Student loan debt is this generation’s financial quicksand. Or maybe it’s more like a minefield.
You want proof? According to the Federal Reserve, Americans collectively owe $1.5 TRILLION in student debt. What’s more, borrowers typically owe $20,000 to $25,000, with one in five behind on their payments.
So are you supposed to be stuck in debt forever? Definitely not. There are ways out. In fact, if you have $25,000 or more in student loan debt, here are six things you can do right now to start digging yourself out and building your future.
1. Let This Website Help You Shave Thousands of Dollars From Your Debt
Truth be told, your student loan providers just might be ripping you off with some insane rates — yup, they’re getting rich off you.
But there are other, nicer companies that’ll help you out. A website called Credible knows the best ones and could pair you up as soon as tomorrow.
Here’s how it works: Credible will match you with a loan that’ll cover your student debt tab. Use that loan to pay off your federal and/or private loans. Now you’ll be left with one new monthly payment. This process is called refinancing.
At first it might sound like you’re just moving your debt around, but the key is to find a loan with better interest rates or lower monthly payments. In fact, we talked to Ashley Williams, a financial analyst who graduated with $46,000 in debt. Refinancing saved her more than $18,000 in interest over the life of her loan.
Now, if you’re not sure where to start, we like Credible because it’s an easy way to compare your options, and it won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars.
Totally worth it.
2. Don’t Ignore Your Future: Invest 15 Cents In the Stock Market
Even though you’re deeply indebted to the Student Loan Gods, you should still think about your future. No, you might not have hundreds of dollars to throw into a savings account or toward a retirement fund, but what about some spare change? Even just 15 cents?
Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: 15 cents? How’s that going to do me any good? Well, that leftover change from your morning coffee and evening grocery hauls could turn into more than $1,000.
That’s what happened when Penny Hoarder reader Jeremy Kolodziej opened an investment account with Acorns. The app’s round-up feature bumps each of your purchases up to the nearest dollar and puts the spare change into the stock market, which helped him mindlessly save $1,076 in about 20 months.
“It’s a virtual coin jar,” he said. “You don’t even think about it.”
Plus, Acorns invested the money for him, allowing him to grow his savings — without studying stock prices or managing trades.
The app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.
Just because you’re knee-deep in student loan debt doesn’t mean you can’t think about your future.
3. Cut Your Unavoidable Costs to Free up Extra Money
For many homeowners, your insurance is wrapped into the monthly mortgage payment, so it might not be something you actively worry about.
But, the truth is, you’re probably overpaying and that extra money would be better off in your retirement account.
A free website called Hippo does all the work for you and will even try to unlock special discounts. It’s able to save the average customer around 25% on their monthly bill.
Oh, and don’t worry about your existing insurance. You’re allowed to cancel your policy at any time, and your company should issue you a refund.
4. Know What You Owe and Track Your Payoff Progress
One of the toughest parts about paying down your debts is simply knowing where to begin.
That’s where a free website like Credit Sesame can help. It takes about two minutes to sign up and access your free credit score. From there, Credit Sesame will outline your debt — exactly what you owe and to whom — and offer personalized recommendations. It’ll even break down the interest rates and minimum monthly payments attached to your bills.
Armed with this intel, you’ll be able to more easily devise your payoff plan. Do you want to use the debt avalanche method, where you’ll pay off your highest interest rates first? Or maybe you prefer the debt snowball method, where you start with the smallest balances first.
You can continue to use Credit Sesame to keep track of your progress and hold yourself accountable. And, hey, it might be kind of fun watching your credit score react to all your hard work!
It takes two minutes to get started with Credit Sesame.
5. Can This Company Find You an Extra $670 to Put Toward Your Debt?
When you’re trying to pay off student loan debt, you might feel obligated to cut every enjoyable thing out of your budget. Pumpkin lattes? Gone. Night out with friends? Cut.
But, one of the simplest things to cut is actually your car insurance.
We don’t want you to get rid of it completely, but it takes two minutes to see if you’re overpaying with a free website called The Zebra.
Auto insurers offer different rates for different types of drivers, and The Zebra will scan more than 100 companies to see if yours is overcharging you. Just enter some basic information about your car and driving history here to get started.
The Zebra says it can find you up to $670 a year in savings. That’s more money you could put toward your student loans.
6. Copy Her Strategy to Get Money Back For Things You Already Buy
You know this by now: Every dollar counts.
What you might not know? Some stores have price-drop policies and will pay you back if something you buy online goes on sale after you buy it. But here’s the reality: Unless you revisit every website you ever order from, how would you know? Who has time for that?
Good news, though. Capital One has a free tool called Paribus that knows which stores have policies like this, and it does all the tracking for you. All you have to do is sign up with your email address and keep your emailed receipts. Then Paribus will help you get a refund when it finds a price drop on something you’ve bought.
We talked to one busy mom who has used Paribus to save $1,315.41 in about two years. Aimee B. says to save time, she does the majority of her shopping online — her clothes and household necessities.
“It really is as simple as giving your email address,” she says. “It’s kind of a no-brainer.”
Paribus monitors more than 25 retailers, including Target, Walmart and Home Depot, and has found more than $29 million in savings for customers.
One last perk: If your guaranteed Amazon shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated.
Disclosure: Paribus compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide.
7. This Research Company Could Pay You $225 This Month
What if we told you a research company would pay you to watch cooking videos on your computer?
It’s too good to be true, right?
But we’re serious. InboxDollars will pay you to watch short video clips online. One minute you might watch someone bake brownies and the next you might get the latest updates on Kardashian drama.
All you have to do is choose which videos you want to watch and answer a few quick questions about them afterward.
No, InboxDollars won’t make you rich, but it’s something easy you can do while you’re already on the couch tonight wasting time on your phone. Plus, it’s extra money you can put toward paying down your student loan debt. Everything helps.
InboxDollars won’t completely pay off your student loans, but it’s possible to earn up to $225 per month watching these videos.
It’s already paid its users more than $56 million.
It takes about one minute to sign up, and you’ll immediately get a $5 bonus to get you started.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]r.com) is a senior writer at Codetic.