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- I had $65,000 of private student loans when I graduated from college in 2009.
- With an interest rate above 6%, I was barely paying anything towards my principal balance and felt frustrated by my debt, so I decided to refinance my loans.
- My grandmother agreed to co-sign on my refinance (as she had on my original loans) and I was able to get an interest rate below 5%, reducing my payments by $76 a month and sending more of my money towards my principal.
- Interested in refinancing your student loans? CommonBond and SoFi can help. Get a quote today »
When I graduated from college in 2009, I had around $65,000 in private student loans. Rather than the state school my parents wanted me to go to, I opted for a small, private school out of state, which cost nearly three times as much per year.
Thankfully, I had a number of scholarships, and my grandparents contributed money they had set aside for my education. I was also able to graduate a year early, which saved me about $25,000 in tuition.
But by the time I walked across the stage for my diploma, I had accumulated three high-interest loans: one for $50,000 with Wells Fargo, and two others with smaller lenders.
Looking back, I made some irresponsible choices about how to pay for college, but hindsight doesn’t help pay for those mistakes. So for the last several years, I’ve been slowly chugging along on payments without paying much attention to the principal balance. As long as I wasn’t late on paying, I thought, I was being fiscally responsible.
I was making my payments, but my debt wasn’t really shrinking
I wasn’t totally wrong: I was able to pay off the two smaller loans within 10 years of graduating, which I’m proud of. But as of 2017, the pesky big loan had a $42,000 balance. I had only paid off about $8,000, and it was costing me.
But there’s another twist in my student loan story: In 2011, I married a man who had just as much student loan debt as I do. Thankfully, his loans were federal, so we weren’t accumulating as much interest, but together, our loans were eating up a big chunk of our income.
At one point, we were paying more than $1,500 per month on student debt alone, which meant I wasn’t able to make bigger payments than the minimum. I felt powerless watching my loans accumulate interest when I was doing my best to pay it off – it was like throwing money away.
Refinancing my loans for a better interest rate
In 2017, I called my grandma, who had co-signed on the loan, and told her how discouraged I was. She recommended I talk to Wells Fargo about refinancing for a lower interest rate. I was making a lot more money at that point, and my credit score was certainly better.
I was hoping to get her off the loan, but unfortunately my credit score wasn’t high enough to get a considerably lower interest rate on my own, so my grandma agreed to stay on the loan.
With her help, my interest rate would dip below 5%. It may not sound like a lot, but up to that point, my Wells Fargo loan had a 6.25% interest rate, which meant I was paying $216 in interest every month on my $316 payment. I knew saving just 1% interest per month would make a big difference in our ability to pay off the loan
Now, my rate is 4.99%, so I’m paying around $140 in interest per month, which is ultimately saving me more than $900 a year. It also means I’ll be able to pay off my loan faster, since I’m chipping away at the principal rather than throwing money at interest.
It’s working: Over the last two years, the loan is already down to about $37,000. It’s not a huge dent – my husband and I are currently prioritizing paying off credit card debt – but I sleep easier knowing I’m not tossing away my hard-earned money.
Once we get all the credit card debt paid off, the goal is to hammer down my loan. I can’t wait to lose those $326 monthly payments!
Ready to refinance your student loans? Our partners CommonBond and SoFi can help you get a lower interest rate »
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