If you’re struggling to make monthly payments on your student loans, the first thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Between the 44 million American's who have taken out loans, they collectively owe over $1.3 trillion. Take a deep breath. This blog post is not aimed at adding to your financial stress.
The goal of this post is to provide you with a game plan to tackle those loans without losing any more sleep.
Start a budget
First things first: write out a budget. Set your monthly income against your monthly expenses and put a tight leash on purchases like clothes, entertainment, dinners out, and so forth. Budgets are easy to make, and are one of the best tools to keep you financially accountable. Your budget will help guide your path to financial freedom.
If the thought of Excel gives you anxiety, do not fret. Our friend J. Money from Budgets Are Sexy has a list of free, downloadable budgeting templates you can snag while you're in the student loan payoff zone.
Cut back on the little things
It’s surprising how quickly life's splurges can add up. Lattes and cable packages are great, but you can easily do without them. An Internet connection is all you need to access thousands of television shows and movies, and there’s nothing wrong with making your own cup of coffee or eating in. Meal planning is one of the quickest ways to save money every month. Read why Tonya from My Fab Finance lives by her meal plan.
Set higher repayment goals
This may sound absurd, especially if you’re struggling to make payments as it is, but if you can tighten your budget to the point where you can pay $20 or $30 more each month, you’ll see a big difference. These small extra payments have a snowball effect on your student loans that could save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. If you're still in school, these small payments will go even further, as you will not be paying interest yet.
Using your free time to pick up a side hustle can make this step easier by creating a new stream of income that can go directly towards your debt. Need some inspiration? Check out the Side Hustle Nation podcast and blog. They offer quick stories of side hustle success that could flip on the financial lightbulb in your head.
Seek the help of experts
The best way to get better at something is to educate yourself on the subject. Because student loan repayment is such a big issue, plenty of financial experts have set out to tackle the problem. Dave Ramsey has some helpful videos, and numerous bloggers have documented their repayment journey.
Apply for assistance
Help is out there. Services like Student Loan Borrower Assistance (SLBA) and the U.S. Department of Education's student loan forgiveness program provide invaluable resources that can help you defer payments, lower your monthly obligations, and even forgive a portion of your loans. The options and resources you’ll find on these sites can help you in any stage of your student loan repayment.
Not everyone qualifies, but it's important to know what extra resources are out there.
No matter how much further you have left to go in your student loan repayment journey, know that everyone here at Kasasa is cheering you on.