Are you struggling to pay off your student loans? You’re not alone.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 71% of millennials have student loan debt. But that doesn’t mean you have to let your loans cripple you financially.
There are plenty of ways to get your student loan payments under control and start chipping away at that debt. Below are 10 tips that will help you get your student loans paid off as quickly as possible.
1. Start with a budget
The first step in getting your student loan payments under control is creating a budget. Figure out how much money you have coming in each month and what expenses you need to cover, including your loan payments.
If your monthly expenses exceed your income, you’ll need to find ways to reduce the amount of money you spend.
2. Prioritize your payments
When making payments, prioritize the loans with the highest interest rates. These are usually private student loans, not federal ones, so it’s important to also include other types of debt in your budget that have high-interest rates.
You can use a free debt consolidation calculator to find out what types of debt have the highest interest rates and save you money.
3. Refinance your loans
One way to lower your monthly payments is by refinancing. In most cases, this will involve applying for a new loan with a new lender at a better rate than paying off all or most of your existing loans.
Just remember that refinancing isn’t the same thing as consolidating, so you’ll want to look into the existing repayment plans you have first.
Refinancing will only save you money if the interest rate is lower than what you’re currently paying on your loans.
4. Consolidate your student loans
Rolling multiple loans into one is another way to simplify your monthly payments and reduce the amount of time it takes to pay off your debt.
This can be done by applying for a federal student loan consolidation or looking into a private refinancing offer.
Either way, you’ll have one monthly payment instead of several, which can make things easier on your budget and help you save money if you’re able to secure a lower interest rate.
5. Take advantage of repayment plans
If you have federal loans, there are several different types of repayment plans available. Which one is right for you will depend on your financial situation and which plan can save you the most money?
For example, income-based repayment (IBR) caps your monthly payments at 10 percent of discretionary income while income-contingent repayment (ICR) caps your monthly payments at 20 per cent of discretionary income.
6. Get a side hustle
Working a second job in addition to your primary one is another way to pay off debt faster, especially if you have federal loans. Not only will this help you cover the cost of your monthly student loan bills, but it will also give you more money to put towards your debt each month.
Just remember that adding another job to your schedule can easily turn into a huge headache if you don’t manage it correctly. And make sure the side hustle doesn’t interfere with your primary source of income or lead you to spend more than you normally would.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you have federal loans, there are loan forgiveness programs available that could reduce or even eliminate the amount of money you owe. To qualify, you would need to work for a certain type of employer or in a specific field such as public service or education.
There are also repayment assistance programs you may qualify for, such as Pay as You Earn (PAYE), which caps monthly payments at 10 percent of discretionary income.
In the worst-case scenario, deferment and forbearance may be options to consider if you can’t afford your loan payments for a short period of time.
8. Be creative
If your budget is too stretched to make regular student loan payments, consider making a one-time sacrifice in your spending. Maybe you can skip the movies for a month, avoid eating out for lunch and dinner or cut back on your internet plan.
Every little bit helps when you’re trying to lower your monthly payments and pay off debt faster. Also, remember that you can always ask for help from family and friends. Chances are, they will be more than happy to support your efforts to get out of debt.
9. Remember that the numbers don’t lie
If you’re struggling to make your student loan payments every month and keep your finances in order, it may be time to face the music and deal with your debt head-on.
Although it may be tough at first, you’ll feel a whole lot better once your student loans are finally paid off and you’re free from the shackles of debt.
You can also try working with a debt consolidation company to see if you qualify for a debt management plan. The sooner you deal with your debt, the better because the more interest you’ll end up paying overtime.
10. When in doubt, talk to your lender
If you’re not sure what sort of repayment plan you qualify for or how your loans work, your first point of contact should be your federal loan servicer.
These companies are in the business of helping you manage your debt and should be able to resolve any issues you have with your loans.
Still, you may need to reach out to your lender if you’re experiencing trouble making payments or have any questions regarding your student loans.
Once you’ve consolidated your loans for students, created a budget and found a side hustle, the last step is to go out there and make enough money to repay your debt.
If you’re open to telecommuting opportunities, this can be an easy way to earn extra income while working from home. And if you’re not, try selling unwanted stuff on Craigslist or using the Uber driver app to earn money on your schedule.
If you follow this ten-step plan, you won’t have to worry about student loans anymore.