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If you have student loan debt, you’ll know that they have finally gone back into repayment after 3 and a half years. And if you’re like me, you didn’t get to pay off much or all of your student loan debt during that time.

So, it can be a bit overwhelming to think about how you’re going to pay them all back now that student loans are finally due again.

It’s going to be tough, but it’s not impossible!

I left school in 2017 (#CollegeDropout!). And I didn’t really pay much attention to my student loans for a while. I didn’t have the funds, so it became someone else’s problem. (AKA future me)

However, around 2020, I really started to pay attention to my student loans. I started with over $70,000 and managed to get it down to about $36,000!

And at this point, I’m sick of dealing with them. As I’m sure you are too! So here is my plan for how I will pay off $36,000 in student loan debt in 5 years or less, and how you can too!

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Paying Off $36,000 Of Student Loan Debt In 5 Years

Figure out how much student loan debt you have

Much like starting a budget, you first need to figure out how much student loan debt you have to begin with. This is likely going to be a big and potentially scary number, but you need to know it.

Instead of running from the debt, you need to face it head-on and see what kind of monster you’re dealing with. That way you can create a plan to get it all paid off.

You also want to look at the interest rate of the student loans you have. Write down every loan with every interest rate you’ve got. And then from there, math out a rough estimate of how much interest you’ll be accruing each day.

My student loan currently occurs DAILY interest (crazy right?!) and once I knew that, I figured out how much interest I would be getting every single month. This tells me the minimum amount I need to pay to break even.

Chances are, whatever your original payment is will be roughly what your student loan debt makes in interest a month, with a small amount to pay off the principal.

I’m not sure if this will be true for everyone. But my monthly payment is $248 and my loan gets about $182 in interest every month. Which means at the minimum, I’ll only be paying off $66 of the principal each month.

And every 2 years for my particular loan, the minimum payment I need to make goes up in order to have my loans paid off in 10 years.

You may need to call your student loan servicer to get some information on how your own loan works because this is important to know. The more you know about your student loan debt, the better you can prepare to repay it all in 5 years or less!

Set up a budget to pay off your student loan debt

Once you know everything there is to know about how your student loan debt works and how much you need to pay, now you’ve got to set up a budget to pay off your student loans!

And this means you need to figure out where you are in your everyday spending first.

How much money are you making vs how much are you spending a month? How much leftover money do you have to put towards your student loans?

These are some of the questions you need to be asking yourself, along with where you can cut out of your budget to make room for more money to go toward your student loans.

If you need help tracking your finances, I created a budget planner that I use every single month for my and my husband’s expenses!

There is a sheet for a single person, and couples as well because keeping track of your finances is no easy task!

You may have to sacrifice some things for a while and cut down on spending to pay off your student loan debt in 5 years or less, but it’ll be worth it not to have that heavy loan hanging over your head anymore!

Set up a repayment plan you can afford

Once you’ve learned all there is to know about your student loan debt, now you’re going to need to set up a repayment plan that works for you. Of course, if you’re looking to pay off your loan quicker, you’re going to need to pay more than the minimum.

My minimum payment right now is $248 and with $182 in interest every month, that’s $66 off the principal balance. Not great!

So I set up a bigger goal for myself, and I plan to grow that number every chance I get. So, ask yourself how quickly you want to repay your loan? I originally had decided on 3-4 years.

But, once I did the math to see how hard that would be, I knew I needed to push my goal out a little further to 5 years. If you want to make the math easier on yourself, check out this simple debt payoff calculator!

Simple loan payment calculator

All you have to do is put in your loan balance, the interest rate, and how many years you want to pay off your loans and it will tell you the payments you need to make a month!

Everyone’s situation is different, and I’m lucky enough that for me, the loan is in my mom’s name and she has agreed to help me pay it off. This is honestly the only reason I’ll be able to pay off my loan so quickly.

This might not be the case for you, so don’t feel bad if you need to make your loan payoff plan longer than mine! I am getting help with mine.

Either way, figure out a general idea of when you want your loan to be paid off. This will tell you how much you need to pay.

Decide which student loans to pay off first

If you’re like me, you may have multiple student loans from different servicers. I had a few small loans equalling about $5,000 or so on top of the big loan in my mother’s name.

My smaller student loans were getting no interest at the time, so I made the decision to pay those off first so I could focus solely on the biggest loan in my mom’s name- which had gone up to $40,000 at the time.

That way, I wouldn’t have 4 or 5 loans accruing daily interest, I would only have one. This was the smartest decision for me and I’m glad I did it that way!

If you have multiple student loans, you may want to start with the smallest one first and go from there.

Now all I have left is one loan with $17,394.71 at a 6.59% interest rate and a second loan with $17,375.17 at a 6.06% interest rate, equalling $34,769.88 left for me to pay!

