When I graduated from college in 2005 (I know, I’m positively ancient), I consolidated my $20,000 in student loans. Back then, consolidating fixed your interest rate at whatever the set interest rate for that time period was.

On the bright side, I locked in a lower interest rate. The downside? It extended my repayment period from 10 to 20 years. At the time, I didn’t understand how this meant I would pay much more interest on my loan. Now, I know better.

I wish I was writing today about how I had finally paid my loans off. That isn’t the case (though I am getting close!). I did want to share how I have cut that 20-year loan down to about 13 years—and how you can slice your repayment period, too.

Pay More

When we advise you to pay more each month—any amount—it’s because it does make a difference. Thankfully, I’ve progressed in my career and can now afford larger payments. I consistently double my student loan payments.

That significant increase is allowing me to cut my repayment period almost in half, but extra payments don’t have to be so dramatic. You can see how much a little extra per month can cut down on what you pay overall by changing the loan term in this calculator.

My Secret

If I’m being honest, I must admit I’m not doubling my monthly payments by myself. I have an incentive other than cutting down on how much I’ll pay overall: My employer reimburses me up to $2,400 per year in student loan payments, which breaks down to $200 per month.

Unfortunately, only 4% of employers have this type of benefit—even though a growing number of employees consider this benefit to be superior to retirement contributions. If you’re interested in this benefit, but your employer does not offer it, reach out to your human resources department to ask if they’ve considered it.

Best Practices

Even if your employer doesn’t offer this benefit, you can still take simple steps to repay your loans successfully. For instance, you can enroll in automatic payments, and if you want to pay down your student loans faster, set up those payments for more than the required amount each month.

I know, easier said than done, right? But you can cushion the hit to your wallet by taking a percentage of any raises you receive at work and putting them toward your student loan contributions. This way, when you get a raise, you will still see more money in your paycheck while increasing your payments.

Another idea is to take any birthday or gift money given to you and put it directly toward your student loans. This money likely isn’t worked into your budget, so you shouldn’t miss it.

A modern method is to use an app like ChangEd, which rounds your purchases up to the nearest dollar. That rounded amount then goes toward payments on your student loans. The idea is that just a small amount can make a big difference over time.

Looking for some additional motivation to pay off your debt? Salt members can find out three ways to kick-start their debt repayment strategy. Not a member? Join now—it's free!