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Ten Ways to Pay Off Your Loans

Student loans. They can be a fickle thing, can’t they? You are an 18-year old, bright-eyed freshman about to embark on your college journey. For the first time in your life, you will be out of the immediate reach of your parents and guardians. You’re alone, and you need money. This informative list was created by one of the talented and creative writers at Ultius.

Ten Ways to Pay Off Your Student Loans

I’m sure we all remember the first time we stepped inside the financial aid office. A stern looking woman accessed my account, wrote some numbers on a pad of paper, made a half-hearted attempt at explaining compounding interest, loan deferment, the potential impact of massive student loan debt. But it doesn’t really stick, does it? For most people, graduation is in the distant future and the idea of paying off the loans just doesn’t strike students as the most important thing. Say you graduate in 4 years. You’re facing down the barrel of thirty thousand-odd dollars in federal student loans and a smattering of private loans to pick up the slack. Let’s call it $40,000 total in loans. At 6.8% interest, that’s a lot of scratch per month. How are you going to do it?

The reality of things

Besides, if you go to college, you’re going to be making $50,000-$70,000 a year right when you graduate, right? No. You won’t. For select STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), that’s a decent to strong possibility that will be true, but for everyone else, job choices after college are far fewer and far less guaranteed. While loan forgiveness is a possibility for some, being debt-free is something everyone can achieve. Don’t let student loan debt after graduation hold you down! Here are ten good tips that should help you keep from becoming overwhelmed by intimidating student loan payments:

1. Attitude is key

You can do it. Others have done it, and so will you. Keeping a positive attitude about your student loan debt is one of the best things you can do.

2. It will end

Let’s say you’ve been paying off your loans for a few months now. It sucks, doesn’t it? You must hate the idea of owing so much money to other people. When you check your bank account and see $1000 or $10,000 in it, the crushing realization is that your net worth is actually many thousands in the negative due to your student loan debt. Still, the idea that soon you will be debt free is a powerful tool.

3. Pay as much as you can

The cost of higher education is on the rise, and $40,000 is a lot of money, it’s true. But it’s doable. Really, it is. If you’re looking at paying off your student loan debt within 10 years of graduation, a quick back-of-the-napkin calculation points towards a solid $450 a month for monthly payments. You don’t need that new car with its $500 a month payment. You don’t really need to go to Europe right away. Just because you have your first “big boy” job after graduation doesn’t mean you can afford to buy everyone drinks, either.

4. Live frugally

Let’s go over this again. If you have $40,000 in student loan debt after graduation, you can’t afford vacations, or new fancy cars, or lots of alcohol and parties and the like. You just can’t. Frugality is key. Every dollar you spend on useless massive televisions and fast cars is a dollar you don’t spend getting rid of your debt.

5. Debt snowball

Debt snowballing is a term that refers to paying off your loans in order of smallest balance first, then using the cash that would be paying off that student loan to begin tackling the next largest loan. While not as mathematically pure as debt avalanche (tip #6), the snowball method provides not only the psychological satisfaction of finally killing off loans, but also frees up cash flow to target fewer loans instead of a multitude of smaller loans.

6. Debt avalanche

The opposite of the snowball approach, the debt avalanche approach says to pay off the highest interest rate loans first, which will save you money in the long-run. Though it does not have the same psychological impact as the snowball method, it is mathematically superior in terms of cost.

7. Don’t pay if you can avoid it

Look into loan forgiveness. Call your lenders. Public service jobs have Public Service Loan Forgiveness plans. Use them.

8. Don’t pay the minimum

If you pay the minimum on your student loan debt, you will be in debt from the time of graduation till the day you die, or close to it. Pay as much as you can, as often as you can. Just got that big tax return? It’s tempting to splurge, but making a big payment will be nearly as rewarding.

9. Don’t believe credit card myths

Carrying a balance on a credit card won’t help your credit score. It just won’t. That’s a fact. Virtually every credit agency likes seeing utilization and use of your credit, but carrying an interest-bearing balance simply does not help you at all. Use your credit cards, and pay them off in full at the end of the month. Have student loan debt? Well, don’t waste time keeping them alive longer than you really need. They won’t help your credit score, so pay them off as soon as you can and take the first breaths of a free, debt-free life.

10. Budget

I don’t know you, and I already know you eat out too much. Stop wasting $10 on a single meal, when $10 worth of groceries will last you at least a day. Learn to budget and see where your money goes. I bet you spend too much, or at least more than you need. Trim the fat in your budget, put that money towards student loan debt, and watch as you pay off your loans far faster than your peers.

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