×

Student Loan Repayment: Debt Snowball vs. Debt Avalanche

December 10, 2019

By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been featured in publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. She is focused on helping people pay down their debt and boost their income.

 

To cope with the high cost of college, you likely took out several different student loans. According to Saving For College, the average 2019 graduate left school with eight to 12 different student loans.

 

With so much debt and so many different individual loans, you may be overwhelmed and can’t decide where to start with your repayment. If you want to pay off your loans ahead of schedule, there are two main strategies that financial experts recommend: the debt avalanche and the debt snowball.

 

Here’s how each of these strategies work and how to decide which approach is right for you.

 

The difference between the debt snowball and debt avalanche strategies

Both the debt avalanche and debt snowball methods are strategies for paying off your debt early. However, how they work is quite different.

 

Debt avalanche

With the debt avalanche method, you list all of your student loans from the one with the highest interest rate to the one with the lowest interest rate. You continue making the minimum payments on all of your loans. However, you put any extra money you have toward the loan with the highest interest rate.

 

Under the debt avalanche, you keep making extra payments toward the debt with the highest interest rate. Once that loan is paid off, you roll over that loan’s monthly payment and pay it toward the loan with the next highest interest rate.

 

For example, let’s say you had the following loans:

  • $10,000 Private student loan at 7% interest
  • $15,000 Private student loan at 6.5% interest
  • $5,000 Direct Loan at 4.45% interest

 

In this scenario, you would make extra payments toward the private student loan at 7% interest first with the debt avalanche method. Once that loan was paid off, you’d make extra payments toward the private student loan at 6.5% interest, and then finally you’d tackle the Unsubsidized Direct Loan.

 

Debt snowball

The debt snowball method is more focused on quick wins. With this approach, you list all of your student loans according to their balance, rather than their interest rate. You continue making the minimum payments on all of them, but you put extra money toward the loan with the smallest balance first.

 

Once the smallest loan is paid off, you roll your payment toward the loan with the next lowest balance. You continue this process until all of your debt is paid off.

 

If you had the same loans as in the above example and followed the debt snowball method, you’d pay off the Direct Loan with the $5,000 balance first since it’s the smallest loan. Once that loan was paid off, you’d make extra payments toward the $10,000 private loan, and then you’d pay off the $15,000 private loan.

 

Pros and cons of the debt avalanche method

The debt avalanche strategy has several benefits and drawbacks:

 

Pros

  • You save more in interest: By tackling the highest-interest debt first, you’ll save more money in interest charges over the length of your loan. Compared to the debt snowball method, using the debt avalanche method can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
  • You’ll pay off the loans faster: Because you’re addressing the highest-interest debt first, there’s less time for interest to accrue on the loan. With less interest building, you can pay off your loans much earlier.

 

Cons

  • You don’t see results as quickly: Because you’re tackling the debt with the highest interest rate rather than the smallest balance, it can take longer before you can pay off a loan.
  • You may lose focus: It takes longer to pay off each loan, so it’s easier to lose motivation.

 

Pros and cons of the debt snowball method

The debt snowball method has the following pros and cons:

 

Pros

  • You get results quickly: Since you’re targeting the loan with the lowest balance first, you’ll pay off individual loans quicker than you would with the debt avalanche method.
  • Frees up money to pay down the next loan: You’ll be able to pay off loans quickly and roll the payments toward the next loan, helping you stay focused on your goals.

 

Cons

  • You’ll pay more in interest fees: By paying extra toward the loan with the smallest balance rather than the highest interest rate, you’ll pay more in interest fees than you would if you followed the debt avalanche method.
  • It could take longer to pay off your debt: Because you aren’t targeting the loans with the highest interest rate first, more interest can accrue over the length of the loan. The added interest means it will take longer to pay off your loans.

 

Which strategy is best for paying off student loans?

So which strategy is best for paying off student loans: the debt avalanche or the debt snowball? If your goal is to save as much money as possible and pay off your loans as quickly as you can, the debt avalanche method makes the most financial sense.

