Nowadays, many learners leave college with more than just a degree; they have huge debts to show for their time in education, too. For example, the members of the class of 2015 were estimated as each having an average of just over $35,000 to pay towards their student loans come graduation day. That’s quite the prohibitive sum with which to start adult life. Thankfully, though, there are some ingenious solutions out there to help make that amount a little – or a lot – more manageable.
The following list illustrates 30 creative ways that graduates can help pay down, or even eliminate, those debts. From solutions that directly write off debt to imaginative strategies to earn extra income, these are some of the steps that those with college loans of any amount can take to get back on the path to financial solvency.
To develop this list, we first studied other list articles from highly respected publications that have identified creative ways to pay off student loans and cut down debts. These included the following:
• Forbes, “How I Paid Off $90,000 In Debt In Three Years”
• The Huffington Post, “Alternative Ways To Pay Off Your Student Loan Debt”
• USA Today, “8 Creative Ways To Pay Off Student Loans”
• AOL, “Escape From Student Loans! 8 Creative Ways To Ditch Your Debt”
To decide which methods to include, we took into consideration those that appeared most frequently on these lists and those that could be used by as many graduates as possible. Some of the key criteria used to select which entries made the final list were: how much the method paid or how much debt it could wipe out; how feasible the solution was for the “regular” graduate; and whether the option was available nationwide.
Finally, the ordering was achieved by considering the most creative ways of debt-busting available to graduates, but also with a view to how much a graduate can realistically expect to earn from these
30. Change Your Community
Volunteering has always been a great way to give something back to the community. But those signed up with SponsorChange get more than just that warm feeling from helping someone out; they’ll receive money towards their college loans, too. The Washington, D.C.-based organization arranges social impact projects that unite volunteers – or “Change Agents” – with non-profit organizations and charitable donors. Then, when Change Agents complete one of the schemes through SponsorChange, they receive a cash sum – sometimes as much as $1,000 a time – to be used to pay down their debts. Plus, there’s no limit to the number of projects that a Change Agent can undertake. All that’s needed to apply is proof of being a student or a graduate with student debt. And, of course, a willingness to make a positive difference to others certainly helps.
29. Sell photos to stock websites
While it may not make a large dent in any loan debt, microstock photography is nevertheless a great way to earn some additional income. Unlike traditional stock photography – which relies on relatively few professional photographers to provide large banks of images – microstocking enables anyone to upload individual images for which they can receive money. As a result, those who are creative with the camera can earn cash pretty quickly – but even not so fantastic photographers will have taken a picture or two that they’re particularly proud of. And just a single upload can bring in the money. Prices vary per site – Shutterstock pays between $0.25 and $2.85 per download, for example – but it all adds up, so one sensational snap could earn you a tidy sum.
28. Hire out your vehicle
Innovative ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are changing how many people get from A to Z. Those eager to cut their student debt, then, can certainly benefit from picking up a passenger or ten during their daily journeys. Plus, Lyft guarantees that its drivers receive at least a minimum fare if trips are short, and both companies are flexible about when their employees work. But why stop at just hiring out a car? Spinlister, for example, lets people rent out some less conventional transportation options – namely, bicycles, surfboards and skis. Members set their own fees, while the website itself takes only a 17.5 percent cut of any earnings. Meanwhile, if you’re lucky enough to have a boat but don’t get out on the water as often as you’d like, use Boatbound to find temporary passengers for your unused vessel and earn some cash on the side.
27. Work in the public interest
Love giving something back to others? Well, now you too can get something back in return for all that goodwill you’ve been doling out. Indeed, through the U.S. government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, doing a good deed or two could be even more rewarding, as the scheme enables graduates to apply for a tax-free pardoning of federal direct loan debt. To be considered for forgiveness, however, a full-time position in public service is a must; possible roles include working at governmental level or for a non-profit organization. Potential applicants then have to make a series of monthly qualifying payments over the course of ten years, after which they can apply for forgiveness, with successful candidates seeing the remainder of their direct loan debts written off.
