Have you ever told yourself a little lie so many times that you started to believe it was true? Suddenly you’re justifying behaviors like smoking or eating 10 cookies in one sitting. You can’t exercise because you’re “too busy.” You convince yourself you’ll be better “tomorrow.” And the cycle continues.
Seemingly innocent fibs like these can do some serious damage. But it’s not just these lies that can affect your success, health, and relationships. There are also lies you tell yourself that keep you shackled in debt.
Here are 5 lies that keep you from paying off student loans. Any of them sound familiar?
1. “Student Loans Are ‘Good’ Debt”
One of the most pervasive lies around is that there’s “good” debt and “bad” debt. Are student loans better than credit card debt? Sure. But is it good debt? Well, now that’s an oxymoron.
You’re borrowing money now and paying it back later with interest on top. In my opinion, there’s nothing good about debt. It’s another financial obligation is holding you back from your goals.
Yet this lie is told again and again. Borrowers become complacent about their debt repayment because it’s the “good” kind of debt.
In order to overcome this lie, realize that debt is debt. While all debt is not created equal, none of it is good and you should work hard to pay it off as soon as possible.
2. “I Can’t Afford to Save Money”
Have you ever found yourself having to choose between covering an emergency expense or making your student loan payment? Does a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle make it nearly impossible to stay on top of your student debt?
Not having an emergency savings fund set aside makes it tough to get out of debt. When an unexpected bill pops up or you have to make a big-ticket purchase, you’ll probably have to forego a student loan payment or even resort to credit cards to afford it. The belief that you can’t afford to save money can lead to financial insecurity and even more debt.
If you think you can’t afford to save, you never will. Saving money is a habit that needs to be fostered. I’ve been pretty broke in my life and I’ve made it a habit to save something from every paycheck, even if it’s only $10.
If saving money has been a struggle, start by putting away one percent of your salary. As your income permits, start increasing that number. Having a cushion of funds will help you be financially secure and allow you to focus on paying off student loans.
3. “Making the Minimum Payment Is Enough”
I have a confession to make: for the longest time, I believed this lie. I thought making minimum payments was just fine and dandy. I was making on-time payments on my Standard Repayment Plan. I patted myself on the back.
In reality, I could have put about double the minimum payment towards my debt each month. Minimum payments are just that — the bare minimum you have to pay to avoid default. But by making the minimum payment only, you extend the length of time it will take to pay off your loans and significantly increase total interest paid.
Check your income and expenses to find out how much money you can afford to put toward student loan payments each month. Even an extra $50 per month can help expedite your repayment. Find out how an extra payment can expedite your debt repayment progress.
Remember, you’re battling interest — in order to overcome those extra fees, you need to pay more than the minimum to get ahead.
4. “Someone Will Bail Me Out”
Some people are counting on someone to bail them out of their student loan debt. They are waiting for student loan reform, a rich partner, or even a hefty inheritance from Mom and Dad.
Believing that someone will bail you out of student loan debt is like waiting for Prince Charming; it’s probably not going to happen. The worst thing you can do is stop paying your student loans in the hopes you find help down the road.
Acknowledging your debt is the first step towards taking action. Even though it would be nice to have someone else wave a magic wand and make your debt disappear, think about how much sweeter life will be once you pay it off yourself. It will be a huge accomplishment!
5. “I Need to Make Six Figures Before I Can Pay This Off”
With such a large amount of money looming, it can feel like you have to be rich to pay off that debt. Sure, it would help to make six figures a year, but it is possible to pay off student loans on a lower income.
I continued to pay off debt even when I was making between $20,000 and $30,000 a few years ago. I’m not alone either. Personal finance blogger Zina Kumok paid off her student loans on an income of $30,000 a year.
Paying off debt on a low income isn’t easy, but it is possible. It requires sacrifice and creativity — and quite frankly, many people think you have to be rich to pay off debt because they’re not willing to put in the work. Paying off debt is work, but working hard now means financial freedom later.
I’ve found that paying off student loans is just as much about shifting your mindset as it is about making financial changes. We all tell ourselves little lies that sabotage our goals. In a way, it’s normal. If you recognize any on the list, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Once you recognize the lies you’ve told yourself for years, you can take action and make small changes to pay off your debt once and for all.
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