 

Psychologically, the debt snowball may have the advantage. According to a study from the Harvard Business Review, the debt snowball method is the most effective approach over the long-term, as borrowers are more likely to stick to their repayment strategy. However, which strategy is best for you is dependent on your mindset, motivation level, and your determination to pay off your debt.

 

Managing your student loan debt

Regardless of which repayment strategy you choose, you could save even more money or pay off your loans earlier by refinancing your student loans. When you refinance student loans, you apply for a loan from a private lender for the amount of your current student loans, including both private and federal loans.

 

The new loan has completely different repayment terms than your old ones, including interest rate, repayment term, and monthly payment. Even better, you’ll only have one student loan with one monthly payment to remember.

 

Use ELFI’s Find My Rate tool to get a rate quote without affecting your credit score.*

 


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2020-01-21
5 Things to Do Immediately After Graduation

By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been featured in publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. She is focused on helping people pay down their debt and boost their income.

 

If you’re in your senior year and preparing for graduation — congratulations! Graduating from college is a huge accomplishment.

 

But after the hat toss, you have to start worrying about things like finding a job. And, if you’re like most college students, you probably have student loan debt to manage, too. As you start preparing for graduation, here are five things you should do to handle your student loans.

 

1. Find Your Loan Details

You likely needed to take out several loans to pay for school. It’s common for graduates to have as many as 12 different student loans when they graduate from college. Worse, your loans can be sold and transferred to different servicers, making it difficult to keep track of your debt.

 

After you graduate, look up all of your student loans and figure out who your loan servicers are, what your monthly payment is, and your due dates.

 

Federal Student Loans

To find your federal loans, use the National Student Loan Data System. Just enter your Federal Student Aid ID and password and you can view all of the federal loans under your name. The site will list your loan servicer and loan balance. Once you have that information, you can go to the loan servicer’s website and create an account and start making payments.

 

Private Student Loans

For private loans, you can identify the different loans and lenders by looking up your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com, which allows you to get one free credit report per year. Your credit report will show what company currently manages your loan. When you find your loan servicer, you can contact the company directly to find out how to open an online account and make payments.

 

2. Create a Budget

Your student loan payments will likely eat up a significant part of your monthly income, especially when you’re just starting out in your career. To make sure you can afford the payments and your other living expenses, spend some time creating a monthly budget.

 

While you can use software like You Need a Budget (YNAB), you can also make a budget with just a simple pen and paper. List all of your monthly income, including earnings from your job and side gigs. Next, list all of your expenses, such as rent, utilities, internet service, student loan payments, car payments, and insurance.

 

Hopefully, your income exceeds your spending. If that’s not the case, you’ll have to look for areas to cut to give you some more breathing room in your monthly budget. Or, you can boost your income by freelancing or launching a side gig.

 

3. Sign Up for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan

If your starting salary is too low, or if you can’t afford the payments on your federal student loans, consider signing up for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.

 

There are four different IDR plans. While the specifics of each plan vary, the general concept is the same: the loan servicer extends your repayment term and caps your monthly payments at a percentage of your discretionary income. Depending on your income and family size, you can dramatically reduce your monthly bill. In fact, some people qualify for payments as low as $0.

 

After 20 to 25 years of making payments, the loan servicer will forgive your remaining loan balance. While the forgiven amount is taxable as income, IDR plan forgiveness can still help you save thousands.

 

You can apply for an IDR plan online.

 

4. Refinance Student Loans

If you have private student loans or a mix of both federal and private loans and want to pay off your debt as quickly as possible, look into student loan refinancing. By working with a private lender to take out a loan for the amount of your existing debt, you could potentially lower your interest rate, helping you save money. Or, you could get a longer repayment term and reduce your monthly payments, making them more affordable.

 

How effective is student loan refinancing? The savings can be significant. According to The Institute for College Access & Success, the average graduate has $29,200 in student loan debt. If you had that much debt with a 10-year repayment term and a 6% interest rate, your monthly payment would be $324. By the end of your loan term, you’d pay a total of $38,902.

