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Your student loans might feel like a life sentence, but they don't have to be. Whether you want to repay your loans in 6 months or pay them off a few years early, here are some tips to help you accelerate your repayment and become debt free sooner.

Pay Attention to Interest Rates

If you want to get out of debt quickly, then you need to know your interest rates. If you focus your extra payments towards paying off the loans with the highest interest rates first, you can repay your debt faster and save money on interest.

Top Up Your Payments

Putting just $50 or $100 more towards your payment each month can make a difference in shortening the time it takes you to repay your loans. If you have a student loan of $25,000 on a 10-year term that you’re paying 7 per cent interest on, you can pay off your loan in 8.1 years and save $2,051 in interest by paying just $50 extra per month. If you pay $100 extra per month, you could pay off your loan in 6.8 years and save $3,400 in interest!

Pay Interest While in School

Some loans have deferral options, meaning you are not required to pay anything towards the interest or principal during a certain period of time. Whenever your loans are in deferral, such as when you’re in school, interest adds up and increases the balance of your loans. If you pay just that interest while you’re in school, then you’ll have less to repay once you leave.

Get Your Thrifty On

Remember when your parents put some change each night into a jar for a Disney vacation? Do the same thing with your student loans! Take a look at your budget and find ways to save money, then direct any savings towards your debt. Start first by tackling your biggest expenses. See if you can negotiate a better deal for your cell phone, internet, or cable, or make your coffee at home rather than buying it. If you get creative, are willing to do-it-yourself, and make some small sacrifices, you could end up having a couple hundred dollars extra to put towards your loans each month.

Get a Side Hustle

While scrimping and saving can help you repay your student debt, a faster strategy may be to increase your income and use that additional money to repay your loan. Consider driving for Uber, freelancing or tutoring. Find ways to make extra cash that can go towards reducing your loan balance.

Ask for Help

If you’re having a birthday or a graduation party, ask people to consider chipping in to help you repay your student loans rather than buying you gifts. Getting married? People are now asking guests to make a contribution to help them repay their student loans in lieu of gifts.

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Use Your Tax Credits

Did you know that you can claim the interest you pay on your government student loans on your tax return? If not, you may be missing out on some good tax breaks. To repay your loans faster, claim the interest and then put the money you get back towards repaying your student loans.

You can also use your tuition, educational and textbooks credits from when you were attending school to help repay your loans. While you might not have been making enough income while in school to benefit from the deduction, you can carry forward the claims. This can lead to tax refunds after graduation. Those refunds can also be used to repay your loans. It’s always a good idea to talk to an accountant or tax specialist so you can maximize your deductions.

Ask Your Employer to Help

Your degree benefits your employer – so why shouldn’t they help you repay your debt? That’s the idea behind student loan repayment assistance benefits – where companies chip in money to help their employees pay off their student debt. If your company doesn’t participate, send your company’s Human Resources department information about how these programs help with recruitment and retention of millennial employees.

Don’t Stress

Student debt can be a big source of stress for graduates. The next time you feel overwhelmed by your student loans, take a breath and think about how you can be proactive and take steps to help you reduce and get rid of your debt for good. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance from family, friends or a financial advisor either. Lastly, check out this article for tips on approaching your debt situation or this debt reduction calculator.