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You’re stuck with student loan debt and want to pay it off, but you’re not really sure where to start. You’ve heard of different repayment options and strategies, but they all seem overwhelming.
You’ve come to the right place. By following this 14-day guide, you can take easy, actionable steps toward launching your loan repayment and paying off your loan debt.
Day 1: Add Up Your Debt
Many of us graduate without an accurate picture of how much student loan debt we actually have. Between various loans and different interest rates, the total damage may not be as clear as it should.
To conquer your student loan debt once and for all, it’s crucial to know exactly what you owe—right down to the penny.
To get started, log in to your loan servicer’s website and, one by one, add up the amounts that you owe for all of your debt in an Excel spreadsheet or on a piece of paper.
If you have both federal and private loans, then this process could take longer. In any case, however, it’s vital that you have a clear understanding of how much you owe.
If you’re not sure about which loan servicer is yours but you know that you have federal loans, then log in to the National Student Loan Data System. Otherwise—that is, if you have private loans—then look at your next bill or statement.
Day 2: Review Your Interest Rates
Once you know your total debt and which loan servicer is yours, it’s time to review your interest rates. Your interest rates could vary widely depending on the types of loan you have. Federal and private loan interest rates differ, while PLUS Loans tend to have higher interest rates.
Understanding your interest rates is important not only to knowing what you’re being charged for the loans, but also to devising a smart plan for repayment. You can learn what your interest rates are from the information provided by your loan servicer. As a final step, write down the interest rate for each loan next to its outstanding balance.
Day 3: Calculate Your Daily Interest
Once you have all of the interest rates written next to the outstanding balances on your loans, it’s time to calculate your daily interest. With a calculator, use the following formula:
(Interest rate) × (Current principal balance) ÷ (Number of days in the year) = Daily interest
For example, let’s say that you have $50,000 in debt at a 7% interest rate:
(.07) × ($50,000) ÷ (365) = $9.58
That means that you have to pay $9.58 per day in interest. Calculating your daily interest is a painful but necessary step, for it puts into focus how much you have to pay in interest each day. That amount should help to motivate you to pay off your debt.
Day 4: Choose a Repayment Method
There are a couple of methods available for tackling your debt. For one, you can use the debt snowball method, which involves paying off the smallest balance first and the minimum amounts due on the rest.
Or, there’s the debt avalanche method, which involves paying off the loan with the highest interest first and the minimum amounts due on the rest.
Though the debt snowball method can be more motivating, the debt avalanche method is more cost-effective, since you pay off the highest interest first. In any case, choose the method that feels right for you.
Day 5: Sign Up for Auto Pay
One major drain on your mental energy as you repay your student loans is simply remembering to make payments. So, instead of relying on your memory or setting up calendar reminders, sign up for auto pay.
Auto pay automatically withdraws payment from your checking account and typically offers a 0.25% interest rate discount. If you’re worried about overdrafts, then make it a daily habit to check your account balances. Enrolling in auto pay can make student loan repayment easier as well as save you money.
Day 6: Evaluate All of Your Expenses
Because you want to pay off your student loans, you need to evaluate all of your expenses and identify areas in which you can cut back. Start by listing all of your expenses, including rent, food, insurance, transportation, and entertainment.
Look at the list for areas where you can reduce spending. For instance, if you have a gym membership that you never use, then cancel your membership. If you’re paying for an unnecessary cable package or an elaborate phone plan, then call your Internet and phone provider to negotiate a lower payment. Companies want to keep you as a customer, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Day 7: Have a No-Spending Day Each Week
Though spending money can seem like a natural, necessary part of our lives, it’s smart to occasionally have a no-spending day when you don’t spend any money. For example, on Day 7 of each week, give your finances a break, and keep your wallet shut. Instead, estimate what you might have spent and put that extra money toward your debt.
Day 8: Create a Meal Plan
When you’re trying to pay off student loan debt, food expenses can really take a huge bite out of your budget. It’s also easy to justify food expenses because we have to eat.
But instead of spending all of your extra money on eating out, create a meal plan. A meal plan is like a budget for food; you plan ahead what you will eat and what ingredients you will need.
If you’re new to meal planning, then learn how to get started here. Meal plans can save you money because you stick to buying what’s on the list and what’s part of your plan, instead of randomly splurging on Goldfish crackers or peanut butter cups.
Day 9: Sell Your Old Stuff
If you’ve got stacks of old CDs, books, and clothes that are just collecting dust, then it’s time to get rid of them and make some money. You can take your old things to local stores and resell them for cash.
For old items that these stores don’t buy, consider selling them on Craigslist, eBay, or even at a garage sale. Then, put all of the money you make toward your student loan debt.
Day 10: Pick Up a Side Hustle
When you want to pay off student loan debt, cutting back on spending is only one part of the equation. The other part is earning more income from a job on the side, which can often be fun and give you added experience. Consider working in the sharing economy, starting to freelance, or taking up a gig from the multitude of ones available.
You can earn from $10 to $100 per hour with a job on the side and put all that money toward really jump-starting your student loan repayment.
Day 11: Check Your Credit Score and Credit Report
When you’re paying off student loans, you want to make sure that you maintain good
financial health. One way to check your financial condition is to review your credit score and credit report. Your credit can determine whether you get approved for an apartment, student loan refinancing, a car loan, and much more.
Day 12: Consider Refinancing
One excellent way to save money on paying back your loans is through student loan refinancing. Refinancing allows you to consolidate your debt into one monthly payment and possibly get approved for a better rate.
With student loan refinancing, you may be able to save thousands of dollars in interest. Check out these various student loan refinancing options and review their eligibility requirements to see if it’s right for you.
Day 13: Make an Extra Payment
Though you enrolled in auto pay, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make extra payments. With extra payments, you can cut down on your interest and start chipping away at your principal balance even faster. An extra $25 or $50 payment here and there will add up over time.
Day 14: Calculate Your Debt-Free Date
You know the nitty gritty about your debt, and you have a plan. Now, it’s time to calculate your debt-free date. To figure out when you’ll reach your goal, use this payoff calculator to see how long it will take you to be debt-free using your current payment strategy.
By using this 14-day guide, you can make clear, steady progress toward achieving your debt repayment goals and conquering student loan debt by taking manageable steps.
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