 

But if you refinanced your debt and qualified for a 10-year loan at 4% interest, your monthly payment would drop to $296 per month. Over the course of your loan, you’d repay just $35,476. Refinancing your student loans would allow you to save over $3,400.

  chart showing the difference between refinances student loan and original loan

While there are some drawbacks to refinancing your education debt, refinancing can be a smart way to manage your loans. If you decide that student loan refinancing is right for you, use ELFI's Student Loan Refinancing Calculator to get an idea of what your repayment plan could look like. Prequalification is 100% online, free, and won’t affect your credit score*.

 

5. Sign Up for Automatic Payments

Managing your different loans and their various payment due dates can be overwhelming. But missing a payment can hurt your credit, and you could be subject to costly fees and penalties.

 

Signing up for automatic payments is a great way to ensure you never miss a payment and improve your credit history.

 

The Bottom Line

Your college graduation may feel far off, but it’ll be here before you know it. When it comes to preparing for graduation, developing a student loan repayment strategy is essential. By creating a plan now, you can ensure you’re ready to handle your student loan debt when your payments are due.

 
 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

2020-01-17
This Week in Student Loans: January 17

Please note: Education Loan Finance does not endorse or take positions on any political matters that are mentioned. Our weekly summary is for informational purposes only and is solely intended to bring relevant news to our readers.

  This week in student loans:
House of representatives

House Democrats Overturn DeVos on Student Loan Forgiveness

This Thursday, the Democrat-controlled House voted to overturn regulations introduced by Education Secretary Betsy Devos that eliminate the "borrower defense" rules introduced by the Obama administration. Critics have said the new regulations make it more difficult to get student loan forgiveness if a college suddenly closes. Sources say that the move to overturn Devos' new regulations won't pass the GOP-controlled Senate, however – and Trump is likely to veto the bill even if it does.  

Source: USA Today

 

signing legislation

Could Elizabeth Warren Really Wipe Out $1 Trillion in Student Loans in a Single Stroke?

Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren recently vowed to eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans on her first day in office if elected president. Her plan was released just before Tuesday night's Democratic primary debate. While the ability to erase debt is typically a decision left to Congress, student loans may be a different story due to a loophole involving the "Higher Education Act" passed in 1965.  

Source: CBS News

 

can't pay student loans

Study: Barely Anyone is Paying Off Their Student Loans

A recent study revealed that very few people are making progress on paying off their student loans, along with shifting factors in the nation's rising student loan debt. The study found that 51 percent of students who took out loans from 2010-12 haven’t made any progress in paying them off. Additionally, it showed that while in the past higher enrollment and rising tuition costs were the main drivers in the rising debt, slow repayments and amassing interest have now become the primary drivers.  

Source: NY Daily News

 
IRS building

IRS Issues Tax Guidance On Discharged Student Loans

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued guidance for some taxpayers who took out federal or private student loans and qualified to have their loans discharged. Typically, having loans discharged is treated as a taxable event, in which the forgiven amount is treated as income – but the tax break from the IRS allows the discharged amount to not be recognized as taxable income.

 

Source: Forbes

  That wraps things up for this week! Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or LinkedIn for more news about student loans, refinancing, and achieving financial freedom.  
 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Graphic of question mark
2020-01-16
7 Common Student Loan Refinancing Questions Answered

By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been featured in publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. She is focused on helping people pay down their debt and boost their income.

  If you have student loan debt, you know how painful interest charges can be. High interest rates can cause your loan balance to grow over time, forcing you to repay thousands more than you originally borrowed.
Student loan refinancing 1 is a strategy you can use to manage your debt and save money. In fact, ELFI customers have reported that they see an average savings of $20,936 after refinancing their student loans2. However, there are questions about student loan refinancing out there that may be preventing you from submitting a loan application. Here are some of the most common questions — and answers — you should know about.  

