How To Pay Off Student Loans

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Are you young, broke, and struggling to pay off your student loans like I was when I left college? Having a tough time figuring out how you’re going to pay off the mountain of debt that stands before you?

You’re definitely not alone – in fact, student loan debt has become such a huge issue that the average student will graduate with at least $40,000 in student loan debt. According to the Federal Reserve Board Survey of Consumer Finances, 19 percent of graduates owe a minimum of $50,000. Keep in mind, however, that this number only grows larger as you pursue graduate or advanced degrees – with medical degree debt commonly reaching $150,000-$200,000 or more.

This isn’t surprising – we’re all aware of the student loan epidemic that is sweeping through our nation for quite some time and for good reason – $1.4 trillion of outstanding debt is no small issue.

So what is a young, broke person with a pile of student loan debt supposed to do? It can be easy to dismiss the topic altogether by throwing in the towel and raising your arms in defeat, but paying off your student loan debt doesn’t have to be a frustrating and soul crushing experience.

In fact, you can follow proven and reliable methods to successfully pay off your student loans so you can live a debt-free life. This article digs deep into your options and explores how you can go about paying off your student loans even if you’re young and broke.

How to Successfully Pay Off Your Student Loans:

Get clear about your loan type, repayment terms, and amount outstanding

The first step and arguably one of the most important steps is to get a clear understanding about your student loan profile. It’s astonishing how many people are not aware of their payment terms, debt outstanding, and the nature of their loans. Figuring out your loan type, whether you have a grace period, and amount owed is a mandatory first step if you desire to eventually rid yourself of student loan debt. It’s easy to shy away and embrace ignorance when it comes to student loans – this strategy is surely destined for failure. Instead, you must first accept reality and look your student loan debt right in the eye – getting clear about your unique circumstances is crucial so you can devise the most effective game plan to pay off your debts and achieve the goal of living a debt-free life. Read more about how to determine what types of federal and private student loans you owe here.

Cut costs

If you’re young, broke, and struggling to pay off your student loans, one of the most crucial steps you can take is to turn yourself into a cost cutting machine. It’s important to understand that there are no easy fixes – you will have to make sacrifices to reduce your debt. You will only be able to pay off your debts by cutting costs or earning more money (aside from applying for payment plans related to income). Cutting costs doesn’t have to be a frustrating and aggravating experience – you simply have to re-evaluate every one of your expenses and figure out whether or not it’s the best course of action. Eliminate the ‘nice to haves’ and the unnecessary purchases – you’ll save more money, allowing you to devote greater resources to paying off your loans.

When I was struggling after graduation, before I started my business; I used to play a not-very-fun game called the “$25 dollar drill”. It’s where you go into Walmart or other low cost retail store and try to buy a relatively healthy amount of food to get by on for a week. My usual items were – a sack of potatoes, rice, cabbage (cabbage salad.. mmm), eggs, those U-shaped sausage things, beans, carrots, celery, bread, bologna, and of course coffee. Is this the most healthy diet? No.. but it’s a survival diet, and it provides a good amount of balanced calories without being too heavy on starchy carbs or junk food. Depending on where you live in the country, the $25 dollar drill might be more like a $45 dollar drill, but by sticking to these staples; you can eat somewhat healthy and at least not go hungry if you’re really scraping by. Which leads us to the next step:

Earn more money

The quickest and fastest way to solve your student loan issues and improve your overall budget (no more cabbage salad) is by earning more money. After all, the entire purpose of accruing debt was so you could get a high paying job, correct? Although things may not have turned out how you wanted them to go – you have to accept reality for what it is. We all don’t get into our chosen careers right away – some of us have to take alternative routes to the same destination. There’s no shame in taking a job outside your degree if you can’t find employment in your area of study – after all, earning more money must become a strong priority if you are to reduce your debt.

Once you’ve found employment and have a steady paycheck, you should also aim to earn extra money on the side by taking advantage of all the opportunities available today. From driving for Uber to renting out apartments on AirBnb to freelancing on sites like Upwork – make adding extra sources of income to your life a strong priority. Devote a certain percentage of your monthly income towards your student loans, but if you’re struggling financially make sure you’re on the lowest payment plan possible until you can afford to pay more. If you have a little extra left over, try to pay ahead on your loans (after establishing an emergency fund for unexpected issues that may arise).

Make changes to your repayment plan

Although it may not seem like it at times – you actually have a lot of power and control over your student loans. One of the ways you can exercise this control is by making changes to your repayment terms. The best and most effective course of action you can take for federal loans is to simply call your loan servicer or check out studentloans.gov. Depending on your type of loan – you can call your servicer and explain how you’re struggling to make ends meet; and you’re wondering if there’s anything that can be done related to your payment plan.

You’ll soon realize that your federal loan servicer can actually help you out, because they’d rather you not default on your loan. They want you to pay – even if they have to help you apply for a lower repayment plan. This is a great step and one you must take full advantage of because by restructuring your payment terms, you can have greater peace of mind when it comes to paying off your loans. You can also explore the different payment plans available for your federal loans using the free federal student loan repayment estimator.

Look into loan forgiveness programs

If you’re really struggling and unable to make your payments – it may be time to explore loan forgiveness. There are quite a few loan forgiveness programs available. Depending on your area of study, you can begin looking for employment positions that offer special loan forgiveness programs, or public service positions that qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). There are quite a few state specific employment positions that offer loan forgiveness – positions ranging from teachers to lawyers to dentists.

Developing a personalized gameplan

Now that you’re aware of the best options to take to pay off your student loans – it’s time to devise a clear, effective, and purposeful game plan. Incorporate simple yet effective changes into your life, restructure your payment terms, and begin researching loan forgiveness programs. By doing the above, you can pay off your loans faster – allowing you to live the debt-free life that you so rightfully deserve.

Check out our blog for other student loan articles – we specialize in everything you need to get your student loans under control, including free resources for federal loan help, and specialized private student loan settlement services – always on a no-upfront fee basis. If you’re interested in settling your private student loans, fill out our quick online evaluation form today.

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About Andrew Weber, NACCC Certified Student Loan Counselor

Andrew Weber is a NACCC Certified Credit Counselor and a NACCC Certified Student Loan Counselor. He is the only certified student loan Counselor who specializes exclusively on private student loan issues in the US. He's helped hundreds of borrowers drastically reduce their debts.