The following is a guest post by Drew Cloud. Drew started The Student Loan Report when he found it difficult to find student loan information in one place. He now regularly writes about the latest student loan news as well as advice articles for those in college as well as for graduates working to repay their debt.
For many college students, taking on student loans is a means to an end: it is just something that you have to do in order to get a degree. Most college students don’t think about the enormity of their debt until after they’ve graduated and started to make steep monthly payments. This fact shows in the sheer amount of student loan debt that college students and graduates have accumulated across the United States. Currently, it stands at 1.4 trillion dollars — and it is only predicted to grow.
Once you have finished college or graduate school, reality may set in for many grads as you receive your first student loan statement and start setting up your budget. So how can you pay off your student loan debt like an adult? There are many ways that you can work towards a 2017 goal of paying off your debt responsibly — and paying it off as quickly as possible so that you can work towards a debt-free future.
Get a Job
The first step in paying off your student loans is the most basic: finding a job. In today’s economy, it may not always be easy to find the position of your dreams, but that doesn’t mean that you should give up hope. Instead, focus on finding something in your field — and on working your way up to where you want to be.
In many cases, your starting salary may be low, but it can help you get started on paying down your student loans. By chipping away at your principal and interest — and avoiding going into forbearance or deferring your student loans — you can set yourself up for success later in life, when you have a better-paying job and can afford to put more each month towards your loans.
Choose Your Locale Carefully
When you are just starting out, it is tempting to start your job search based on where you want to live — without considering where you can afford to live. The cost of living of any given city is a cold reality for most recent college grads, and one that has to be factored into the equation if you want to pay off your student loan debt.
Look at it this way: if you choose to live in an expensive city, like New York or San Francisco, you could easily be devoting up to half of your monthly income to housing costs alone. That leaves very little left over for other expenses, such as student loans. A less expensive location — such as a smaller city closer to your hometown — could mean housing costs of under thirty percent of your monthly income, freeing up extra cash to put towards your student loans.
Live Below Your Means
In a world where instant gratification is just a click away, it is all too easy to shop yourself into debt. If you want to get yourself out of student loan debt, one of the best ways to do it is to live below your means.
This is a relatively simple concept that can be hard to apply in real life, as it is often tempting to spend whatever cash is available in our accounts. To avoid that temptation, try this easy trick — automate your savings, and your payments. Set up your student loan payments so that they are automatically paid from your checking accounts each month (adding a little extra if you can afford it), and you won’t be tempted to spend that money.
Budget, Budget, Budget
Adults know that the key to financial health is a budget. If you’re looking to pay off your student loan debt, you should be budgeting as well. You’ll know you’re doing it right if you can draw up something like this.
There are many different types of budgets out there, each geared towards different personality and saving types. It is far less important that you pick a specific budget than that you pick a budget — and that you stick to it. Once you have a set budget, you will be able to make your payments on time, each month.
Refinance Your Loans
With a secure job and perhaps a higher income, you can take the next step in paying down your student loans: refinancing. This option is available for borrowers with private student loans, with the choice of refinancing your federal loans along with your private loans. By refinancing, you will typically be able to obtain a lower, fixed interest rate on your loans — which can save you a substantial amount of money. You can also choose a shorter repayment term, which can result in a lower total amount of money paid on the loan.
Pay Extra Each Month
Finally, if you can, pay extra each month (or even send in a double payment) to pay off your student loans more quickly. Even $50 more each month could save you thousands of dollars on your student loans over time — and could help you pay them off years earlier than you otherwise would have.