Kick off your payments with honesty and responsibility.During college, myself, like many other students who needed to take loans did not give much thought to the accumulating financial burden that comes along with it. I practically forgot about just how much I took out: with no bills for months after graduation, preparing for repayment did not take immediate priority.
Up until the final moments, graduating and looking for a job was prioritized- I put off the idea of what I'm going to owe... Until very recently. As the six-month grace period my loans offer is inching nearer and nearer it became vital to kick off a repayment plan. Lucky for me, I have a godfather who's a financial advisor, and an extremely close older cousin who's went through the process and they gave me some tips on how to get started that I am going to share with you. Hopefully you find them as helpful as I did.
- Face your debt: If your loans have been building, a crucial first step is to know what you're working with. On the National Student Loan Data System, students can locate all their federal loans and find debt totals, including accumulated interest.
Before I looked online, I wasn't even sure how much my loans were, and I completely forgot about the interest. It was really scary to face the numbers, but it's even more helpful to know exactly what you're dealing with.
- Contact your loan servicer: Once you know how much you owe, find out exactly who you'll be sending checks to—your student loan servicer. Whether you have federal or private loans, your loan servicer is your first point of contact for any questions and address updates, so don't hesitate to reach out!
Building a successful repayment strategy for student loan debt is essential in learning about and shaping your financial future.
- Pick a repayment plan: The standard repayment plan for student loans is 10 years, but that doesn't necessarily make it the right option for every student.
Some borrowers of federal student loans, for example, may be better off opting into Income-Based Repayment or Income-Contingent Repayment plans, which adjust monthly bills according to pay. For help finding the right plan, online tools such as PayBackSmarter.com allow students to experiment with payment options.
- Stick to a budget: Once you determine a monthly obligation, keep track of other spending to ensure you can pay all your bills. Websites such as Mint.com which I wrote about in a previous post: here helps prepares you to begin repaying your loans.
Creating a budget, sticking to it, and keeping it visual is great, because when you can actually see your budget on a website or on your phone, you don't want to go over it. It almost turns into a game of sorts where you want to win.
- Prioritize your loan payments: As you budget, you may find yourself forgoing activities or events to pay off your debt. You have to get used to your upcoming loan payments taking precedence over major decisions..
Your loan payments will affect your life, and may put other things on a slight hold. The move you want to make out west might not yet be feasible, no matter how daunting it may be, commit to your payments and make it priority number one. It will benefit you greatly in the long run. Further, prioritizing may also mean minimizing other forms of debt or, if possible, chipping away at student loans before tackling other types of debt.
- Focus on the future: If you find you're scrimping or sacrificing to make your monthly student loan payments, it may help to remind yourself what you're paying for.
That being said, It helps me to reflect on my college career and keep fresh in mind the value of the education I got, and the great job offering that came along with it--It definitely paid off. Remember: even though right now it may seem like a lot, in 10 or 15 years it will be well worth it and behind you.
I hope this is helpful! Do not hesitate to ask your elders for advice, most of them have been where you are right now!