Like lots of college students, I took out loans to pay for my education. Every year I borrowed the maximum amount possible in Federal Direct Student Loans, which meant I had borrowed $27,000 by the time I graduated. I was on the standard loan repayment plan, so I knew I would be repaying my loans for the next decade if I repaid the designated amount each month. But after a few years of watching my balance decline at a snail’s pace (thanks to accruing interest), I decided to speed up the process. I wanted my student’s loans gone, and I was ready to get serious about it. Here’s how I’m paying off my student loans as fast as possible, and how you can too!

Make a Plan

The first thing to do is to make a plan. I started by selecting the amount I would pay towards my loans every month. I wanted an amount that was high enough to make a big impact on the balance, but would still leave me with enough funds to cover my other monthly expenses. I ended up deciding to put 30% of my take-home pay towards my loans. It’s a significant amount of money, but it will allow me to finish paying off my loans in six years instead of ten. That means less money that I’m paying in interest and more peace of mind knowing that I’ll be finished with my loans sooner.

Next, pick a day every month to make the payment. I make my payment on the 15th of every month because it’s when I get paid. That way, the money goes to my loans before I even have the chance to spend it on something else. I don’t participate in automatic payments because I want the ability to adjust my payment amount in case an unexpected expense comes up that month. But many servicers will provide an interest rate reduction if you sign up for automatic payments, so it’s definitely worth looking in to!

Think About the Payoff Order

Consider the order you want to pay off your student loans. Most lenders will allow you to target specific loans with your payments after you satisfy your monthly payment amount. So for example, if you owe $100 for your monthly loan payment, and you pay $300, you can specify to which loan you want that extra $200 applied.

I use the “avalanche method,” which means paying off my debt that has the highest interest rate first. Some people choose to use the “snowball method,” which means paying off the smallest debt amounts first before moving onto the larger ones, regardless of interest rates. Use whichever method works best for you! As long as you’re paying extra every month, you’ll still see an effect.

Prioritize

When I decided to get serious about paying off my student loans, I knew I would have to make that goal my number one priority, which meant making sacrifices in other parts of my life. I put off saving for a house. I put off vacations I want to take. I have no savings and no emergency fund. This might be living too close to the financial edge for some people. But for me, it’s worth it every time I see my loan balance decrease.

Spend Less

There are lot of tips out there on how to pay off your student loans faster, but I’ve found that what it really comes down to is that you need to spend less and make more. In my experience, this is the number one way you can pay off your loans faster.

While it can be helpful to cut out everyday expenses, like going out to eat or grabbing a fancy coffee in the morning, the thing that made the biggest impact on my finances is cutting out a reoccurring monthly expense. For me, this expense was my car. I thankfully did not have monthly car payments because my car was very old. But old cars need lots of upkeep. Between the repairs, the gas, and the insurance, my car was eating up a lot of my money every month. So I got rid of it and put all that money towards my students loans.

I’m lucky enough to live in a city with public transportation, so not having a car is a reasonable option. That’s certainly not the case for everyone, but I would encourage you to review your monthly expenses and really think about which one you could live without, at least until your loans are paid off. Could you move into a cheaper apartment or switch to a less expensive gym?

Make More

The reason you owe money is because you went to college. So put that degree to work! Having a college degree opens up so many career options that would not have been possible otherwise. And usually, these careers come with a higher salary. So take full advantage of that! Is there a promotion coming up at work? Make it known that you’d like to be considered! Feeling like your job doesn’t have much room for growth? Start looking at other options! You paid a lot of money for that college degree, so make sure you’re using it to its full potential and getting your return on investment!