1. Does refinancing student loans cost money?

One of the biggest myths is that refinancing student loans is expensive. And that’s because student loan refinancing is often confused with other forms of refinancing, such as refinancing mortgages. While refinancing a mortgage does involve closing costs, student loan refinancing should not. Plus, most lenders don’t charge any application or origination fees. And with Education Loan Finance, there are no prepayment penalties, so you’re free to pay off your new loan as soon as you’d like.  

2. How long does it take to qualify for student loan refinancing?

Some forms of loans can take months to process, but student loan refinancing is different. You can complete the application in minutes, and you can do everything online. Once you submit your application, the lender will review your information and make a decision. In most cases, you’ll find out whether or not you’re approved in as little as one business day. If approved, the lender will work to disburse your loan. It can take a few days to a few weeks for that process to be completed, so keep making payments on your current debt until you receive a notification that the loan was disbursed. If you refinance your student loan with ELFI, you’ll have a personal loan advisor who will be your guide throughout the entire process.  

3. Is savings from refinancing student loan debt significant?

You may think that student loan refinancing isn’t worth the work because it won’t save enough money for you. But taking just a few minutes to submit a refinancing application can help you save thousands over your loan repayment term. For example, let’s say you had $30,000 in loans at 7.08% interest — the current rate for federal PLUS Loans.  If you repaid your loans over the course of 10 years, your monthly payment would be $350. In total, you’d pay $41,948 by the end of your repayment term; interest charges would add nearly $12,000 to your loan balance. Use ELFI’s student loan refinance calculator1 to find out how much money you can save by refinancing your debt.  

4. Will refinancing student loans affect my credit?

Some people hold off on student loan refinancing because they’re afraid it will damage their credit. However, lenders like ELFI allow you to get a rate quote (prequalify) with just a soft credit inquiry, which doesn’t affect your credit score. If you find a quote that works for you and submit a refinancing application, the lender will then complete a hard credit inquiry, which can impact your credit. However, the effect is usually minimal. According to myFICO — the organization behind the FICO credit score — one hard credit inquiry will typically take less than five points off your FICO credit score.  

5. Is refinancing federal student loans a good idea?

If you have federal student loans, you may have heard that refinancing your debt isn’t a good idea. However, that’s not the case for everyone. When you refinance your loans, you will lose out on federal benefits like income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness. But those perks are only valuable if you’d actually use them. If you make too much money or don’t work in a qualifying field, you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of those programs. If you can afford your monthly payments and feel secure in your job, refinancing your federal student loans can help you save money and become debt-free sooner.  

6. Do only federal student loans have forbearance or deferment programs?

A big perk of the federal loans is the ability to enter into forbearance or deferment. With these options, you can postpone making payments on your debt without entering into default. Few refinancing lenders offer forbearance benefits. However, there are some exceptions. With ELFI, you may be able to postpone your payments for up to 12 months if you’re facing a financial hardship, such as a job loss or medical emergency. That period can give you time to get back on your feet before you have to worry about making payments.  

7. Can I refinance student loans more than once?

If you already refinanced your loans once, you may think you’re out of luck, and you’re stuck with your current interest rate. However, there’s no limit to how many times you can refinance your loans. If your credit score improves or you get a raise at work, you can refinance your loans again to see if you qualify for a lower interest rate. As you progress in your career and your finances stabilize, refinancing multiple times can help you pay off your debt even faster.  

Refinancing your student loans

While student loan refinancing can be an effective way to manage your debt, there are a lot of myths and misinformation out there. Now that these common questions have been answered, you can move forward with the refinancing process with confidence. Use ELFI’s Find My Rate tool to get a rate quote without affecting your credit score1.           1 Education Loan Finance is a nationwide student loan debt consolidation and refinance program offered by Tennessee based SouthEast Bank. ELFI is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating and refinancing loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your cost of education debt and/or makes repayment very simple. Subject to credit approval. See Terms & Conditions. The interest rate and monthly payment for a variable rate loan may increase after closing, but will never exceed 9.95% APR. For example, a 10-year loan with a fixed rate of 6% would have 120 payments of $11.00 per $1,000 borrowed. Rates are subject to change.   2 Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 8/16/2016 and 10/25/2018. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon several factors.   Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.