My Two Cents: 5 Tips for Paying Back Student Loans from a First Generation College Graduate

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    student loan debt.jpgBy Bonnie Carleton

      I graduated from college a year ago, and like most recent graduates, I hate knowing that I now have a cloud of student debt hovering over my head. Although I'm proud of my degree that I worked hard for and I was fortunate to get a job immediately in my field of work, it's hard to shake the feeling of dread knowing that I have a mountain of debt to repay.

    As a first generation college student, I didn't have much in the way of guidance from my family when it came to wisdom and advice about paying back student loans. I started asking friends and colleagues for advice, and this is what they told me:

 

     1. Start paying back loans early

     As soon as I graduated, I began making payments on my student loans. I know people who started paying their loans even before they had finished school! There is generally a grace period between the time you graduate and when you are required to start making payments, but if you can afford to pay earlier- do it! Grace periods vary between types of loans, so make sure you know how much time you have before you have to start making payments.

     2. Make payments larger than the minimum amount that is due

     Paying more than the bare minimum that is due will help to cut down on the years of your life you spend paying off student debt. The faster you are able to pay off your loans, less interest will accrue. Your wallet may feel lighter in the meantime, but you will save yourself a lot of money in the long run by dodging the bullet of student loan interest.

     3. Budget & prioritize your money

     It can be tempting to spend your paychecks on new clothes and expensive outings, but it is important to set aside part of your paycheck for your life expenses: rent, groceries, student loans, and an emergency fund for the inevitable rainy day that we all have once in a while. By including your student loans in your monthly budget, you will be able to plan accordingly and knock out your debt without feeling like you don't have money for your small luxuries.

    4. Pay more on the loans that have a higher interest rate

     I make monthly payments on all seven of my loans, but only two of them have interest rates higher than 6%. I make larger payments on those two, and smaller payments on the rest. If I can knock the two with the higher interest rates out soon, I will have less interest to pay for in the future. Also, see if you can consolidate or refinance your loans. You could end up paying a lower interest rate, and you'll be less likely to miss a payment.

     5. Don't miss a payment

     Do whatever you can do to make sure that you don't miss a monthly payment. Missing a payment can result in a late fee and you'll still be accruing interest on that money. I put reminders on my calendar each month and signed up for email reminders as well. Consider setting up auto-pay. Some companies will even lower your interest rate if you do! If your monthly payment is truly higher than you can afford (not just higher than you want to pay), call your loan company. They can work with you to lower the payment so you will be able to make the payments each month. However, this should be a last resort because it is likely that your loan will be extended and you'll end up paying more interest in the long run.

 

     I'm glad that my friends and colleagues shared their insight with me about the world of student loan repayment. I finally feel like I have a plan and am on track to becoming debt-free. I will continue to use these tips and look forward to the day that I make my last payment! I hope this information is helpful to all of you as well. With some planning, you'll be able to pay off your student loans on schedule. Don't panic, and be proud of your achievements!

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