Eight surprising ways to pay off your student loans

Student loan debt may be higher for Millennials than previous generations, but there are ample options to help pay them off. Think outside the box with these surprising ways to help pay off student loans. 

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File
House of Representatives, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, center, and GOP leaders talk about the politics of federal student loan rates which doubled on July 1, at the Capitol in Washington (July 8, 2015). Student loan debt has ballooned over the past years for new graduates.

If you went to college, chances are you have student loan debt. Personally, I'm on the 20-year payback plan, and while I'm comfortable with my payments now that two out of three loans are paid in full, the first seven to eight years post-college were extremely hard on my wallet. If you're in a similar situation, there may be some relief in your future. Consider these eight surprising ways to pay off your student loan debt a little faster. 

1. Volunteer With SponsorChange.org

When I graduated college, I was 100% job focused. I had to find full-time employment right away to pay my rent, gas, food, bills, and of course, my student loans. The job search took up most of my time, and when I finally landed a position, that took up even more of my time. After making ends meet, I certainly didn't have much time to volunteer for activities I enjoyed or support causes I believed in.

And that right there is what I love about SponsorChange.org. Their mission is to connect volunteers with social impact organizations that provide a $10 to $20 per hour stipend for participation in meaningful skill-based project opportunities. The concept is simple: Organizations list projects on the SponsorChange.org site to attract the talent they need. Volunteers — that's you — can find projects and build their skills doing something they love by earning money that will go directly toward student loans. It's a win-win for everybody, and you don't have to feel one bit guilty about it. 

2. Find Student Employment Through Start Jobs

If you're still in school or even a recent grad, you'll want to check out Start Jobs, an organization that connects students to paying jobs in the field they want to start a career. This allows them to gain the experience necessary to land that first big job right out of college, in turn either taking on less student debt or paying it down faster.

"Start Jobs was ranked by Inc.com as one of the best four websites for college graduates seeking jobs, listed alongside LinkedIn, Indeed, and CareerBuilder, and it's the only site specifically created for current students and recent graduates for the purpose of attacking the ever-expanding student debt crisis," according to Start Jobs Community Manager Bryce Hamlin.

3. Accept Help From Your Post-College Employer

The student loan crisis has gotten so bad in recent years that employers are now stepping up to help their workers pay down debt quicker. Price Waterhouse and Coopers, for instance, recently announced that it would help its junior employees (roughly 46,000 staffers) with paybacks starting next year. Eligible employees will receive $1,200 a year for up to six years for student loans. The money will be paid directly to the loan provider, though it will still count as income for employees.

4. Play Givling, an Online Trivia Game

Givling is a pay-to-play online trivia game that is making crowdfunding interactive and fun. Three months after its launch this past spring, it paid off contestant Kevin Foster's $31,625 loan and it will pay off the next loan in the queue — which amounts to $97,000 — soon. The best part? You don't even have to play the game yourself. You have to sign up, of course, but participation in the trivia games isn't necessary to win.

According to Business Insider, "Separately, trivia gamers sign up and are randomly placed into teams of three. Team members answer true or false questions to rack up points. The highest-scoring funding team is eligible for a $4 million prize. In addition to the large $4 million prize, there are smaller daily prize amounts awarded."

Givling costs $0.50 to play a round and an additional $0.30 for a transaction fee. Players also receive one free game a day.

5. Earn Supplemental Income Through Peer-to-Peer Services

Thanks to the "sharing economy" — which was largely established by the still-growing popularity of peer-to-peer services — you can make extra cash by renting out items you already own, like your home or car, or offering services like dog sitting.

I've rented out a guest bedroom in my home to tourists for the past seven years on Airbnb, and I'm also listed as a dog sitter on DogVacay, in order to bring in extra income. I have a full-time job just like everyone else, and I still have time to manage both of these additional revenue streams. If you have mounting debt from student loans, these peer-to-peer service are a highly effective way of bringing in serious cash — if you're wholly committed to your endeavors' success — that you can put toward your payback.

6. Charge Part of the Balance to a No-Interest Credit Card

It's not the ideal solution to use a credit card to pay down other debts, but if the interest rate makes more sense on plastic than it does from you loan repayment terms, it might be a smart move to make a swipe. 

"Using Great Lakes (a loan provider), we were able to call and make a one-time payment using a credit card," says Douglas Hutchings, who has student-loan debt. "We had an offer for 0% interest for 12 months so we picked an amount that we were confident we could pay over 12 months and charged it to the card. Due to the size of the payment, we also scored a fair amount of credit card rewards points that we plan to use for a future vacation. Between saved interest and credit card points, we came out ahead by over $2,000 for about 60 minutes of 'work.'"

7. Take Out a Loan From Your 401K

Like using a credit card to pay down your student-loan debt, tapping into your 401K shouldn't be the first place you go for extra cash for loan payments. But if it makes sense overall — in saved interest and other benefits — it's not an altogether terrible prospect to consider.

"One of the things I did to jump start the pay down of my substantial student loans was to take out a loan from my 401K, and put the total amount towards the principal on the student loan," says Eric Meerman, a portfolio manager at Palisades Hudson Financial Group. "I then kept paying the same monthly amount on the student loan, in addition to paying back the loan to the 401K. While this is not always the best idea since you don't want to miss out on the market appreciation available to stock investments in your 401K, it worked out for me because the market was virtually flat over the term of the payback period."

8. Live at Home With Your Parents a Little Longer

If mom and dad will have you, live with them a little while longer after college. Chances are they won't charge rent — or at least not as much as you would pay on your own — and you'll get lots of free services (laundry, meals, and more), which will ultimately free up more of your income to pay down your student loan debt. I have a buddy who moved back home at age 26 after a few years on his own because his expenses became too much to handle. There's no shame in it, and many of us (myself included) have been there. 

This article first appeared at Wise Bread.

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