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If you have student loans, it can feel like you’ll never get rid of them. The average time to repay student loans is 21.1 years, though the exact amount of time will vary depending on your loan balance and repayment plan.

However, there are ways to potentially pay off your loans more quickly — in five years, for example. This could save you money on interest over time and free you from debt faster.

Here’s how to pay off student loans in five years:

  1. Create a budget
  2. Cut expenses
  3. Take up a side-hustle
  4. Consider refinancing your loan

1. Create a budget

Making a budget can help you get a handle on your expenses and figure out how much extra money you can afford to pay each month toward your student loan debt.

If you haven’t created a budget before — or if yours is long overdue for an update — follow these steps:

  1. List all of your current fixed expenses. For example, this might include rent, utilities, car payments, and your minimum student loan payments.
  2. Review your recent bank and credit card statements. This will let you see what you typically spend on non-essentials, like entertainment or dining out.
  3. Calculate how much extra you can pay toward your student loans. Add your expenses together to figure out how much you spend each month, and subtract this amount from your income. The result is what you can afford to put toward your loans to speed up your repayment.

How much you can put toward your student loans each month will ultimately determine how quickly you can pay them off.

You can estimate how long it’ll take to pay off your student loan debt using the calculator below. Use the slider to see how increasing your payments could help you meet your five-year payoff goal.

Enter loan information

Total Payment

Total Interest

Monthly Payment

If you increase your payments by
monthly on your
loan at
you will pay
a month and pay off your loan by
Jan 2021.

Does refinancing make sense for you?
Compare offers from top refinancing lenders to determine your actual savings.

Check Personalized Rates

Checking rates won’t affect your credit score.

Check Out: Private Student Loan Consolidation

2. Cut expenses

If you want to pay off your student loans in five years but don’t have a lot of extra cash in your budget, look for areas where you could cut your expenses.

Here are a few common ways to potentially trim your costs:

  • Cook at home. In 2019, the average consumer spent $3,526 on food eaten away from home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But if you plan your meals and bring your lunch to work instead, you could save money. For example, if you skip three $30 restaurant meals a month, you could put an additional $1,080 per year toward your loans over the course of a year.
  • Get a roommate. The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the U.S. is $1,865. If you got one roommate and split the cost, you could free up over $900 each month.
  • Rent a smaller apartment. If you don’t want to live with a roommate, consider downsizing your apartment instead. The average one-bedroom apartment is $267 less per month than a two-bedroom, and you might save even more with a studio apartment. Plus, you’ll likely be able to cut your costs for utilities.
  • Quit the gym. A typical gym membership costs $58 per month. If you cancel your membership and work out at home instead, you could save $696 per year.
  • Cut down on clothing costs. The average person spends $1,883 on apparel and services each year. Consider shopping secondhand at thrift stores, consignment shops, or online resale sites like Poshmark to trim this expense — for example, if you cut your clothing costs in half, you might save $941 per year.
  • Cancel streaming services. Between Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+, and other streaming services, your monthly subscription fees can end up costing more than cable. If you have multiple streaming services, cut down to just one or two favorites. For example, if you drop Netflix and HBO Max, you could save about $23 per month — $276 per year.

While you might not be able to cut all of these expenses, trimming your costs in even just one or two areas could still get you significant results.

Learn More: Federal Student Loan Repayment Calculator

3. Take up a side-hustle

Getting a raise or even a new job could give an immediate boost to your income, but this might be hard to do. If you need to earn extra money more quickly, consider picking up a side hustle, such as:

Check Out: Pros and Cons of Consolidating Student Loans

4. Consider refinancing your loan

If you have high-interest student loans, you might be able to reduce your interest rate through student loan refinancing, depending on your credit.

With a lower rate, more of your monthly payment will chip away at the loan principal. This could help you save money on interest and pay off your loans faster.

Keep in mind that opting for a shorter loan term through refinancing could also get you a lower interest rate. It’s usually a good idea to choose the shortest term that you can afford to save the most on interest over time.

How much refinancing could save you

The table below shows how much someone might save if they had the average student loan debt of $33,654 and refinanced to a lower interest rate and shorter term.

In this case, refinancing the student loans could save the borrower $6,325 over time — and would get them out of debt five years faster.

 Original 10-year loan5-year refinanced loan
Monthly payment$370$635
Total interest$10,777$4,452
Total amount repaid$44,431$38,106
Keep in mind: While you can refinance federal student loans as well as private student loans, keep in mind that refinancing federal student loans will cost you your federal benefits and protections. These include access to income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs.

