Congratulations, you’ve graduated college! You’ve finally walked across that stage and are ready to take on the world! There’s nothing that kills that post-grad buzz, however, quite like facing one harsh reality: student loan debt.
Not to be a downer, but approximately 6 months after you receive that beloved diploma of yours, Uncle Sam will come knocking on your door. Some students (let’s call them the ‘lucky ones’) had the privilege of paying their tuition upfront or received grants and scholarships that covered the costs. Unfortunately, for most of us, student loans were the only possible way we could make it across that stage.
It’s been reported that in the U.S. (the RGV included), the average college student will graduate with a ridiculous $40,000 in student loan debt. Boy, is this a problem! The struggle to begin a career, live independently and pay down your debt is real.
Whether you’ve been paying your loans for a few years or you’re just entering that grace period, the best thing you can do for yourself is to be in the know. Contrary to how your overall balance might make you feel, there are things you can do to tackle your student loan debt and reduce your stress level:
1. Grace Period = Godsend
After graduation, your student loan grace period might seem like a Caribbean vacation. As much as you might want to use the 6 months to relax and keep your principal balance off of your list of worries, there’s no better time to take action. Whether or not you’ve found employment, your grace period is the ideal time to start tackling all that accrued interest. During this period, you are in complete control; you can decide how often and how much your payments should be. It’s also the perfect time to get yourself accustomed to paying an important bill. Rather than a chance to escape from reality, view your student loan grace period as a training period to set yourself up for success once your monthly payments kick in.
2. Understand Your Loans
When it comes to paying off your debt, there’s a huge difference between mindlessly making monthly payments and actually understanding where the money you’re paying goes. Before you get comfortable, make sure you know the following: how much you owe, your payment options, loan details, interest and forgiveness.
Often times, students take out multiple types of loans concurrently. For this reason, some of them could be separate and not included in your total balance. Cut out any worries and consult the National Student Loan Data System to ensure that you’ve got the heads up on your debt.
3. Payment Plans Are Key
When you see your projected monthly payment, you might find yourself feeling a little nauseous. Keep calm! Most lenders offer several specialized payments plans, so you’re bound to find something that’ll work for you.
From income-based repayment to plans where payments increase over periods of time, believe it or not, paying back your student loan debt can totally be manageable and tailored to your current financial situation. All it takes is a few deep breaths and a conversation with your loan provider.
4. Be Fabulously Frugal
While this one may not seem too fun, since you’ve got debt to deal with, it’s important that you don’t go jet-setting off to Vegas or purchase that $5,000 handbag you’ve been eyeing every chance you get. There’s nothing like landing your first full-time job to make you feel invincible, and well let’s face it, expensive.
As much as you might feel the urge to splurge, be mindful of your budget and stick to it. Before you make any rash or large expenses, make sure that all of your bills have been paid in full. There’s a fine line between having fun and being a responsible adult. Make sure you’re on the right side!
5. Be Proactive
When it comes to paying off you student loans, if there’s one thing you should know it’s that accrued interest should be your priority. When making your monthly payments, make sure you’re spending the most money on the loan with the highest interest rate. It’s also important to calculate how much of your loan is actually going to interest and how much is going to your main balance.
On a side note, some lenders offer a lower interest rate for borrowers who enroll in auto-debit payments. And what’s more, when tax season rolls around, keep in mind that all those dollars you’ve been putting towards student loan interest are tax deductible! Student loan repayment doesn’t have to be all bad, does it?
As daunting as paying back your student loans can seem, it’s important to never lose sight of one amazing thing: they brought you through 4 years that changed your life as you once knew it for the better. So before you begin to agonize over your monthly statement, keep your eyes on the prize and practice these tips to tackle that debt.