Supercharge Your Student Loan Repayment Plan by Knowing Your Debt-Free Date

 January 15, 2020
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For many people, making student loan payments may feel like an endless burden. However, there can be a light at the end of that long student debt tunnel. Figuring out when you may be free of student loan debt by estimating your loan payoff date can help you make a solid plan to rid yourself of these loan payments.

Let’s look at:

How to calculate your debt-free date
How to figure out your monthly payments
Why knowing your debt-free date is important
Why you might consider refinancing your student loans

Calculate your debt-free date

With a student loan payoff calculator such as the one featured here on the SoFi site, you can enter the total student loan amount, interest rate and monthly payment you are currently making. You will receive the exact month and year of your expected payoff, including a small random prediction related to this date in the future, which may help motivate you. You may have to enter separate amounts if you have both federal and private loans, which will typically have different interest rates.

Additionally, keep in mind that some private loans have variable interest rates, so it may be more difficult to predict for those than it is for federal student loans, which have fixed rates.

When putting in a sample loan amount, interest rate and monthly payment of $20,000, 4% and $200, SoFi provides a payoff date of February 2030 and also predicts that, by this date, your doctor’s visits will be replaced by automated exams.

Adding just $75 to that monthly payment amount brings your payoff date down to December 2026, with an additional prediction that, by then, the world population will reach over 8.1 billion.

Of course, how much you can pay each month, and whether or not it makes sense to increase your monthly payment to accelerate your debt-free date for student loans, will depend on a number of factors. Below we’ll detail them for you.

Figure out your monthly payments

First, take a look at your current income and expenses

When expenses including rent, bills, food and entertainment are covered, how much do you have leftover each month? That extra money could be going toward your student loan debt.

It’s important to know your debt payoff style. You could go on a bare-bones budget and allot every extra dollar to debt. Living this way is not sustainable for everyone, however. You’ll have to determine how much you can live without as you’re paying off your debt.

You also need to weigh any other debt you might have. For example, do you have a significant amount of high-interest credit card debt? It would probably make more sense to concentrate on aggressively tackling that debt while continuing to make the minimum payments on your student loan debt, as student loans typically have much lower interest rates than credit cards.

Next, find the ‘wiggle room’ in your budget

Regardless of your budget style and current debt load, you should know how much wiggle room you have in your budget. Sometimes the extra money may be there to pay off debt — and sometimes it won’t.

If you don’t have any extra room in your budget, you may want to consider making extra money to help support your bottom line. You can do this through a side hustle gig such as working for a ride-sharing or delivery service, or even renting out a room in your home.

If you aren’t in a position to do this, consider finding ways to reduce your expenses, such as canceling your cable service, asking for a better internet package deal, or limiting the money you spend on other entertainment choices, such as eating out.

Now that you know how much wiggle room you have in your budget, you can take your minimum monthly student loan payment and add the money you have leftover each month.

Use the SoFi calculator mentioned above to determine the effect each extra dollar will have on lowering your debt and accelerating your debt-free date. You can also use Student Loan Hero’s prepayment calculator to get an idea of how extra payments will affect your loans. You won’t get an exact predicted payoff date like the SoFi calculator provides, but you will get an estimate of the years, months and money you will save. You can also find out how much more you will have to pay if you want to have these loans cleared within a certain number of years.

Why knowing your debt-free date is important

Even if you don’t plan to make extra payments on your student loans, calculating your debt-free date can help you get a better understanding of the loan process. Having an actual date in mind can prove to be inspiring and motivate you to keep at your debt repayment. And seeing the effect of adding just a small amount to your payment each month may help quell the helpless feeling that can come with having a significant amount of debt.

That said, you should also understand the benefits of student loan debt, which include typically lower interest rates than credit cards, and also allow for deferment or forbearance if you are having trouble making payments. There are also student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment programs you may be able to take advantage of. Additionally, you can still deduct a portion of your student loan interest on your taxes. These are features not offered by every kind of loan, and understanding these benefits may also help you to feel less panicked about your student loan burden.

Consider refinancing your student loans

If you have good credit, or have access to a cosigner who has good credit, you also might consider refinancing your student loans, which can also help speed up your payoff schedule. However, there are some risks to refinancing that you should know as well.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself before deciding to take this step, and here is Student Loan Hero’s refinancing calculator.

Rebecca Stropoli contributed to this report.