26. Join mock juries
Unless you work in the legal system, the courtroom is not usually somewhere you’d want to find yourself. But for those with a particular penchant for making sure justice is done, mock juries are a surprisingly fun way to pay down debts. These practice panels of jurors enable lawyers to try to gauge the effectiveness of their evidence and arguments before the case goes to court for real. What’s more, these “trial runs” can be very useful tools for legal teams – so much so, in fact, that some are willing to pay good money for your help. Remuneration varies, but expect to earn somewhere between $100 and $200 for one day of your time. If you’re interested in signing up for mock jury duty, search the internet for those running in your area or, alternatively, look at local listing sites.
25. Share your friendship
Can’t put a price on friendship? Not true, as it turns out; RentAFriend enables debt-laden graduates to easily sell companionship for cash. And as the name of the site suggests, “friends” can be hired out to attend any one of a number of social engagements for an hourly fee of $10 or more. Those signed up to the site can also act as tour guides to people who are new in town, be hired for help with hobbies or even enable others to learn languages. Furthermore, while RentAFriend states that it’s intended to promote platonic friendships only, any dubious requests that still come in can be easily refused. And becoming a “friend” is straightforward: just register with RentAFriend, create a profile, set an hourly rate and get ready to meet someone new.
24. Move to Kansas
If you’re looking to relocate, then saying yes to the Midwest could see you significantly reduce your debts. Kansas, in particular, is more than willing to help graduates settle down, with a little sweetener on offer through its Rural Opportunity Zones scheme. This program is run in 77 counties throughout the Sunflower State and offers some significant financial assistance to new residents: either up to five years’ worth of income tax waivers in Kansas or college debt reimbursements of up to $15,000. In some areas, both incentives are offered. And while some rules around residency apply, those new to Kansas are likely to qualify so long as they hold either an associate’s, a bachelor’s or a post-graduate degree and can provide evidence of a student loan. So after you’ve found your feet as a Kansan, fill out the Student Loan Repayment Application form on the Kansas Department of Commerce website to get the ball rolling.
23. Join the Peace Corps
Want to travel the world, boost your résumé and reduce the amount of money you owe, all at once? Then volunteering with the Peace Corps could be the perfect next step. Indeed, after signing up for service, students with federal loans could be entitled to have their debt deferred for repayment, linked to earnings instead or even partly canceled altogether. Perkins loan holders, meanwhile, may find they qualify to have as much as 70 percent cut from the total amount that they have accrued in debt while studying. Plus, the Peace Corps offers a wealth of opportunities for volunteers to hone their skills, learn new ones or simply be of benefit to communities in more than 60 nations – while taking part in anything from local entrepreneurial schemes to HIV education programs. Further details of the Peace Corps’ student loan assistance can be found on the organization’s website.
22. Become a dog sitter
Any debt-laden animal lovers out there should definitely explore the possibility of pet sitting; after all, what could be better than caring for cute creatures and getting paid for it? And thanks to websites like Rover, there is now an easy way for people to find potential pet sitters, which means a regular income from animal hospitality is closer than you might think. Even better, Rover – which, as its name suggests, is focused on looking after dogs – takes care of insurance and any veterinary needs that may arise while on the job. All sitters have to do is set their availability and how much they charge per session. What’s more, those who can keep up their commitment to care for man’s best friend could earn in excess of $1,000 a month. Provide doggy day care and dog walking to earn even more money, and eventually paying back student loans won’t seem so ruff.
21. Rent out underused items
There’s good money to be made in renting out items that would otherwise idle away unused until you next needed them. And if you’re happy for others to borrow your belongings – even that ladder or lawnmower sitting among the junk in the garage – you could earn some cash to help pay down that debt with handy websites like NeighborGoods and Zilok. Lenders simply state how much money each item costs per day, with would-be renters then requesting how long they would like to loan it for. Note, however, that the sites rely on the trust of the parties involved to make the trade work, with neither NeighborGoods nor Zilok currently offering insurance to cover any damage or breakages that may occur. Instead, a peer rating system is used to identify any potentially problematic renters, and any request can be refused if need be.
20. Share your skills
If you’re a dab hand at DIY or can put up Ikea furniture like a pro, then you can earn good money in your downtime by sharing your expertise with others. And TaskRabbit enables you to do just that by matching those with tasks and errands to do with people who have got the necessary skills to help. Note that rates depend on the service being delivered and can vary considerably. If you’re not good with your hands but still have wisdom to give, though, join popexpert and provide one-to-one coaching in the areas for which you are qualified and can speak with authority – whether that’s on how to lose weight successfully, how to become a better leader or even how to play the ukulele. All you have to do is sign up, set your own rates and start taking your first virtual sessions.
