In 2012, 71 percent of students who graduated 4-year colleges took out student loans. Debt isn’t fun, but education is one of the better reasons to take on debt. While you may not enjoy paying back student loans there are some steps you can take to save yourself some money and make your payments hurt a little bit less.
- Prioritize high-interest debt: While Federal Direct student loans are capped at 6.8%, private loans are not. Even worse interest rates? Credit cards. If you have credit card debt, prioritize paying it off before your student loans. 6.8% interest is no fun, but credit card interest rates 20% and higher can be crippling.
- Income based repayment: If you qualify for an income-based repayment (IBR) plan, do yourself a favor and apply for one. Generally if your debt is higher than your income you will probably qualify. Even if you are able to make your payments without much issue, an IBR can still save you money. How you may ask? If you keep paying the same amount you did before, you can target your payments toward either your highest interest or smallest loans depending on which repayment style fits you. Not to mention, if you are one of the approximately 50% of people who work in public service, you can qualify for loan forgiveness after 10 years.
Pick your payoff: There are two main methods for paying off debt when you have multiple balances to pay. The snowball and the avalanche method.
The snowball method entails taking the extra money you have and paying off your smallest debts first while paying the minimum on the rest. Then once that is taken care of, you roll that payment into the next smallest and knock off your obligations one-by-one. This is best for those who like the reward of seeing their different loans disappear the quickest and can help you stay on track easier.
The avalanche method is similar to the snowball where you make minimum payments on all loans but one. The difference is that you target the highest interest rates first. While you may not experience the visual rewards of seeing the small debts disappear quicker, you will save the most amount of money in the long run this way.
One way to not repay is by spreading out the extra you pay to all debts and pay a little bit additional on everything each month. This provides neither of the advantages that the avalanche and snowball method have while still costing you the same amount. You get less savings than the avalanche, and less of the reward that the snowball offers.