The Clever Way I’m Paying off Student Loans (Without using my own money!)

Updated: August 26

pay loans copy1Make that, I’ve found a clever way to pay my student debt while spending as little of my own money as possible.  Call me crazy, but there’s nothing I hate more than seeing my hard earned money go towards another student loan payment. So I’ve made it my goal to pay those bad boys off using means other than my money. And that’s without resorting to sugar daddies, Kickstarter campaigns, street solicitations or lottery winnings. Is it a lofty goal? Yes –  especially when I graduated from a private school with lots and lots of student loan debt. But it’s a goal worth chasing.  Leave it to me to do the impossible. Yes, I am on my way to paying off my student loans without using my own money.

I’m doing every quirky thing I can think of to pay of all that student debt so I won’t have to wear funny shirts like this anymore:

If SallieMae asks, you never saw me!
If SallieMae asks, you never saw me!
I'm on my way to paying off student #debt w/o using my own money! Share on X

So how am I doing it? By doing each of the following tasks.

1.Sign up for Gradible

Gradible has been one of the most lucrative methods I’ve used for paying student loans. It’s a website that allows you to do simple online tasks in exchange for student loan payments. Here’s how it works: You create a FREE account and login to see what tasks are available to you. Tasks include things like posting to Craigslist, filling out surveys, writing reviews, and transcribing videos. Once you complete the tasks to the best of your ability, loancreds will be deposited into your Gradible account. After you’ve accrued 100 loancreds which equals $10 you can apply them to your student loans. (Don’t worry, you won’t be working for weeks before earning a measley $10.) Since signing up last August, I’ve accrued more than $1,000 that has been applied towards Sallie Mae, Chase, Citibank and My Great Lakes. I really feel like I’ve hit the holy grail with Gradible! If that isn’t a great way to pay of my student loans without spending my own money I don’t know what is.

Sign up through my referral link and you’ll automatically get $2 deposited into your account.

2. Make your Receipts Count

How many times have you gotten a receipt from a store or online purchase and simply tossed it in the trash? Of if you’re like me, you’ve amassed a pretty impressive collection in the bottom of your  purse. Well, it turns out those little pieces of paper can do a lot more than just annoy you when they turn up in random corners around your purse or home. Free apps such as Receipt Hog, Ibotta and Receipt Pal allow you to earn money and rewards by snapping pictures of your receipts. Why do they do it? Companies are willing to pay big bucks to learn about spending habits. Once you snap a good amount of receipts you can redeem the points earned from those shopping trips for cold hard cash from Receipt Pal. And you know where that cash is going, right? Directly to those student loans. Meanwhile, Receipt Pal allows you to redeem your points for gift cards at and Sign up for Receipt Pal and Receipt Hog now! And to the sweeten deal, make sure you use my referral code (traf3013) when downloading Receipt Hog and you’ll earn extra points! If that’s not enough, Ibotta will give you an extra dollar for signing up through my link or using my referral cod (rxwvcpa)

3. Make those gift cards count

Remember those gift cards I mentioned above? I bet you were wondering why I was wasting my time telling you about Receipt Pal, when all you can get are gift cards. You can’t possibly use gift cards to pay of your student loans, right? Wrong! You just have to make your gift cards count. Now, it’s true SallieMae won’t be accepting gift cards in lieu of money, but there’s no way around that. All you need to do is trade those gift cards in for money. Visit websites such as Gift Card Granny and see how much money you’ll receive for trading in the gift card. Once you receive that check, go ahead and send that bad boy to your student loan provider!

Go ahead and rack up all those points for gift cards and trade in that Toys r’ Us gift card your grandma gave you for your 21st birthday! It will all be worth it once applied to that crippling student loan debt.

4. Shop and read emails

How may times have you shopped or read junk emails and gotten absolutely nothing for it? If you can actually state a numerical response it’s too much! It’s about time we use all that time online shopping for student loan payments. Well, MyPoints lets you do exactly that! At least, that’s what I use it for. Sign up through the link above and you’ll earn points for opening the emails they send to your inbox and cash back on your online purchases made through the site. Just like the others, once you accumulate enough points you can redeem them for cash or gift cards. For cash payments, you’ll receive those in your Paypal account and physical gift cards will be received in the mail within 2 weeks. Then trade in those gift cards for cash or use the money submitted through your Paypal account to pay a student loan.

