When I first finished university in January 2020, it seemed like I had years to go before I could pay off 40K of student loans. However, a year and a half later in 2021, I did it (more details here)!
For someone who lacked financial education and had no RESPs or anything, this was a huge milestone for me. Even though I was a serious spender throughout university and blew over $20K on my final semester in Singapore, I picked up on some important learnings and habits that I want to share with any students who are facing similar circumstances.
Today, let’s get into 7 ways for you to pay off your student loans ASAP!
Set up auto-payments
I did this as soon as I started working full-time because I didn’t want to forget paying off my loans every month. Since I had just moved across the country and needed to pay for new expenses like rent and car insurance, I determined that $1K was manageable within my budget.
Every month, the money would come out of my account without any interference and it was like it didn’t even exist (it’s better this way than having to manually say goodbye to money each month 🥲).
Take advantage of interest-free periods
Due to COVID-19, our government put a pause on interest for our student loans. This was nice, and gave me an opportunity to assess whether I should start paying or do something else with the money.
The latter option meant putting the funds into a Wealthsimple TFSA account, where I saw decent returns month-over-month. Then, once the interest-free period was up, I could withdraw the money and pay off my loans.
Side Note: My partner chose a different approach, where he started paying off student loans with money from his part-time job while he was still in school. He still ended up paying off his loans in full after the 6 month grace period.
Make lump sum payments when you have extra cash
Think about when your birthdays, bonuses, or events like Lunar New Year come around—these are moments when you will get an extra influx of cash flow. While you may be tempted to splurge on something nice, I would encourage you to think twice and use that money to pay off your student loans instead.
Personally, I used my bonuses from work to make lump sum payments towards my student loans. If your line of work doesn’t offer bonuses, perhaps think about the extra cash that you may get from stat holidays or over-time.
Borrow money from your parents interest-free
In Alberta, our student loan disbursements came from both our provincial and federal government. Our federal loans charged interest upon graduation, while our provincial loans had a 6 month grace period. Since I had just come back from Singapore and didn’t have the funds to pay off my federal loans right away, I borrowed $11K from my Mom to pay it off and avoid interest. I cleared my debt to her in late 2021 when we were putting money towards the down payment of our new home.
Get an internship
Personally, becoming a co-op student and landing a 12 month internship was one of the best things I did in university. Aside from gaining valuable work experience, I was also making a full-time salary. After I completed my internship, I continued working part-time as a contractor for the rest of my degree. Even with my questionable spending habits at the time, I managed to save up enough money to self-fund my exchange to Singapore.
Find a mentor
I definitely would not be where I am today without the advice from my incredible mentors. Although I didn’t originally seek out a “money mentor”, many of them answered my questions about personal finance when I admitted that I knew nothing about the topic.
From personal experience, a great mentor acknowledges that they aren’t a financial expert and will encourage you to do your own research to determine what’s best for you. However, they will be open to sharing their own perspectives and experiences with you.
Fortunately, there are tons of resources out there on the topic of personal finance. From books to podcasts and TikTok, you’re sure to find a resource that you like learning from. I recommend reading I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi, which was recommended by one of my mentors. Although it is geared for those who are in the U.S., the general advice and best practices are applicable to anyone.
I also follow Making Sense of Cents, who has 300K+ readers and talks about making money, saving money, and starting your own blog.
The fact that you took the time to read this is already a big step! Now, you just need to get started by continuing to educate yourself and developing a plan. Figure out how much you can put away each month and automate pre-payments. Then, if you get a bonus or extra cash, try to contribute a lump sum towards your student loans.
If you don’t feel financially secure yet, try to adopt some of these best practices and see if your parents would be willing to lend you some money to pay off your loans. You can then decide on a plan to slowly pay them back each month without interest.
Always keep learning. It’s never too early to start thinking about your financial wellbeing. Even if you think it’s “too late”, remember that your actions today will slowly add up and become your wealth tomorrow. Best of luck and stay tuned for more personal finance content!
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