Bad news for student loan borrowers. The nearly three-year reprieve of making student loan payments ends this month as borrowers must resume payments beginning in October.
If you’re dreading this news, don’t worry. Paying back your student loans is important, but it’s not impossible. After all, you had almost three years to get your finances in order without these repayments.
Let’s talk about how to make repaying your student loans easy.
How To Make Student Loans Easy
Here’s your 6-step plan to make this process easier to manage.
Create a Budget Battle Plan
The first step in conquering your student loans is to create a budget.
Think of it as your battle plan against debt. Start by listing all your monthly income sources and expenses. This will give you a clear picture of your financial situation. Allocate a portion of your income specifically for student loan repayment. Treating it like any other monthly expense will help ensure you don’t forget or skip payments.
Not into budgeting? Consider the Pay Yourself First strategy instead, which is a great way to pay your bills, save for the future, and have extra cash to spend guilt-free…all without budgeting.
Explore Loan Forgiveness Programs
Before you start making large monthly payments, investigate loan forgiveness programs that might apply to your situation. For instance, public service jobs or teaching in underserved areas often offer loan forgiveness opportunities. These programs can significantly reduce the amount you need to repay, making managing your student loans easier.
There are a number of student loan forgiveness programs available to borrowers, depending on their eligibility. Some of the most common programs include:
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): PSLF forgives the remaining balance of your Direct Loans after you’ve made 120 qualifying monthly payments while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Qualifying employers include the government, non-profit organizations, and certain schools and other educational service agencies.
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF): TLF forgives up to $17,500 in federal student loan debt for full-time teachers for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school.
- Perkins Loan Cancellation: Perkins Loan Cancellation forgives a portion of your Perkins Loan balance each year you work full-time in certain public service jobs, such as teaching, social work, or nursing.
- Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plans: IDR plans cap your monthly student loan payments at a percentage of your discretionary income. After 20 or 25 years of making IDR payments, depending on your plan, the remaining balance of your loan will be forgiven. More on this below.
Other student loan forgiveness programs are available for specific groups of borrowers, such as those with disabilities, those who were defrauded by their college, or those who served in the military.
Refinancing your student loans can be a strategic move to lower your interest rates and simplify your repayment plan. However, it’s essential to approach this with caution. Carefully research and compare offers from different lenders to find the best terms for your situation. Remember that refinancing might result in losing federal loan benefits, such as income-driven repayment plans or loan forgiveness.
Choose an Income-Driven Repayment Plan
Income-driven repayment plans tie your monthly loan payments to your income, making it easier to manage your debt. These plans ensure you’re never stuck with payments exceeding your financial capacity. You may qualify for $0 monthly payments depending on your income, giving you some financial breathing room.
Set up Automatic Payments
Making your student loan payments automatic is a simple yet effective way to ensure you never miss a due date. Many lenders offer interest rate discounts when you set up automatic payments, saving you money in the long run. Plus, it takes the hassle out of remembering to make the payments yourself.
Side Hustle Your Way to Freedom
In the gig economy era, there are countless opportunities to generate extra income on the side. Consider starting a side hustle or freelancing gig with your skills and passions. The extra money you earn can go directly toward your student loans, helping you pay them off faster.
Snowball or Avalanche Your Debt
Two popular debt repayment strategies are the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods. The snowball method involves paying off your smallest loans first, while the avalanche method focuses on tackling high-interest loans. Choose the strategy that aligns with your personality and financial goals, and watch as your student loans gradually disappear.
Paying off student loans doesn’t have to be a nightmare. With careful planning, discipline, and a bit of creativity, you can make the process manageable and enjoyable.
Remember, the key to success is setting clear goals, staying motivated, and taking proactive steps to tackle your debt. Embrace the journey of becoming debt-free; before you know it, you’ll celebrate your financial freedom.