Student Loans: Unusual Ways to Help Pay Them Off

June 24, 2014

Writing bigger checks and getting another job aren’t the only ways to decrease your student loans. Do you like to volunteer, dine out, shop, or travel, but feel like you can’t because of your student loans? Below are some programs and other methods that will help you pay down your student loans by doing the things in life you may already be doing.


Premise: Spend your free time taking surveys, or shopping online, and watch your student loan debt decrease.

How it works: If you like taking surveys, Smarter Bucks can help you pay off your student loan debt. The surveys range between 2 and 25 minutes and pay out from $0.14 for some two minute surveys to over $6.00 for a 25 minute survey. Once you have accumulated $10 in your account, Smarter Bucks will send a check to your loan provider.

There are other ways to pay off your debt on this site, too. If shopping online is your bag, you can peruse their marketplace and purchase items from name-brand retailers. A percentage of the purchase will go toward paying off your debt. You can sign yourself up as well as family and friends, so a percentage of their purchases go toward your debt as well.

They also offer you the ability to sell your textbooks and electronics through their sister company and apply the earnings to your loans.

Reality: Signing up was quick and easy. I can take a survey and earn money for my loans while waiting for an oil change or doctor’s appointment. I was not eligible for every survey. I took three surveys before I found one I was eligible for. The rewards are not immediately available. It takes 30-90 days for the cash reward to post to your account.


Premise: Crowdfund your student loan debt.

How it works: Some crowd-funding sites only allow you to raise money for creative, project-based ventures -- like your incredible new business idea. While Indiegogo helps you raise money for business ideas, it also lets you raise money to help with your personal financial situation.

Set up an account and create a video or tell people about your debt. Your friends, family, and complete strangers can contribute funds to help you pay down your debt.

Reality: If you’re someone who feels comfortable asking people for money, crowdfunding may be for you. It requires some motivation and putting yourself out there, but possibly with big rewards.


Premise: By saving money, or paying off debt, you receive opportunities to play for prizes, which can include money for your student loans.

How it works: Enroll your bank, student loan and credit card accounts and see your entire financial picture in one place. Every payment you make toward your credit card and student loan debt, or contribution to your retirement or savings account earns points which can be redeemed for the chance to play for prizes.

The prizes range from retailer gift cards to gas money to cash for student loan debt.

Reality: I already use a website that lets me see all my finances in one place. I like the added ability to pay off my debts in return for not doing much more on SaveUp. The contests to win the prizes are extremely simple to play. Once I have enough points to play a contest, I just choose the contest and hit submit. It’s that easy.


Premise: Shop online from a slew of name-brand retailers, often at a discount. Earn cash back for each purchase, which you can use to pay off your student loan debt.

How it works: Select the retailer from the plentiful list on the Ebates website. Choose the item you would like to buy, often at a discount, and a percentage of the sale, ranging from two to ten percent, will be applied to your account. You’ll receive a check at your mailing address or your PayPal account every quarter from Ebates.

Reality: If you’re already an online shopper, Ebates is definitely for you. It was easy to sign up and the discounts, coupon codes, and cash back percentages on every item are clear.


Premise: Earn cash back to be applied to your applicable student loans by shopping online, traveling, dining out, and buying groceries.

How it works: Go through UPromise’s main page and access name-brand retailers’ websites and begin shopping online. Dine out at any participating restaurant and a percentage of the total bill will be applied to your account. Book your flight and hotels through the UPromise website and a percentage of the total will go into your account. Buy items at the local grocery store that uses eCoupons and the money saved will go into your account. Buy gas at Mobil and Exxon and receive a penny for each gallon when you buy twenty gallons or more a month.

Reality: The list of participating restaurants by zip code is quite large. Potentially, I could be paying down my student loans whenever I go out to eat. In the Denver area, the participating stores in the eCoupons program are few but found almost anywhere.  The eCoupons aren’t necessarily things I buy on a regular basis, so the amount I would be putting toward my debt would be insubstantial. On the other hand, if you base your grocery list on coupons that are available, you could knock down your loan debt every time you go to the grocery store.


Premise: The time you volunteer for a non-profit translates into money being paid toward your student loan debt.

How it works: Sponsors donate money for a service project at a non-profit. The non-profit offers college graduates with student loan debt valuable work experience and money for their loans in exchange for their skills and time.

Reality: You have to be a college graduate to enroll in the program. The program is currently limited to Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C. and Chicago. If you want to be available in your city, let them know and with enough requests, they might offer volunteer opportunities near you.