Along with a diploma and the right to put “J.D.” after your name, chances are you also graduated from law school with some significant student loan debt.
Unlike those first two things, however, the debt likely drags you down.
If you’re like most of us, you’d prefer to get rid of your law school loans as soon as possible. But that can be hard when you’re balancing a demanding workplace with the ever-increasing cost of living.
Yes, paying down loans quickly is challenging—but it’s possible. Here are some of the top strategies for paying off your law school student loans fast.
Move in With Your Parents
No, it’s not ideal … but neither is spending a big chunk of your salary on rent when you could be putting it toward your loans. Let’s say you take home about $5,000 a month in salary. If you committed 30% of your salary (the amount most people use for rent) to your loans, that’s $18,000 that you could pay off in a single year. Aside from winning the lottery, there aren’t many easier ways to pay down big portions of your debt than that. This option won’t work for everyone, but if you have a good relationship with your parents, it’s worth considering. While you might incur a little ribbing from friends, they’ll likely be wishing they were in your shoes in a few years when you’re debt-free and they’re still staring down years of monthly payments.
Live on Less
If moving back home with Mom and Dad isn’t going to happen (and even if it is), trimming your budget can help you aggressively repay your loans. Start by creating a budget and making cuts everywhere you can. Perhaps you could live in a cheaper apartment, move in with a roommate, or give up cable—be creative. Then, take the amount you cut from your budget and use it toward your loans every month. We know scrimping and saving can be tough when you’re working long hours like many young lawyers, so be sure to find ways to make your hard work feel worth it, even while you’re saving.
Use All “Extra Money” to Pay Loans
You likely receive sums of money throughout the year that aren’t your salary, like a bonus, your tax refund, or cash gifts. You may receive chunks of unexpected money in other ways, too, but do you have a plan for how to responsibly handle these cash infusions? How do you usually handle them? It can be tempting to convert this money into a splurge opportunity, but if you have debts, the best thing you can buy yourself is the piece of mind and financial freedom that comes with eliminating personal debt.
Find a Side-Hustle
We recognize this might not be realistic for lawyers working, say, 80-hour weeks at a firm. But if you’re the kind of attorney with time for a job on the side, you have a great opportunity to supplement your income. You can take whatever you earn and apply it to your law school loan debt. Whether you’re able to do some legal consulting work on the side or you can tutor law students for the bar, even a few hours’ worth of work a week can help you make a dent in your loan balance.
Take a PSLF-Qualified Job
Are you a public defender? Do you work in-house for a not-for-profit? If you have a job that qualifies, you might be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. What that means is, the government might forgive the remaining balance of your law school student loans after you have made 120 monthly payments. This isn’t a great way to pay off loans ASAP after graduation (having made 120 monthly payments means you’re at least 10 years from your first payment), but it is a way to quickly get rid of your remaining student loan debt after you’ve been paying it off for years. Check online to see if you qualify.
The average law school student graduates with more than $100,000 in student loan debt—so you’re definitely not alone if you’re hoping to pay down your debt fast. Unfortunately, it’s most likely going to take discipline and sacrifice to do so, but one thing we know from lawyers who’ve done it is this: It’s worth it.