19. Become a video game coach
Debt is not the only thing that graduates rack up while at college. Much to the consternation of parents, lecturers and tutors across the country, some students log hundreds of hours playing video games during their degree studies. But, despite the dismay of some, all that time in front of a screen could actually be worth it – not least because of the rise of eSports. eSports – that is, organized video gaming tournaments – already attract online audiences of hundreds of millions and by 2020 are predicted to generate in excess of $1.25 billion annually worldwide. Those with a gift for gaming, then, could consider coaching wannabe competitors for cash or just helping enthusiastic amateurs hone their Halo skills. Gamer Sensei is just one of the companies matching coaches with players, and it offers its so-called “sensei” as much as $25 an hour for their troubles.
18. Craft for cash
For budding artisans, there’s a way to solvency that just requires a little inventiveness and hard work. After all, even in an age of mass production, handcrafted goods are very much still in demand. What’s more, people are willing to pay good money for bespoke and lovingly made items like jewelry and pottery or even wallpaper and watches. One of the major marketplaces that makers use is Etsy, where those with a creative streak can set up shop selling their handmade wares as well as vintage pieces and craft supplies. The website charges just $0.20 to set up a store, as well as 3.5 percent commission and a 4 percent payment processing fee. And the rest is up to you and your imagination.
17. Share your language
Making money from your mother tongue is always an option for cash-hungry graduates – not least through translation. MotaWord and Translate.com, to name but two sites, both remunerate translators on a per-word basis. Becoming an online language tutor is a possibility, too, especially since people around the world are learning English in their millions. And, fortunately, italki offers the portal through which to help others perfect their grammar. Linguists can sign up as either a Professional Teacher, who will provide detailed sessions, or a Community Tutor, who will simply give learners the chance to practice their conversational skills. While the former requires an educational qualification, in both cases you can set your own hourly rate and work to a schedule that suits you. And although, typically, Teachers earn more, some Tutors can make over $25 for a one-hour session.
16. Take part in drug trials
If you’re prepared to play the guinea pig, drug trials can provide big cash rewards to pay loans and other debts, especially as big pharmaceutical companies are always looking to launch new drugs and improve old ones. Those wanting to apply should go into any trial knowing all the facts, though, and full consideration of the risks should be given before participation. These include potential side effects – which in more extreme circumstances may result in long-term damage to participants’ health – of any drug or treatment given. Because of these possibilities, firms are willing to pay well, mind you, although both reimbursement and trial length may vary. CenterWatch is a handy port of call for those looking to see which trials are available in certain areas and for which medical conditions.
15. Be a NASA test subject
If the possible dangers of drugs trials have put you off, then rest assured: you can still earn cash as a test subject but in much safer surrounds. And there are some experiments that guarantee great pay for relatively little effort – namely, NASA’s bed rest studies. As the name suggests, participants lie around in bed for as long as 70 days. However, they’re tilted at a six-degree angle throughout, as NASA wants to measure the effect of zero gravity on the human body. And if that doesn’t all sound cool enough to sign up for pronto, then the reimbursement may sway you, as at least one previous volunteer earned an incredible $18,000 for his time. Head to the NASA website for more information about how you can get involved.
14. Become an online tutor
If anyone understands the stresses and strains of studying, it’s graduates. But easing others’ pain is possible – and lucrative – through becoming an online tutor to those struggling to get their heads around their subjects. And Studypool is a good place to start on any tutoring path. The site lets learners post questions with which they’re having trouble, and those willing to answer will submit bids for the price of suitable responses. Tutors are then matched to assignments to give guidance, and once answers are satisfactorily found, they receive cash payments. Fees vary in each case, but at least one keen part-time tutor has reported that they regularly made $500 per week on the site. However, all applicants are vetted before they begin and must maintain quality standards as they go. That is, they should be receiving a student satisfaction level of at least 85 percent. The better a tutor’s reputation, though, the more likely it is that he or she will receive work with higher monetary rewards.
