listing all of your expenses, including rent, food, insurance, transportation and entertainment.

Look at the list for areas where you can reduce spending. For instance, if you have a gym membership that you never use, then cancel it and put that money toward your debt. If you’re paying for an unnecessary cable package or an elaborate phone plan, then call your internet and phone provider to negotiate a lower payment. Companies want to keep you as a customer, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Step 7: Have a no-spending day each week

Though spending money can seem like a natural, necessary part of our lives, it’s smart to occasionally have a “no-spending day” when you don’t use any money at all. Once a week, give your finances a break and keep your wallet shut. Instead, estimate what you might have spent and put that extra money toward your debt.

Step 8: Create a meal plan

When you’re trying to pay off student loan debt, food expenses can really take a big bite out of your budget. It’s also easy to justify food expenses because we have to eat.

But instead of spending all of your extra money on eating out, create a meal plan. A meal plan is like a budget for food — you plan ahead what you will eat and what ingredients you will need.

Meal plans can save you money because you stick to buying what’s on the list and what’s part of your plan, instead of randomly splurging on Goldfish crackers or peanut butter cups.

Step 9: Sell your old stuff

If you’ve got stacks of old CDs, books and clothes that are just collecting dust, then it’s time to get rid of them and make some money. You can take your old things to local stores and resell them for cash.

For old items that these stores don’t buy, consider selling them on Craigslist, eBay or even at a garage sale. Then, put all of the money you make toward your student loan debt.

Step 10: Pick up a side hustle

When you want to pay off student loan debt, cutting back on spending is only one part of the equation. The other part is earning more income from a job on the side, which can often be fun and give you added experience.

There are many ways to make extra cash. Consider working in the sharing economy, starting to freelance, or taking up a gig from the multitude of ones available.

Step 11: Check your credit score and credit report

When you’re paying off student loans, you want to make sure that you maintain good financial health. One way to check your financial condition is to review your credit score and credit report. Your credit can determine whether you get approved for an apartment, student loan refinancing, a car loan and much more.

Get a free credit score from LendingTree and a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com.

Step 12: Consider refinancing

One excellent way to save money on paying back your loans is through student loan refinancing. Refinancing allows you to consolidate your debt into one monthly payment and possibly get approved for a better interest rate.

With student loan refinancing, you may be able to save money in interest. Check out these options for student loan refinancing and review their eligibility requirements to see if any of them are right for you. Note, however, that refinancing federal student loans has some drawbacks, so make sure to consider both the pros and cons before acting.

Step 13: Make an extra payment

Though you enrolled in autopay for your minimum monthly payments, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make extra payments. With extra payments, you can cut down on your overall interest charges and start chipping away at your principal balance even faster. An extra $25 or $50 payment here and there will add up over time.

And if finding the spare funds to pay extra seems to be a heavy lift, consider using the biweekly payment method. This involves paying half your monthly student loan bill every two weeks, so that you end up each year with an extra month’s worth of payment automatically.

By using this 13-step guide, you can make clear, steady progress toward achieving your student loan debt repayment goals and conquering your student loans by taking manageable steps.

Michael Kitchen contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 8 lenders of 2020!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.20% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.89% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of December 13, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 12/13/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.46% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% APR (without AutoPay). Variable rates currently from 2.31% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% (without AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.31% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.31% plus 0.75% margin minus 0.25% for AutoPay. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your credit history and the term of the loan and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

3 Important Disclosures for Figure.

Figure Disclosures

Figure’s Student Refinance Loan is a private loan. If you refinance federal loans, you forfeit certain flexible repayment options associated with those loans. If you expect to incur financial hardship that would impact your ability to repay, you should consider federal consolidation alternatives.

4 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

College Ave Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.

2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.

4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 1/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

5 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.


There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.


For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
For eligible Associates degrees in the healthcare field (see Eligibility & Eligible Loans section below), Lender will refinance up to $50,000 in loans for non-ParentPlus refinance loans. Note, parents who are refinancing loans taken out on behalf of a child who has obtained an associates degrees in an eligible healthcare field are not subject to the $50,000 loan maximum, refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for more information about refinancing ParentPlus loans.


Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).

Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.

All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.

For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.


The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.


The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.


After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.

If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.


This information is current as of November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.

6 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.

7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 1.76% effective November 10, 2019.

8 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 12/019/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.59% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

1.99% – 6.89%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.31% – 7.36%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.06% – 6.81%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Figure

2.62% – 6.12%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit College Ave

1.99% – 6.65%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.99% – 7.06%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.85% – 6.13%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.90% – 8.59%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.