Millennials are burdened with student loan debt more than any other generation. We carry an average of $32,731 in student loan debt after graduation. And with interest rates fluctuating, it’s no wonder we can’t seem to make a dent in the principal.
If you want to get out of student loan debt FAST, here’s what you do: make your minimum payment like normal. Then go back in and make an extra payment, only this time manually select which loan you want to apply your extra payment to. I’m going to show you how to do this using an example in Great Lakes, but you can easily do this with another student loan servicer.
Why this method is great for paying down student loan debt
I made the mistake of applying my extra payment towards all of my student loans instead of a specific loan for most of my debt free journey. I hate to admit that, because I did a pretty good job of paying down the debt in a short amount of time. The problem with doing that is it doesn’t knock down student loan debt fast enough.
If you focus on a single loan inside of your student loan servicer platform, you can easily gain momentum.
Log in to Great Lakes
Log in to your account with Great Lakes and find the button that says “Make a payment.” This should work with other providers, so log in to your own account and look for a similar button.
Next, you are going to checkmark the box next to the student loans you want to make an extra payment towards. In the Great Lakes example, they lump all of the Stafford Loans together, but you will allocate your extra payment towards a specific loan in the next step.
Make sure you select “Other type” for your payment type and then type in the pay amount you want. It can be as small as $10 bucks, or you can slap a couple hundred dollars (like most of my Budget Bootcamp students do) towards the debt!
I think this is really fun because you can do this on a one-time occurrence so you can change the extra payment amount to whatever you can afford for that month. So if you create some extra income or pick up a side-hustle and make a few bucks, you can add it towards your student loan debt payment.
When paying student loan debt inside of Great Lakes, make sure you hit “Other amount” so you can make that extra payment!
Standard allocation versus custom allocation
If you are using Great Lakes, make sure you set your extra payment as the custom allocation, not standard.
One thing I want to note here, Great Lakes make you think that custom allocation is not a good idea. Underneath the drop down menu, they list that the standard allocation is the most common and custom allocation is the least common method.
It really pisses me off (yes, my language is getting PG-13 because I’m passionate about this) because they want you to make that extra payment across all loans, which is much slower than allocating it towards a specific loan.
If you use the standard allocation, what Great Lakes will do is apply your extra payment towards any outstanding interest first and then they will apply it to the loan with the highest interest rate. The problem is if you are anything like the thousands of millennials with student loan debt, you most likely have multiple student loans with the same interest rate. So how do you know your extra payment will be applied to the right loan?
You will always have outstanding interest as long as you have student loan debt.
I’m going to repeat myself to make this clear to you: when you choose standard allocation, your extra payment will be applied towards any outstanding interest first and principal second. Paying interest does not make a dent in your student loan debt. Paying the principal does.
Whether you are using debt avalanche or the debt snowball method, you have got to make your extra payments towards a single loan. It is much more effective and motivating to do this debt free journey by attacking one loan at a time.
Being a debt free millennial is not common, so if you are with me you will choose the least common method with is custom allocation. *steps off soap box.*
Make sure you check the box “I’d like to review and allocate my excess payment while scheduling my payment.”
See what I mean? This is ridiculous, but luckily they can’t outsmart you!
And now for the fun part
Click “Continue” and then you can select which loan you want to pay off with your extra funds. If you want to avoid paying more interest, you can apply your extra payment towards the loan with the highest interest rate AND highest balance. To me, that would make the most sense if you wanted to avoid paying more interest.
But, if you want to do it like I did, you can apply your extra payment towards the loan with the smallest outstanding balance. This is debt snowball working its magic. I found it highly motivating and encouraging while I was paying off $35,000 in student loan debt.
Select which loan you want to pay off inside of your student loan servicer platform.
Start attacking your student loan debt one at a time
In this Great Lakes example, if I was paying off the debt using the debt snowball method, I would focus on the student loan with the $73.80 balance remaining.
Otherwise, if you were doing debt avalanche, go for the $4,017.01 one. Keep in mind, your extra payment may rotate to another loan as your balances lower over time.
Great Lakes gives you the option to split up your excess pay allocation into percentages. I would not do this. Simply because that moves you right back towards that standard allocation method which is what I would avoid.
If I allocate an extra payment towards a specific loan, won’t I accrue interest on the other loans?
Yes. But the idea is you will be quickly motivated to pay it off. It’s more effective to pay off single loans versus trying to pay all of them down at the same time. This is honestly the best hack when it comes to DIY’ing your student loan debt. I’m curious to know if you have tried this method and if not, why not?! It has the potential to really accelerate your debt free journey.
If you are just starting to pay off debt and not sure where to start, check out my online course on how to become debt free.