I know you’ve heard it already – “Avoid student loans as much as possible!” and “Don’t go into debt for school!” or “Student loans are such a pain!”
Believe me, I’ve heard it all as well. But in my case, I heard all of that after I had already graduated college with approximately $35,000 in student loans. Just a little late, you could say.
In 2016 the current average student loan debt hovers at $37,172 per borrower. That’s a lot of debt for anyone to hold. As someone who had slowly, but surely, paid off student loans, I’ve put together a few steps recent graduate or anyone looking to pay off their loans as soon as possible.
If you’re in college still, I want you to pay close attention, because you can pay off your student loans while still in school.
For Students Still in College
Work and pay your student loans while in school
Not only will working through college help you with time management, but it can also directly affect how much money you need to borrow. Instead of getting private loans for books and supplies, income from a part-time job can help supplement those expenses instead. Plus, you’ll be gaining some real-world experience. Try getting a job related to your major which helps with building your resume.
Opt for Federal Student Loans
If you must borrow, opt for federal loans. Federal interest rates are typically lower than private student loan rates. Also, federal loans have more flexible repayment options, such as payments based on your income. You would also have the option to defer or forbear (delay or reduce) your federal payments. Private lenders don’t generally offer this kind of flexibility.
Send in Early Prepayments
Check to see that your loans have no prepayment penalties. If your loan has no prepayment penalties, pay money towards your loan every month The sooner you chip away at your principal balance, the faster you’re loan will be paid off. Payments of $10 or $20 is always much better than a non-payment.
Make Note of Your First Payment(s)
Many lenders offer a grace period which means no payments are due immediately after graduation. This grace period is meant to give you some time to find your first job. Make sure you know the exact date your first payments are due for all your loans. Mark these dates on a calendar and remind yourself a month before your first payment so you can prepare accordingly.
For College Graduates
Accept the new reality
Too many people look at their student loans as a bad decision. The more you associate your loans with regret and negativity, the less inclined you are to prioritize student debt repayment.
Instead of thinking about your loans negatively, look at all the good that has come out of it. For me, it was really looking at my experience in college and associating the monetary value of my loans to things that I really appreciated at my school and the friends I made.
If you have more than one loan and/or are paying more than one loan servicer, consolidation may be the best option for you. Consolidating your student loans combines all of them into one big loan – meaning you only may one payment per month to one servicer. The total cost of borrowing may be lower if you consolidate at a lower interest rate and a shorter term.
Consolidation isn’t for everyone but is an option everyone should look into. I consolidated my federal student loans. Instead of having 8 different payments per month I had one. Consolidating through a federal program keeps many repayment options available. If you decide to refinance federal and private loans together, you may lose some federal repayment benefits
Set Monthly Payment Reminders
Defaulting on your student loans is a big deal and will impact your financial wellbeing. Defaulting means you failed to make a payment. Set up reminders or automatic payments to avoid fees and keep your credit healthy.
Throw in a Little Extra
Don’t regret your debt but get rid of it as soon as possible. The sooner you’ve paid off student loan debt, the more relaxed you’ll feel. Add a few extra dollars with each minimum payment to lower the principal balance. The faster you lower the principal balance the fewer interest payments you’ll pay.
Student loan freedom doesn’t come overnight. It takes time and a plan.