You don’t have to starve on ramen noodles to get rid of those darn law school loans. Life is about living, not depriving yourself to the point where you’re constantly worried about money and are never able to dig yourself out of debt. Now I’m not condemning the pauper lifestyle because there are people who can handle it. I just personally believe in creating a balance and know that I would be miserable if I couldn’t indulge every once in awhile.
There are two obvious methods of paying off debt – either cut down spending and/or make more money. Depending on your personality, you’re probably better at practicing one over the other. I already cut down spending in certain areas but here I’d like to discuss some easy tips and tricks for “making” extra money. I say “making” because it’s technically money that you already have or could be saving but don’t realize that it can be squirreled away toward your loans.
Set your monthly payment on automatic withdrawal.
At least with the federal Stafford loans, you get a reduced interest rate if you sign up for automatic withdrawal payments from a bank account. For example, my 6.8% interest rate is now 6.55%, which isn’t a huge reduction but every tenth counts toward less interest accrued on your loans. Plus, the automatic withdrawal forces you to treat your monthly payments like a fixed cost or regular bill. On top of the automatic payment, you’re free to make additional payments throughout the month as you come into extra money, in as little or large of an amount, with no penalty.
Make a jar of change and see how much you’ve collected at the end of the month.
Nobody likes having a ton of loose change. Try dumping your coins into a jar on a regular basis and see how much is there at the end of the month. You may be surprised at how easily those coins add up! Deposit said change into your bank account and make this one of your additional loan payments to help reduce the balance.
Apply for your law school’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP).
Continue to take advantage of your school’s resources as an alumnus. Many law schools offer LRAP to their graduates who are working in the non-profit or public sector and/or making below a set income. The best part is that the assistance is free. As in, you receive a “loan” for the year that doesn’t have to be paid back unless your financial situation improves so that your amount of assistance should be decreased. The amount given by the school is determined by your income, any prior debt, your required monthly loan payments, and marital status. Unfortunately, LRAP doesn’t take living in a high cost area into consideration. The goal of LRAP is to ensure that you can afford to make your loan payments while having a decent quality of life. So don’t delay and apply to your law school’s LRAP today if it has one.
Do a side hustle that inures to one of your non-law talents.
If you’re not working in BigLaw, chances are that you might have some free time on your hands. Bring in some extra income with a part-time or freelance job that is convenient to you. Are you a math or science whiz? Tutoring in these areas is always high in demand. Love cats or dogs? Sign up for a paid fostering program or babysit pets while their owners are out of town. Hobbies like web design or photography also pay off. The possibilities are endless if you put
your mind to it. And who knows, your side hustle could end up turning into a cash cow and full-time business where you exit the law completely.
Sell items on eBay that you don’t need
Speaking of extra income, selling on eBay is simple and a good way to de-clutter your home while getting some money out of it. Anything new, unused, or valuable that’s worth selling is fair game. I’ve been able to sell clothing and shoes on eBay, with money from the sales going directly toward my loans. Plus eBay has this re-listing function that lets you list your item again with one click if it doesn’t sell the first time, so you just need to spend time on composing one listing per item.
Use the cash back checks from your credit cards to make additional loan payments.
If you’re an avid credit card user, a cash back card is an easy cache for “making” extra money. Yes, you have to spend money to earn money, but that’s inevitable during your daily routine. Depending on the credit card, you can get 1% cash back on all purchases and up to 5% on other specified purchases. All that cash will add up to a nice check to use toward paying down your loans.
See, you can be lazy AND smart about paying off your law school loans. If you have other tips and tricks that I should know, please leave a comment below. Remember to enjoy life and pay down your debt at the same time.
Sunny Choi is the 2013 Writers in Residence Coordinator for Ms. JD. She is a former participant in the Writers in Residence program, where her monthly column Legally Thrifty focused on beginners personal finance advice for law students and professionals. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, she currently practices commercial litigation and creditors’ rights while freelance writing and blogging in her spare time. She can be reached at [email protected]