13. Move to Niagara Falls
If relocating to the Midwest doesn’t float your boat, maybe a move to western New York State will. Just like certain areas of Kansas, the city of Niagara Falls is offering up incentives to graduates if they take up residence there. However, living right next to the area’s famous water features is sadly out of bounds, as applicants must settle in one of two designated neighborhoods in the downtown area in return for entry to the reimbursement program. In addition, successful candidates must maintain their residency for the full two-year term, although they can earn back as much as $6,984 in that time. So if you’ve gained a technical degree in the last two years, a bachelor’s degree in the past three years or are enrolled to study for a graduate degree, then you are eligible to qualify for the scheme providing you can give evidence of a good reputation with your loan company and landlord. For full details on how to apply, go to Niagara Falls’ Live NF website.
12. Name your way out of debt
If you’re a whizz with words, coming up with names for new websites could well be your domain. You’ll get paid for doing it, too, if you’re a success on Namestation. This site crowdsources website monikers using a network of creatives called “Contributors,” all of whom can pitch potential domain names to briefs given by companies and individuals. In addition, each entry that Contributors put forward could help to earn cash; they earn ten points each time a suggestion is upvoted by the brief giver as well as an additional 100 points for winning the competition. Once Contributors have hit 1,000 points, the site pays out $100, and the best and brightest among them can earn more than three times that amount by just putting in a handful of hours each week. Plus, joining is easy and doesn’t cost a cent. Anyone can become a Contributor and, once registered, start entering contests straight away.
11. Become a clown
While student debt is no laughing matter, raising smiles on kids’ faces could be one way to reduce loan liability. After all, children’s parties across the country will often require an entertainer or two – and for those willing to take on the challenge, becoming a clown at birthday celebrations is a great way to garner some additional income. Prospective pranksters will need to find face paints and consider a costume, of course, but once they’re set up they can potentially tap into a stream of regular work that may earn as much as $300 an event. Plus, clowning may not only boost the bank balance, but also, according to theater company director and clowning teacher Stephen Sobel, improve focus on personal goals and inspire better listening and thinking skills – all things that could be of benefit in a regular workplace.
10. Join AmeriCorps
If you don’t want to travel the globe but are still really keen to do good in the world, try joining AmeriCorps. The organization places volunteers in a variety of roles that utilize their specific skillsets through three distinct programs: AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), VISTA, and State and National. Better still, crippling college debt payment can be cut significantly through its loan forgiveness scheme if you take on a full-time position or serve at least 1,700 hours for AmeriCorps within nine to 12 months. Simply put, any money owed, plus interest, will be wiped in its entirety if you make monthly payments – 120 in total, as part of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program – towards a loan while working for the organization. There are other caveats, but to see if you can meet them and qualify, just head to the AmeriCorps website.
9. Teach others a lesson
Any graduate who believes they could have done a better job than their tutors can now prove it and chip away at college debt in the process. Online learning platform Udemy, for example, offers potential pedagogues the chance to make an education package on practically any subject they like, so long as they have expertise in that area. Furthermore, instructors can access Udemy’s tools for course development and have total free rein over their creation, including setting the price of the final package. And while it may take time to create a course and its assets, the finished package can be sold again and again to any of the millions of students who use the site worldwide. In addition, top teachers can easily earn thousands of dollars, and the average total payout for Udemy’s tutors is $8,000.
8. Design your debts away
Creative types can cash in on their talents easily by offering their handiwork for sale. And Creative Market offers the perfect place to do it for everything from photos, 3D models and fonts to logos and web templates. Designers upload their work, set their own prices and keep 70 percent of each sale made. Vending T-shirts, too, could provide a simple but effective way to earn some extra income. And to make this even more of a breeze, there are several sites that let you craft and sell your own custom creations without the hassle of handling inventory or shipping. Designs don’t have to be fancy – they can be as basic as a few simple words – and could earn mountains of money if they prove to be a hit. Check out CafePress, Zazzle, Spreadshirt and Teespring to get started.
7. Look to secure your financial future
If you’ve been searching for a solution to your student debt, then look no further. Well, actually, make that look for longer, especially since you can now get paid for inspecting online goods in your free time. In particular, website WeGoLook needs agents, or “lookers,” to go and comb over anything from rental properties to eBay items before reporting back with a comprehensive assessment of their condition in order to back up any information given in listings. Detailed, up-to-date photos are also needed for many reports. And while the length and intricacy of each look varies from job to job, agents will typically earn between $15 and $200 a time. To become a looker, you’ll need to clear a background check before undertaking a 40-minute “onboarding process.” After that, you’re free to look away.
