Paying off debt can feel like a battle you’ll never win. If you’re like many people, you not only left college with a lot of knowledge and an enlightened view of the world, you also left with thousands of dollars in debt.
In fact, in 2016, seven out of ten college students graduated college with more than $37,000 in student debt. Students who switched majors, pursued advanced degrees, or went back to school face an even higher amount.
Paying off such a high amount of debt with a job that doesn’t pay a lot of money can be difficult. Thankfully you can escape the burden of student loans by following a few simple steps. Keep reading to learn about 4 tips to effectively manage your student loan payments.
1. Understand Your Student Loans
Many people don’t really know the ins and out of their student loans. It’s all too easy to distance yourself from loan information and instead just make the minimum payment and move on with life. But, knowing how your loan works is an important pay of repayment.
The first step is to find your loans. You likely have loans from different lenders and over the years, it’s easy to forget which lenders have funded your education. You can use the National Student Loan Data System to locate any federal loans. To look for private lenders, you can contact them or order a free copy of your credit report.
Once you find all of your student loans, the next step is to understand your payment options. Some loans allow you to use an income-based repayment plan. If you’re unable to make loan payments, you can apply for temporary loan deferment.
Last, understand the details of each of your loans. If you have multiple loans, it makes sense to pay off the loan with the highest interest rate first. You’ll also want to understand the minimum payment due along with which loans may qualify for loan forgiveness and deferment.
2. Use Your Grace Period
Depending on the type of student loan that you applied for, chances are that the lender offers a grace period after you graduate when you aren’t required to make any loan payments. While many choose to ignore their student loans during the grace period, it’s actually the best time to understand your loans and to have a plan to pay them off.
Most lenders offer a grace period that lasts around six months, starting from the day of your last class. Even if you didn’t graduate and instead stopped attending school, you’re still entitled to a grace period.
If you have a job and are making a steady income, the grace period is a good time to start making payments. This allows you to get ahead of the game and gets you into the habit of making the necessary monthly payments before they’re mandatory. The sooner you can start paying off your student loans, the better.
3. Have a Plan
Aside from choosing the right payment plan for paying off your student loans, it’s also important to have a personal plan for how and when you will pay off each loan. Depending on your income, you may want to switch to an income-based repayment plan. Or, if you have several outstanding student loans, a student loan consolidation program may be ideal.
What’s most important is that you have a plan of attack as to how you will make payments each month and which loan to pay off first. Using debt payoff planner apps can help you to visualize your payment timeline while also showing the progress you’ve made.
By using these apps, it’s much easier to see where your money is going and how much progress you’ve made.
4. Continue to Embrace the College Lifestyle
After graduating, walking the stage, and earning your diploma, you’re probably more than ready to leave the college lifestyle behind. But, even if you have a job with a steady source of income, the last thing you want to do is to start spending excessively. The fact is that you have a debt to pay off, and blowing all of your money doesn’t create the best financial situation.
By continuing a bare-bones lifestyle, even if for just a little while, the quicker you can pay down your student loans. To minimize expenses after graduating:
- Cook and eat meals at home
- Minimize nights out
- Live with roommates so that you can share expenses
- Shop using coupons and discounts
- Know where to find deals on business attire
- Use public transportation
Keeping your spending in check while sticking to a budget will enable you to have plenty of money left over to put towards student loan debt.
Student loans can be crippling, especially if you graduate college without a job. Use these 4 tips to better manage your money and your loans so that you can gradually dig yourself out of the student loan debt hole.