The reality of your looming student loans can be a downer if you think about it too much. Because this isn’t a pleasant thought, naturally many recent graduates decide to push off dealing with loans for a later time, like they did as students.
But, as days turn into weeks that turn into months, the moment comes when your first student loan repayment is due. That moment happens to be this month—November.
With no more time to procrastinate, you’ll best help yourself by knowing your way around repaying student loans. The more understanding and actions you do up front, the less scary and painful your debt becomes.
Use This List To Effectively Pay Off Your Student Loans
1. Know the total amount of how much you owe and when your first payment is scheduled. You can do this by checking your email for the information about how to sign-in to your student loan servicer’s website.
2. Based on your monthly income, determine how much you’re going to pay toward student loans each month and how that will affect your other expenses and savings. Obviously, an incentive to save more is you will have more money to pay back your loans and shorten the last payment due date.
3. Set up automatic payments that come directly from your bank account. Many times, student loan servicers will give you an incentive for setting up automatic payments, such as a small reduction in your debt or decrease the interest rate. And going automatic will give you peace of mind that you won’t be penalized for missing a payment.
4. Whenever you get a bonus or extra windfall of cash, don’t spend this money to increase your standard of living. Instead, use this extra income to knock off more of your student loans than the regular scheduled payment. Your future self will be absolutely thankful you did this.
5. Schedule fifteen minutes each month, I recommend setting up a phone reminder for the first Sunday of every month, to check the status of your loans. Use this time to verify your loans are successfully going through, to get an updated figure of how much you owe, and to remind yourself of your mission to knock this debt to zero.
6. Check options for refinancing your student loans. This is a relatively new process, and I wanted to update this post to let you all know about it. Just like refinancing your mortgage or auto loan, when you refinance a student loan, your new lender will pay off your old loans and give you a new one with a lower interest rate or monthly payment. I found this post to be especially helpful.
7. If you are ineligible for student loan refinancing and are struggling to make payments, consider switching to an income-driven repayment plan. These limit your monthly payments to a portion of your income – usually between 10 and 20 percent of your discretionary income. Here is an article that explains the different plans pretty well.
Financial Discipline Is Key
The difference between paying off your loans in five years or 20 years all comes down to financial discipline. This discipline requires sacrifices, but I assure you it’s worth it. Some sacrifices needed to reduce your loans at a quicker rate is to save 10-20% of your income, make sure you never miss a payment, and work towards paying more than the monthly requirement.
To make this hard work easier, get inspired by imagining the weight off your shoulders once you make your last repayment. Or think of what you’re going to do with all the excess cash each month that used to go to your student loans.
As you start small and gain momentum in reducing your debt, you’ll slowly but surely begin to see the finish line in the distance. And if graduate school debt is in the picture on top of undergrad debt, you’re going to need to read this: How To Fund Graduate School.
Readers, how do you feel about repaying student loans? Are you worried about these student loan repayments? What is your plan to knock down this debt?