I am currently opting to start paying off the first loan with the highest interest rate. When I started paying off my loans back when they became due in September of 2023, the amounts were a little higher so I was also technically paying off the loan with the highest amount.

This is called the debt snowball method, and it is a great way to pay off your loans the fastest!

Paying Off $36,000 Of Student Loan Debt In 5 Years

Throw any extra money you have into your loans

Now here comes the hard part- actually paying off your student loans!

My student loans are currently my top priority. I hate knowing I have this big debt over my head, and it sucks even more knowing it’s hurting my mother more than me with it technically being in her name and not mine!

So in order to get this burden off both of our backs, I am paying literally any extra money I have towards my student loans.

I started by throwing a lumpsum at my loans once they became due again with extra money in my emergency fund. Your emergency fund, if you have one, should be about 6 months of living expenses.

So, I calculated how much my living expenses were for 6 months and then took the extra money that I was comfortable with using out in order to pay off a chunk of my loans. The biggest goal was to get the interest down to zero, that way each month I’d be paying off more of the principal and less of the interest.

Both of my loans get a combined $182 in interest a month. So whatever else extra I pay goes towards paying off that dang principal balance!

It’s important that you have your student loans on top of your mind if you want to pay them off as quickly as possible. What can you take out of your spending in order to pay off your loans quicker? Is there something you’re buying that you don’t need?

I stopped going out to eat as much, canceled subscriptions I didn’t need to pay for, and opted out of buying “wants” for a little bit and only going for “needs.”

The items I “want” but don’t actually “need” will end up going on my Christmas and birthday gift lists instead!

My tax returns will also be going towards my loans, and any extra money I get will be added there as well. Especially when my income goes up in my business. Literally, anything extra I have will be going towards my loans!

Another thing I am doing is taking the interest I am getting from my high-yield savings account and putting it towards my loans. I currently get about $60 a month in interest on one of my high-yield savings accounts.

This is basically free money! So, in order to make sure I am still saving (which is important!) I keep 10 of the $60 in the account and take out $50 each month to put towards my student loans! That’s an extra $50 a month, which adds up quick.

Take the temptation to spend away

It’s important that you’re not accidentally spending extra money on things you don’t need. So what I personally do is take what money I have planned for my loans and put it in my savings account temporarily.

That way I’ll see my true account balance and not one that has money intended for my student loans. Then, at the beginning of the month, I’ll transfer all the money back to my account and pay off my loans in one big payment.

Lately, it has been $346-$400 a month. This includes the $50 in interest I take out of my high-yield savings account!

Personally, I don’t think it’s enough and I want to be doing more. So that is my goal for this year. Make more money in my business, and save more in order to pay off my student loans even faster!

However, if you think having the money in your savings account is going to be too tempting, then you may want to pay anything extra you have more frequently!

I personally don’t feel tempted to spend money once it’s in my savings, so I have no problem paying once a month. But everyone is different so if you feel the urge to spend your extra cash, make payments to your student loan debt every week, bi-weekly, or whenever you get extra money in your account!

Make extra money any way you can

Obviously, if you don’t make enough, you can’t pay enough! The real talk here is, you need money to live and you need extra to pay off your student loan debt in 5 years. But if you’re struggling every month to just make ends meet, this may not be realistic for you.

Everyone’s situation is different. Maybe you have kids or no savings at all. Maybe you make way less than me or have more debt than me. It’s okay if this takes you longer and this timeline doesn’t work for you.

So, the goal here is to make extra money in any way you can to pay off our loans even quicker. But also, don’t stress about it if you can’t.

Literally, just do what you can, and if one month ends up being worse than the others because bills got a little higher- it’s okay!

For me, I have the option to make a lot more money with my job because I’m not limited in the income sources I can have. I also have been a Doordasher on and off for years. It paid my bills for a very long time, and I may bring it back to make a little extra cash this year too!

Maybe that is something you could get into if you had the extra time to make some extra cash, whatever works for you and your lifestyle! But remember, I have no kids, no full-time job to go to (because this is my job) and I have a LOT of time on my hands. So don’t compare me to you if we’re living very different lifestyles!!

At the end of the day, even if it feels like an uphill battle, one day your loans will be paid off and you can finally sigh that breath of relief!

Put your plan into action!

After that, all that’s left is doing the plan! I’m sure every plan won’t be perfect and I may need to change mine up a bit as life comes up here or there, so don’t beat yourself up if you find that to be the case too.

Pay off as much of the loan as you can every month and don’t worry if you need to change up your original plan or not. Sometimes things come up and we have to deal with them, like a car breaking down or an unexpected bill.

Just stick to the plan as best as you can, adjust as needed, and even if you don’t hit your goal and it takes you a bit longer, at least you’ll be closer than when you started!

| READ MORE: Mastering Your Money- How to Budget and Save in your 20s!

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Paying Off $36,000 Of Student Loan Debt In 5 Years
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