5. Take Surveys

Taking surveys to pay off loans may be the most tedious route to go, but it can also be pretty lucrative. Sites like Mysurvey and SurveySpot  allow you to take surveys about your habits, shopping experiences, favorite brands and more in exchange for money. SurveySpot allows you to redeem points for money submitted to your Paypal account or iTunes and Amazon gift cards. Meanwhile, Mysurvey allows point redemption for checks, Paypal deposits, magazine subscriptions and a plethora of gift cards including CVS, AppleBees, Macy’s, TJMaxx, Red Lobster and more.

6. Be smart with money

The smarter you are with your money, the more you save and can apply to your student loans. That’s  the mantra of SmarterBucks! SmarterBucks allows you earn student loan payments through online purchases and completion of surveys. When you sign up for SmarterBucks through my link above, simply designate what loan you want SmarterBuck to send payments to. Every month that you have earned $10 in your account, SmarterBucks will automatically send that payment to the student loan provider you designated when you first signed up. It’s all easy and makes it difficult for you to forget to redeem what you earned. The downside is the money in your account could be held as pending for 30  to 90 days to verify that you actually completed the survey or made a purchase before they can send it to your student loan. Regardless if you take a few weeks to redeem $10, the plus side it’s still one more payment you’ve made without actually parting with your own cash.

And there you have it! All the ways I make payments to student loans without using my own money. Notice none of the methods mentioned above involve my getting another job or selling my prized possessions.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, Gradible has since changed their business model and no longer offers tasks in exchange for loancreds that can be applied to student loans. I will continue to update this post with other clever methods to pay student debt. 

What methods do you use to pay of student loans? Have you used any of the websites mentioned above?

TERRIfic Quip: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

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  1. When on Gradible’s website do you have to apply for one of their repayment plans before you can begin this?

    1. HI Erin,

      Sorry for the delayed response on this. I’ve been waiting to hear back from the people at Gradible. I’m sad to report that Gradible has changed it’s business model since my writing this post and no longer offer tasks in exchange for loan credits. It’s such a disappointment as Gradible was the most lucrative. However, I would highly suggest you signing up for SmarterBucks. It takes a bit longer to earn payments for loans but still worthwhile after some time.

    1. Surveys aren’t meant to be identity theft scams. They are actually marketing tactics used by businesses to as to get to know the consumer. And they are willing to pay for your opinion. I’ve taken surveys that helped companies make decisions on what commercials to run, pricing of new products, etc. And they never usually ask you any information that you can be to easily identify you other than your zip code and gender. If they ask for anything more than that, I’d take it as a red flag and thoroughly research the company before deciding to continue.

  2. Thank you so much for this information! I work for city government and owe over $80000 in student loans, and had no idea about the forgiveness plans I was eligible for. I’ve recommended Gradible to everyone I know who owes student loans.

    1. I’m so happy this can be useful for you. I have a ridiculously large amount of student debt too. With some clever thinking and discipline we will both be debt free in time.

    2. Jayne
      Look into what your state offers. As a federal employee a portion of my loans can be forgiven after so many years of service.

  3. We have signed up for Upromise to save money for our kids’ college. However, I think you can also apply Upromise earnings to existing student loans. You get cash back for shopping online, similar to ebates, but this can only be used for college. Look it up!

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I actually just signed up for Upromise about a month or two ago. I wanted to hold off on posting it on the blog until I had more experience with it and could vouch for it’s benefits. Seems like you really like it though!

      1. I have used Upromise for year (over $400 so far). You can apply to present students loans, move to college saving plan or even ask for a check.

        How do I rack it up… I buy things like dog food and TP at Orders over $50 ship free. Prices are same as in store and click through Upromise and you earn 5% cash back.

  4. Hi Terri I’m Cecelia and I don’t know what your link is. If you could just write it for me in the comment area I would appreciate it. I think that this is a brilliant way to pay off student loans especially when I owe a lot of loans myself. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge.

  5. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I’ve signed up for SmarterBucks, Shared my referral link via social media, and signed up for Receipt Hog. I’m going to be looking into the others, but I just came across this blog post yesterday. I’m definitely interested in any other forms you have located! Thanks!

    1. So glad you think this could help you. I actually plan on updating this post with a few other options in a the next couple of weeks. I want to get more experience with some of new ones I’ve found before I recommend it to others. Please come back to share you experience. Good lic with those student loans!

  6. If you teach or are in the medical field, portions of your loans can be forgiven if you go to a low income area to work. Also, I think service in the Peace Corps qualifies too.

  7. The survey websites is pretty legit…except the SmarterBucks website. For the last 3 hours, I have been trying to take a survey there and all I get is that I’m not qualify to take it. This occurred for every survey tries…every last one of them. Crazy. That make no sense whatsoever. Am I doing something wrong?

