Clever Ways to Get a Jumpstart on Your Student Loans in 2021

In the United States, conventional wisdom tells us that we won’t be successful in life without a college degree. And while that might not be entirely true, even entry-level positions require formal education. This has forced millions of Americans to take on student loans in order to pursue an undergraduate degree — and that means countless residents are now stuck with massive debt for the foreseeable future.

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, certain debts have taken a backseat to more pressing financial matters. Thanks to the federal moratorium on student loans, many graduates have gotten a much-needed break from making their student loan payments. In fact, a CNBC report from October 2020 found that just 11% of people with federal student loans were still paying down their debts during this health crisis. And while we do know that President-Elect Biden has pledged to extend the existing moratorium in order to provide monetary relief during a time of immense stress, it’s not yet clear whether the terms will remain the same as the existing moratorium or how long this extension will last. And even if the extension is favorable for borrowers, that doesn’t mean your student loan debt is being eliminated just yet.

With that in mind, it may be time to strategize and figure out how you can pay back what you owe. If you’re currently unemployed, you might be more concerned about how you’ll eat or pay your rent. But if you have plans to buy a home, intend to start a family, or simply want to do everything possible to eliminate this source of financial stress, it’s worth figuring out how to pay down those debts — without holding out for a winning lottery ticket or gambling at one of the 104 casinos that operate in the Las Vegas valley. Here are just a handful of clever options you might want to consider to get a jumpstart on paying back your student loans in 2021.

Do It For Science

Figuring out how to make extra money during a pandemic can be tough, but there’s usually cash to be found in the medical or scientific fields. It’s important to consider the potential consequences of becoming involved in medical trials, research studies, or donating something like plasma or sperm — but if you determine that this choice will help you reach your goals while helping others, it may be a good option. Generally speaking, you should talk to your doctor first to minimize any potential risks. But as long as you’re given the go-ahead, you could create a more comfortable financial cushion for yourself in a relatively short time.

Pick Up a Side Gig

Not into the idea of donating blood or becoming a medical guinea pig? You could find a more conventional side hustle. Given that nearly 50% of physicians leave their employers due to either contract loopholes or low compensation, you definitely won’t be the only one on the hunt for a lucrative second job. You could deliver groceries and takeout, become an online tutor, open an internet storefront, or put your quarantine skills to good use through a platform like UpWork or Fiverr. This can allow you to earn some extra income without stretching yourself too thin. That said, you could always apply for a job with an employer that offers student debt assistance — if you’re lucky enough to find an opening during this time.

Ask For a Discount

Some people think it’s tacky to ask for a discount on products or services, but others would argue that it’s just plain smart. If Googling for promo codes isn’t an option, contact a customer service representative and inquire whether you might be eligible to save some money. In some cases, you just might not know until you ask. Some companies will offer discounts if you’re a AAA member or if you served in the military. You might also be eligible for a lower rate from one of the 5,965 insurance companies operating in the U.S. if you make healthy lifestyle choices or have been proven to be a safe driver. If you are granted a discount, remember to put the difference toward paying off your loans! That way, you won’t be tempted to spend it on something frivolous.

Find Affordable Housing

More Americans are renting now than at any other time in history — and because housing prices are skyrocketing, being able to afford rent is already tough. If your financial situation has changed during the pandemic or you’re realizing how important it is to have a bit of a cushion, you may need to rethink your current living environment and how much it costs. If you can move a bit outside the city center without increasing transportation costs, that may help keep rent more feasible. And if you have more space than you need or you’re not opposed to living with roommates, downsizing or sharing the rent may make things more affordable and allow you to pay off your loans more quickly. During a pandemic, couch-surfing or living a vagabond lifestyle really isn’t feasible. But if your parents are in a position to let you move back home, you might be able to save a lot more toward your loans while providing them with assistance (and social interaction) during a tough time.

Give Up Alcohol

During COVID-19, a lot of us have turned to booze to make things seem better. In fact, alcohol sales skyrocketed when Americans first became acquainted with the concept of quarantine. But now that we’re approaching our first pandemic-versary, it might be time to think about cutting back. Not only will you look and feel better by giving up alcohol, but you could potentially save hundreds of dollars every month. Making a healthy lifestyle change is enough of a reward on its own, of course. But if aren’t going out to bars or ordering your alcohol online, you could be that much closer to financial freedom.

Apply For Forgiveness

Many people are holding out for federal student loan forgiveness, but there are some programs that already provide forgiveness for student loans. There are programs for farmers, new residents of Kansas and Niagara Falls, clinicians, volunteers, would-be veterinarians, government workers, and others to apply for student loan financial relief. If any of these options already sounded attractive to you, it’s worth looking into whether you might be eligible to receive some assistance while you pursue your dreams.

Student loans are an unfortunate part of life for millions of Americans. But there are ways to make repaying your debts more feasible. With these tips in mind, you may be able to make some headway on what you owe without making a major sacrifice.

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