6. Join the French Foreign Legion
Leaving the country in order to avoid paying student loans may seem like a drastic – albeit tempting – move. But for those who are drowning in debt and wanting a radical change of scenery, joining the French Foreign Legion could be a way out, especially for those willing to see action. Indeed, a fully-fledged legionnaire can apply to become a citizen of France, which could grant a lawful shield from overseas creditors. There are some specific requirements involved, though. First, each potential recruit needs to be male, no older than 39 and a half and have a body mass index of no greater than 30. In addition, the only way to sign up is by visiting a recruiting center in mainland France. That said, new recruits earn over $1,300 a month while serving a minimum of one stint, which lasts for five years. After three years of this term, however, enlistees are able to begin the citizenship process – though the success of applications are by no means guaranteed.
5. Become a dating coach
Online dating is big business nowadays, and anyone who fancies themselves as a matchmaker can grab a slice of the pie. Put in the hours as a dating coach to help and guide others, then, and those student debts could be paid off while Cupid strikes. And the work is varied, with penning profiles, arranging specifically shot photos and even flirting up a storm with potential matches all among services that coaches in the industry offer to clients. Earnings will depend on what you offer and, of course, how successful you are, but an established dating specialist like A Little Nudge’s Erika Ettin can charge in excess of $1,000 per client, depending on their needs. Still, everyone needs to start somewhere – so either jump right in at the deep end and start a fledgling company or test the waters by applying to be a coach for an already established dating consultancy.
4. Cook up some extra cash
Thanks to new online sharing platforms, foodies and budding chefs can make big bucks out of their gastronomic wizardry. In fact, EatWith makes it easier than ever to make good cash – as much as $700 per gig – out of good eats through dinner parties or pop-up restaurants. And there’s no need to have Michelin star-level skills in the kitchen, just as long as guests get fed well and have a good time. Plus, joining is free, and members get access to other benefits, including chef mentors. Simply fill in an online application at the EatWith website to start the journey. Feastly, meanwhile, pairs enthusiastic cooks with those looking for caterers for private events – sometimes even for internationally renowned companies like Google and Nestlé. Build up your culinary confidence first, though, by hosting smaller events through the site.
3. Set up as a voice-over artist
Believe it or not, there’s actually a way to talk your way out of financial trouble. And while doing this is not just a case of sweetening up a student loan provider, it’s a lot more fun. Simply put, to pay off debts, you can earn extra income as a voice-over artist for commercials, audiobooks or documentaries. What’s more, several soundbite recording sessions only need a small amount of time to complete and so can be squeezed in around a regular working day. A half-minute advert, for example, may take less than 15 minutes to record and could be done in a rest break or after clocking off from a full-time job. Prices vary across radio, television and other media and differ depending on length, but most work wages could be doubled with a couple of recordings each week. If you can commit to regular work, then, sign up to a site like Voices.com and create a profile to showcase your talking talent.
2. Share your insider knowledge
Some tourists and travelers want more personal, offbeat experiences that get beneath the skin of the city they’re visiting. For those who are in tune with their town, then, creating alternative tours of a location can be a great source of supplementary income. And Vayable makes doing this simple by providing a platform for budding guides to offer others a unique look around their locale and create events unlikely to be found in any guidebook. Luckily, anyone can become a guide – or, as the website terms them, an “Insider” – so long as they’re knowledgeable about the area and can confidently communicate their ideas and information on their chosen topic. Plus, Insiders fix their own fees and set their own schedules and availability, so they can control how many events they put on and when. That means there’s scope to create a packed program of regular work or make things a bit more spur-of-the-moment.
1. Test your trivia skills
Student debt is not usually a trivial matter, but Givling has made it one. That’s because the innovative website offers a way out of loan repayments that’s as entertaining as it is potentially lucrative. Specifically, it hosts online true-or-false quizzes that players pay a small fee for – and this cash crowdfunds the eventual rewards that the winners share. Each game and interaction adds more money to the fund, and at the end of each 24-hour period, the team with the best score overall wins a daily cash award. Better still, there’s no need to even be a player; just sign up on the site to be part of Givling’s queue. Ten people are chosen from that queue for each funding cycle, with the fortunate recipients potentially walking away completely debt-free.