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Most college students graduate with student loans. It’s a harsh reality. You graduate, hopefully find a decent paying job, and kiss a lot of that money goodbye right away when you pay your student loans each month.
Of course, we know that we should pay our student loans. We know that they aren’t good to have. We know that they cost a lot of money. We also know that student loans just plain suck. But do we know what implications they hold and the best tactics for paying them back?
I know that when I first graduated college, I had $30,000 of student loans and no clue what I was doing. Before I graduated, I didn’t even know how much debt I had accumulated. It was like I graduated and this massive student loan debt was handed to me as a terrible graduation gift.
But after ignoring my debt for a few months, I realized it wasn’t going to go away. I decided to read, listen, and teach myself everything I could about student loans. I have now paid off $20,000 of debt principle in 3 years through raising my income at my 9-5 job and by making money through blogging and freelance writing.
Paying off student loans is a hard process. But you can pay off your student loans smartly by avoiding these common mistakes.
Ignoring Your Loans Entirely
Perhaps the worst thing you can do is to simply ignore your student loans. Unfortunately, they aren’t going to just disappear.
Even if you can’t make the minimum student loan payment every month, you have so many options! Don’t just ignore the loans.
If you are struggling to make payments, talk to your providers about what options they may have for you. You can also focus on increasing your income (that’s what I did) in order to make more progress faster.
By not paying your student loans, you could go into default. Defaulting on your loans can be catastrophic. The government can garnish your paychecks in order to pay your loans, and it will wreck your credit score.
Not Knowing What Types of Loans You Have
A lot of people may know how much they owe in total. But they don’t know anything else about their loans.
You need to know the interest rate on each loan, how to access all of your loans, and what kinds of loans you have, such as private, federal, unsubsidized, or subsidized.
Accepting Your Student Loans as “Good Debt”
Student loans are money you borrowed and owe back. It’s never a “good” thing to be in debt.
Your student loans need to be paid off as quickly as possible. The longer it takes, the more money you will owe in interest over the long haul.
Don’t just accept student loans for what they are, or try to make them seem better than what they are by calling them “good debt.”
Going on an Income-Driven Plan Before Exploring Other Options
For federal student loans, you may have the option of going on an income-driven repayment plan. This plan may help to lower your monthly payment and spread your payment terms to 20 years instead of 10.
If you’re struggling to make the minimum payment, this could be an option for you. But I urge you to explore other options first.
Of course, going on an income-driven repayment plan is better than not paying anything to debt at all. But it does have some serious drawbacks.
You may feel like your lenders are “helping” you by working with you to get you on an income-based repayment plan. But they would not do it if they did not profit from you doing so.
On this type of plan, you pay less towards your student loans every month, so your payment terms are longer. You make significantly less progress on your student loans, so you will pay way more in interest over the lifetime of the loans. This is the jackpot for student loan servicers, because they make more money off of you.
Not Working to Earn More Money
Before jumping on an income-repayment plan, you should consider how you could earn extra money in order to make at least the minimum student loan payments.
Making extra money isn’t that hard. I would argue that everyone should work to earn money outside of their 9-5 job. If you have student loans, your 9-5 income may not be enough.
There really aren’t many excuses as to why you shouldn’t be working to earn extra money outside of your job. There is no shortage of ways to earn extra cash. You just have to commit and spend the time and effort to do so.
I started blogging and freelance writing to earn extra money. I put everything I earned extra towards my student loans. While I certainly recommend blogging or freelance writing as a side hustle, you can earn money in any way you would like.
Maybe you choose to babysit on the weekends, or mow lawns for extra cash. You could pick up a side job working in retail or in a restaurant.
I can’t recommend a side hustle enough. If you aren’t making enough money to make progress on your student loans, you need to focus on increasing your income.
Student loans might be stressful, overwhelming, and expensive, but you can pay them off. No matter your current financial situation, you have so many options. Start small, but make a plan to pay more to student loans and you’ll be on the right track in no time.
How are you paying off student loans? What tips do you have for someone just getting started?