    1. Unfortunately, that happens to me sometimes too. The companies who pay SmarterBucks to conduct surveys are usually looking to hear from a specific segment of people. If you answer one question that doesn’t align with their target audience it will say you aren’t qualified to take the survey. So no, you aren’t doing something wrong. It can get rather frustrating, but it is legitimate. I would never advice you spend three hours trying to take surveys if you are finding you don’t qualify for them. After doing a few give up on surveys and return to it another day. SmarterBucks gets new surveys daily in my experience. Rather than spending all the time on surveys, look more into the cash back opportunities in the Smarter Bucks marketplace. That’s where I make most of my earnings when the surveys aren’t being as lucrative as I would like.

  8. I think if you spent as much time on a job as you do chasing these schemes you’d see that you actually make more money per hour (even part time, or heck, selling your unused stuff online). Taking these surveys, scanning receipts, etc is very time-consuming and you barely make anything at all. You say you don’t want to spend your own money, but it is your own time, and time is money, after all!

    1. Thanks for your perspective. I actually do in fact have a job as a journalist for national magazines as well as a fitness instructor which I mention in several other posts on this blog. This post was not meant to imply that I didn’t have job or sway people from getting a job. It simply suggested ways to make extra income to pay down debt in your free time. I certainly don’t waste my time chasing pointless schemes. Taking pictures of receipts takes no time at all. Admittedly, some surveys are very time consuming and not worth the money you make from them. But I weigh the time spent versus how much I make to determine the value. I understand that some people just don’t enjoy doing these types of things and you may be one of them. If you do know of some worthwhile ways to make extra money please send them my way and I’ll be happy to share in an upcoming post.

  9. Another great thing is Swagbucks. There are tons of things you can do to earn point which turn into cash or gift cards. Also try an app called Apptrailer you earn point for watching ads and videos which can be converted to PayPal cash.

  10. You can also join Givling a crowdfunding platform that is paying and has paid off student loans with daily cash prizes. I won the cash prize on a Monday and had a check in my mailbox by Friday. Use invite code JO441158 They are fresh out of beta phase in that time they have paid off two loans in full and over $8300 on 10 others. When they hit critical masses they will pay off 1 or more loans a day.

  11. Although it was a bit rude, I kind of agree with Theresa. I know you say it takes no time to take a photo of a receipt, but I use ibotta, saving star, and several shopping apps and track both the time spent and the money saved in a spreadsheet. Long story short, I was trying g to prove it was worth it. It does take a LOT of time finding rebates, choosing the best money saving ones, and uploading receipts. I average an hour or two a week and save on average $10/week in rebates. Now, if someone isn’t concerned on buying healthy foods or saving money overall in their budget, sure, you COULD rack up a ton of money in rebates, but you wouldn’t be truly saving anything. Remember, the reason these apps are there is to entice you to buy. They are only worth it if it is both something you would buy anyway, something you need, and the best deal you can find on any brand of that item. They rarely are and you never know that unless you are paying close attention and tracking the costs of items.

    Maybe surveys are better. I don’t know. I have never found surveys that were available for me that didn’t take quite awhile and pay very little, frankly.

    The easiest way I have found to make extra money if you can’t find a part time job is donating plasma. It is by far the biggest return on time without a commitment.

    1. Thank so much for your feedback. You and I definitely differ on opinions on though. I find taking pictures of receipts worth the time, but hate taking surveys. Surveys are such a huge time suck to me and the amount earned never seems worth it. I haven’t tried plasma donation though.

      The way I see it any method you use will require some amount of time – some may take more time than others. While none of the methods listed will get you rich and take a lot of time, you have to determine if the sacrifice of time is worth it for you. To me, I’d rather “waste time” taking pictures of receipts to earn a few dollars here and there, sign up for cash back sites and get a minuscule part time job if it means I’ll get out of debt quicker. Any amount of money is a big help towards debt payoff. So if throwing away some valuable time towards some apps means I’ll be debt free sooner, I’m all for it.

  12. Dammit, I was so stoked to read this post when I found it on Google. I had never heard of Gradible but at the bottom of the post I realized two things, first Gradible is dead and gone and this was from several years ago. I loved that you did programs like surveys or Mypoints. I use them both to finance my bucket list project. Though I paid off my student loans a couple of years ago, Darcee, my now fiancé asked me to help find ways to pay off hers. So I was researching other ideas like Gradible. Have you found similar ideas yet?

    1. HI Eric,

      So sorry to disappoint you. Yes, this post is from about 4 years ago. however, thank you so much for the reminder to update it. I do have some other methods to use. Check back for when I publish it. Wihsin gyou and your fiance luck with the student loan payoff journey

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