Student loan debt is no laughing matter. In fact, the average graduate leaves college owing approximately $22,000 in student loan debt. This figure alone might make you think twice about higher education. Private loans and federal aid, such as Sallie Mae student loans, can help you realize your educational goals. But getting a degree is only half the battle. You have to repay your student loan after graduation, and depending on how much you owe, it can take more than 10 years to settle the debt.
There is no denying the benefits of a college degree, especially since graduates earn (on average) about $20,000 more a year than non-graduates. Finishing school with a ton of debt is scary, but there are practical ways to eliminate the debt faster.
1. Live smartly. If you continue to live like a college student upon graduation, you’ll be able to pay off your debt faster. Some graduates find a job, and then immediately shop for a nicer apartment, a nicer vehicle and other luxuries. This increases their monthly expenses and leaves little income for debt repayment. This starts a cycle of minimum payments, in which they spend the next ten or more years paying off student loans.
There is a better approach. Keep your lifestyle and expenses relatively the same. If you do make a few upgrades, don’t go crazy and tie up your disposable income. Prioritize your spending and put your extra cash toward savings and student loan repayment.
2. Get a second job. If you want to pay off your student loan debt in less than five years, consider a second job at night or on the weekends. Your day job can pay your living expenses, such as rent, utilities, transportation and food. The money earned from your second job can go toward your student loan debt. Make an extra $125 a week and you’ll pay down your debt by $500 a month – approximately $6,000 a year. Keep with this method and you’ll pay off $20,000 in about three in and half years, plus you’ll pay less interest.
3. Talk with your employer. If you obtain a job in public service, your employer may help with your student loan debt. Additionally, some occupations qualify for loan forgiveness. To qualify for such help, you must work with a particular company for a certain number of years.
4. Lower your interest rate. A better rate on student loans can speed the repayment process. Maintaining good credit is one way to score a better rating, as well as setting up automated payments with your student loan provider. If you have multiple loans, consider a consolidation to lower your rate and payment. To benefit the most from a lower rate, make higher payments each month.
Paying your own tuition while in school or getting help from parents is one way to avoid costly loans. But this isn’t always practical. Don’t be afraid of student loans – think of them as an investment in your future. Create a plan for fast repayment and the debt won’t hang over your head for decades.