Graduating college can be the most exciting but equally terrifying time of your life. Getting your first piece of mail about your student loan debt is daunting and really makes this time of life a whole lot more difficult. It is possible to pay off these student loans without completely ruining your social life, I promise.
You don’t need to have your student loans until you die. They do not need to be a burden forever. There is hope! Here are 11 tips that you can use to help you pay down your student loan debt, and to give yourself some piece of mind.
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11 Tips to Pay off Student Loan Debt
#1 – Don’t Run From Your Debt
Your student loan debt isn’t going to just up and walk away. Someone loaned you this money and they aren’t going to want it back. Ignoring the reality of your largest amount of debt isn’t going to get you any closer to where you want to be. Understand that this debt won’t be for the rest of your life, and the sooner it’s paid off, the sooner you can live.
This is something you can do, and something you have to do.
A great way to have a personalized reminder of your debt that will help motivate you to pay them off is to have a debt thermometer hanging on your wall where you see it at least once a day, we made a pretty cool one:
#2 – Know & Understand Your Loans
I’ve talked to quite a few people about their student loans and they usually say they don’t actually know the total amount. Wait, what? It’s so important to know the total number and how much you’ll need to pay monthly for each loan you have. You should also add any credit card debt that came from being in school (used for books/food) to your totals!
I totally understand the desire to not know the total and just to know how much you have to pay, but that won’t make it feel as good when the number hits 0.
#3 – Start a Budget
Budgeting is always the most important and intelligent thing you can do for your finances. The best beginner budget is the Zero-Based Budget because it gives every single dollar a job and will allow you to throw as much money as possible toward your loans.
Putting your student loans into your budget as a bill is going to show yourself that you can’t run away from them! It may be tempting to stray away from your budget, but that won’t get you any closer to your goals.
#4 – Start a Profitable Side Hustle
You are never going to have more time or more energy than you do immediately after graduating college. This is why you should start trying to make side money ASAP to be able to pay these loans off before you’re too tired from your newborn baby and don’t have the time!
There are a ton of side hustle, student loan debt pay off success stories out there. Working a side job gives you so much more money which will let you pay off a ton of debt, relatively quickly.
To be able to pay off big amounts of debt, you need to make way more than the minimum payment. If you take every penny from a side hustle and throw it at your loans, you’ll only need half the amount of time to pay them off. If you want to look into a profitable non-computer side hustle, check out this post we wrote! Also, if you’re looking for a long-term option for extra money, maybe look into starting a blog!
#5 – Understand Your Why
What do you want from your future? Do you want to pay for your kids to go to college? Retire debt free? Do you want a bunch of rental property? Travel the world, maybe? These are all totally awesome goals to strive for, and they’re all reasons to work on paying off your student loans. The earlier you pay off your loans, the earlier you can build up money for the future.
I suggest taking about an hour or so and just write all about why you want to pay off the debt. Every thing you want to accomplish in your life and how being debt free will help with that. Whenever you have a hard day, look back on it and remember your why.
#6 – Make Regular Payments
It’s important to turn your student loan debt into a monthly bill. Not only will this ensure you never miss a payment, it will also help to improve your credit score. If you don’t actually have to think about making these payments, there’s a much smaller chance you’ll forget to pay them and end up in collections.
Also, if you ever do start missing payments, making regular payments for a year or so before will show the lender that you’re responsible and you’re just going through some stuff. All you need to do is schedule a payment to your lender on the day you get paid for at least the amount of your minimum payment!
#7 – Repayment Assistance
Most government student loan programs have some kind of repayment assistance system. Depending on your situation, you could even get all of your loans forgiven if you work in the public sector for long enough! The factors that decide if you can get assistance is usually your income, your place of employment, and how much you owe. Apply for every program possible!
#8 – Set a Realistic Time Frame & Set Rewards
What is the longest amount of time you’d be willing to be paying them off? If you just got your undergrad, you can start paying them off at 22 years old. Will it take you 10 years? Or 5 years?
This is something you need to decide. Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years? If you pay off your loans quicker you’ll have more cash available to invest and buy a home faster which is definitely a factor.
You need to decide on a realistic amount of time based on your income, expenses, and your life goals. If you want to be married with children before you’re 30, you’ll probably start a nest-egg before paying off your loans entire and that is okay. Your goals need to reflect what you want in life.
#9 – Pay More Than Minimums
If you only pay the monthly minimum payment, you’re essentially just paying off the interest and hardly making a dent in your total loan amount. Most companies decide on your monthly payment as your total interest for the month, plus a small amount. This means you hardly change the principal by only paying minimums.
For example, my student loan payment minimum is $91 a month. Only $65 of that actually goes toward the principal. No matter what I pay at least $150 every month toward my loan so I can make moves toward being student debt free faster.
#10 – Dump Extra Money on Your Loan
Did grandma give you $100 for Christmas? Did you get a large tax refund? Awesome! Free money is cool and dandy, but you really should put that money straight toward your student loans. Whatever you buy with that free money is only going to give you momentary satisfaction, but being debt free feels so good, forever.
#11 – Believe in Yourself
The most important thing you can do is to believe in yourself. You are the only one that is going to help you out of this situation. Your time is now. Get moving. Hustle. Do whatever you need to do to make it happen. You’ve got this. Believe in your ability to get it done.
Student loan debt is tricky. It sucks that we even have to pay this much for an education, but it’s how the cookie crumbles. Just focus on paying them off as quickly as you’re able to and you’ll get there. It’s going to take time but you will get it done!