If you want to pay off your student loans faster, do yourself a favor and make extra payments. If you can free up more money for payments right now, you can cut down the total interest you pay.
Use this student loan payoff calculator to determine your debt-free date, then see how much time and money you could save by making extra student loan payments.
Student loan payoff calculator
How extra payments pay off loans faster
Say, for example, you borrow $20,000 in student loans with an interest rate of 5%. Your monthly payment for 10 years would be $212 and you would pay $5,440 in interest.
What if you paid $100 a month more toward that loan? Your monthly payment would rise to $312 — but you would pay about $2,000 less in interest and be debt-free nearly four years earlier.
The more payments you can tack on, the less you’ll pay in interest and the closer you’ll get to freedom from student debt. If it feels like you have no cash to spare, try making biweekly student loan payments instead — it’s a simple way to trick yourself into making one full extra payment each year.
Extra payments, the right way
You must let the lender or servicer know if you want extra payments to go toward the principal. Otherwise, the money may go toward the next month’s interest payment.
Contact your lender or servicer to find out how you can ensure extra payments will be applied to your principal. Here are some ways you may be asked to do it:
In writing. Some lenders require a written request for extra payments to go toward the principal.
On the phone. If you make a payment by phone, you may need to ask verbally.
On your check. If you send a check by mail, add “apply to principal” to the memo line.
Other opportunities to pay off debt
You can use extra money to pay down student loan debt, but if you’re trying to save on interest, consider paying off any high-interest debt first. You may also want to use the money to pay yourself by adding to your emergency and retirement funds.
If you can’t spare more money each month for your student loans now, here are three times when extra funds in your life could mean a bigger, one-time payment.
Windfall money. Unless you win the lottery, windfall money usually comes in the form of a gift, job bonus, legal settlement or inheritance. You can use this money to make an extra student loan payment.
Tax refund. When you file your tax return each year, you might get a federal or state tax refund. The average refund for the 2019 filing season is $2,729, according to the IRS. That’s a healthy chunk of change that could go toward student debt.
Pay raises. If you get a raise, you could hold off on increasing the size of your budget and use the additional money in your check toward your student loans.