However, if you can greatly reduce the interest rate on a federal student loan, refinancing might still be worth it. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the risk.

If you decide to refinance your student loans, be sure to consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for you. Credible makes this easy — you can compare your prequalified rates from our partner lenders in the table below in two minutes.

LenderFixed rates from (APR)Variable rates from (APR)Loan terms (years)Loan amounts
advantage education loan consolidation4.54%+N/A10, 15, 20$7,500 up to up to $200,000
(larger balances require special approval)
brazos student loan refinancing2.95%+1.90%+5, 7, 10, 15, 20$10,000 up to $250,000
(depending on degree)
citizens bank student loans2.97%+¹1.99%+¹5, 7, 10, 15, 20$10,000 to $500,000
(depending on degree and loan type)
college ave student loans3.34%+23.24%+25, 7, 10, 12, 15, 20$5,000 to $300,000
(depending on degree type)
edvestinu student loan consolidation4.41%+52.03%+510, 15, 20$7,500 to $200,000
elfi student loans2.79%+32.39%+35, 7, 10, 12, 15, 20Minimum of $15,000
mefa refinancing3.47%+42.47%+45, 10, 15, 20$5,000 – $250,000
invested refinancing3.05%+3.05%+7, 10, 15$10,000 up to the total amount of qualified education debt
penfed purefy student loan consolidation2.99%+2.17%+5, 8, 12, 15$7,500 to $300,000
rhode island student loan authority refinancing3.19%+N/A5, 10, 15$7,500 up to $250,000
(depending on highest degree earned)
sofi refinancing2.99%+52.25%+55, 7, 10, 15, 20$5,000 up to the full balance of your qualified education loans
Compare personalized rates from multiple lenders without affecting your credit score. 100% free!
Compare Now

All APRs reflect autopay and loyalty discounts where available | 1Citizens Bank Disclosures | 2College Ave Disclosures | 3 ELFI Disclosures | 4INvestEd Disclosures | 5SoFi Disclosures

How to pay off $30k in 5 years

If you want to pay off $30,000 in student loans with the average 5.8% interest rate, you’d have to pay $577 per month to get rid of your debt within five years. In total, you’d pay $34,632 over the life of your loan.

Loan amount$30,000
Repayment term5 years
Total interest$4,632
Total repayment$34,632

Tip: Refinancing your student loans might get you a lower interest rate, which could help you pay off your loans even faster.

If you decide to refinance, remember to consider as many lenders as you can to find the right loan for your needs. This is easy with Credible — you can compare your prequalified rates from our partner lenders below in two minutes.

Learn More: Private Student Loan Forgiveness Alternatives

How to pay off $50k in 5 years

To pay off $50,000 in student loans with a 5.8% interest rate in five years, you’d have to pay $962 per month. By the end of your repayment term, you’d pay a total of $57,720.

Loan amount$50,000
Repayment term5 years
Total interest$7,720
Total repayment$57,720

Check Out: Standard Repayment Plan: 10 Years of Student Loan Payments

How to pay off $200k in 5 years

If you want to pay off $200,000 in student loan debt in five years, you’ll have to put a lot more toward your loans each month to meet your goal.

With the same 5.8% interest rate, for example, you’d have to pay $3,848 per month and would repay a total of $230,879.

Loan amount$200,000
Repayment term5 years
Total interest$30,879
Total repayment$230,879

Keep in mind that refinancing your student loan debt could help you save money on interest and potentially pay off your loans more quickly.

You can use our calculator below to see how much you can save by refinancing your student loans.

Step 1. Enter your loan balance

Step 2. Enter current loan information

Step 3. Enter your new loan information to start calculating your savings

Lifetime Savings
Increased Lifetime Cost

New Monthly Payment

Monthly Savings
Increased Monthly Cost

If you refinance your student loan at
interest rate, you
can save
will pay an additional
monthly and pay off your loan by
The total cost of the new loan will be

Does refinancing make sense for you?
Compare offers from top refinancing lenders to determine your actual savings.

Check Personalized Rates

Checking rates won’t affect your credit score.

Keep Reading: How to Pay Off $100,000+ in Student Loans

About the author

Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a contributor to Credible who covers everything from student loans to personal loans to mortgages. Her work has appeared in publications like the Huffington Post, Money Magazine, MarketWatch, Business Insider, and more.

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