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- Check your budget before applying for a personal loan and make space for the monthly payment.
- Set up an automated payment if it's offered by the lender to keep on top of your loan and potentially get a discount.
- Consider consolidating multiple streams of debt into one to lower costs, pay it off faster or both.
- Look into refinancing if you can get a better interest rate or you want to change your loan term.
Taking out a personal loan can be a helpful way to consolidate debt or pay extra expenses. People commonly use personal loans to pay for weddings or vacations, finance home renovations or fund large purchases, such as a new vehicle.
Once you take out a personal loan, you’ll have to make monthly payments that include the loan amount, the interest charged by the lender and applicable fees. Making a plan to manage your loan can help you pay back your balance faster, saving money in the long run.
Be mindful when budgeting
Taking on a loan payment means adding to your monthly expenses. You will need to account for it as you plan your monthly finances. If you need to make space for the loan payment in your budget, consider minimizing spending on ancillary expenses, such as:
- Eating out.
- Streaming services.
- Gym memberships.
- Extra travel.
- Monthly subscription services.
“Rewrite your budget to include the monthly loan payments. If your debt-to-income ratio is too high with the loan, reconsider taking out a personal loan,” recommends Howard Dvorkin, CPA and Chairman of Debt.com.
Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) calculates the amount of debt you have versus how much money you make. It’s generally considered good practice to have a DTI of 36 percent or under to increase your approval odds.
Set up autopay
When setting up payments for your personal loan, you often have the option to set up automatic payments. This means the payments will automatically be drawn from a specified bank account at the same time each month.
Setting up autopay can be helpful as it saves you the trouble of remembering to make the payments each month. Also, lenders may offer an autopay discount upon enrolling, which can help save money over the life of the loan.
Pay extra when you can
Paying any extra money towards your personal loan when you can will help you pay off your debt faster. Additionally, paying off the loan early means you won’t pay as much interest and the loan will cost you less — as long as there aren’t any prepayment fees.
Add money to your monthly payment
Making slightly larger monthly payments is a sure-fire way to see your balance decrease faster and will reduce the amount of interest you pay over the life of the loan. It doesn’t matter how large or small your extra payment is — even adding a small amount to your monthly payments can make a significant difference.
Make bi-weekly payments instead of monthly
Some lenders will allow you to set up bi-weekly payments instead of making one monthly payment. Your monthly payment amount will be split in half and charged every two weeks. While it may not seem like you’re doing much, you’re adding an extra payment each year, which can help you reduce your total interest accrual.
Pay a lump sum amount
A lump sum is a larger payment made once and is generally much bigger than what you normally pay each month. If you come across an unexpected chunk of change, like a raise or a large tax return, making a lump sum payment may be beneficial — both financially and psychologically.
When you make a lump sum payment, your monthly payment amount will stay the same, but it will reduce the amount of interest you have to pay over time.
Consolidating multiple high-interest loans into one loan with lower interest rates can help you pay off debt in a shorter time. “It’s a good idea to consolidate personal debt like credit card debt when you have multiple credit card debts over 10k and you’re having trouble paying the principal due to high interest rates,” Dvorkin says.
While consolidating is a great tool for some, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Prequalify for as many lenders as possible to ensure you’ll score a lower rate on the new loan and calculate the difference consolidating will make in your monthly payments to determine if it’s worth it for you.
When not to consolidate
If the debt consolidation loan comes with a higher interest rate than your current accounts, you won’t save any money and it likely won’t make sense to consolidate.
Plus, if the new loan comes loaded with fees — including origination and prepayment fees — they can add up quickly and detract from the overall value of your loan. Read the fine print before signing a new loan agreement to make sure you’re not taking on hidden fees.
Refinancing a personal loan involves working with a new lender to get a loan for your remaining loan amount with lower rates or different payment terms. Much like consolidating, refinancing can save you money by reducing the amount you pay in interest over the life of the loan.
However, if the fees that come with refinancing are high, they’ll eat into the value of your loan and it may not be worth it. Additionally, if the repayment term with the new loan is longer, you may end up paying more interest over time.
Calculate the amount you will spend on the remaining payments with your current loan versus the new loan to determine if the cost of refinancing is worth it for you.
Is now a good time to refinance a personal loan?
The Federal Reserve has raised rates multiple times throughout the last two years with the aim of cooling off the inflated economy. As of November 2023, the current average personal loan rate is at an all-time high of 11.53 percent.
Due to the high rate environment, right now is likely not the best time for most borrowers to refinance. However, if the interest rates on your existing loans are high and you prequalify for a lower rate, then it may be worth it.
Alternatives ways to save money on your loan
If you don’t qualify for the traditional management methods or don’t wish to undergo the borrowing process again, there are other ways to save money on your personal loan overall.
- Talk to your lender. See if you can adjust your terms or get a lower interest rate. “On-time payments, a good credit history and other factors like this can help in this process,” Dvorkin says.
- Open a balance transfer credit card. These cards allow you to transfer debt with minimal fees. Plus, it’s common for issuers to offer an interest-free promotional period.
There are multiple ways to manage a personal loan well and save money along the way. Remember that no amount is too small — any extra amount you can put toward your monthly payments will be beneficial. Consider all of your options throughout the entirety of your loan.
You may not be able to consolidate or refinance right now and score a lower rate, but that doesn’t mean that the method won’t make sense in the future. As your financial and credit health evolve, so do your repayment methods. That being said, keep all of your options in mind until the day you pay the balance off to optimize your money-saving potential.