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How to slay your student debt years ahead of schedule

You don’t have to live with that pesky, lingering student loan forever. You can crush debt instead of letting it crush you.

As a financial coach, I’ve seen many of my clients pay off their debts faster than they thought possible. In fact, one of my clients paid off her student loan eight years ahead of schedule by using some of my easy tips and tricks. Interested? Here’s how you can graduate from debt for good.

Stash cash

The first step to paying off student debt actually starts with saving for a rainy day.  No matter how you slice it, there will come a time when you’ll need a little extra to help you out of an emergency financial situation. If you don’t have anything put aside, you may need an emergency loan. That’s why a rainy day fund is key: You’re trying to pay off debt, not rack up more of it!  To start tackling your student loan as soon as possible, save at least one month’s worth of basic living expenses, including the cost of housing, groceries, transportation, and utilities.

What to do: One of the easiest ways to save a month’s expenses quickly is to try a no-spend challenge by eliminating a specific category of spending from your lifestyle for awhile. My husband and I recently stopped eating out for month and we were able to put a sizeable sum in our basic emergency fund.

Embrace spreadsheets

The fastest way to eliminate that student loan is to give it all you’ve got! This requires some real-talk with yourself about your spending. How much you do you actually need to live? Think rent, utility bills, transportation costs, and basic groceries and household items. Now subtract these essentials from your monthly income. The difference? That is what you can really contribute to your monthly debt repayment.

What to do: Use a zero based monthly budgeting template to allocate a dollar amount to your most basic living costs, and then throw any extra from your monthly income towards your debt balance.

Prioritize payments

Not all loans are the same. In fact, federal, provincial and private loans have different interest rates and payment terms. High interest charges stack up fast and can significantly increase the size of your debt over a short period of time. That’s why it’s critical to create a repayment plan that minimizes the amount of interest you pay: You’ll save money overall and climb out of debt faster.

What to do: Prevent high interest charges from accumulating by prioritizing loan repayments for higher interest loans first. Generally, loans from private lenders or lines of credit have high interest (plus, the interest charges are not tax deductible) so they are good place to start. Next, compare interest rates on your provincial and federal loans.

Stay humble

You should definitely celebrate your financial success, but you don’t have to celebrate by blowing your whole paycheque!  People often fall into the trap of lifestyle inflation by spending more money when their income increases. Try to avoid this mistake by keeping your living costs low as your income goes up over time. If you get a job straight out of school, don’t drastically (and expensively) change your life. You’ll end up with more in the bank when it’s all said and done if you pay off debt first.

What to do: Avoid the temptation to overspend on purchases like a new TV or car. If you’ve got a roommate, keep them around a little longer and you’ll potentially save thousands.  Remember, student loan repayment is the goal.


Paying off that pesky student loan fast will require focus, but the sooner you get started, the better. Build a safety net, plan, prioritize, and keep your spending simple so that you can throw more at that student loan and be free of debt, forever.