Repaying your student loans may be easier than you think. With a little organization and planning you can set yourself up to successfully repay your loans. Here are some tips to consider when paying off your student loans.
Know how much you owe
Gather all your student loan documents (federal and private) and make sure you know the terms of each loan including the payment amounts, payment due dates, who you pay and when you need to start repaying (typically 6 months after you leave school). Look at the payment due dates, see if they are spread out or bunched into one part of the month. To make cash flow easier you might try spreading out the payment dates across the month, or conversely, make all your payments due on the same day, to prevent forgetting one. Speak with your lender to see if either of these options are possible. Then be sure to factor the payments into your monthly budget.
Make it automatic
Setting up automatic payments from your personal checking account will help you manage your monthly student loan payments. You won’t have to worry about making individual payments and you may also have the potential to save money, as some lenders provide a lower interest rate if you sign up for automatic payments.
Pay off debt with higher interest rates first
The interest rates you have on your loans probably are all different. If you have extra funds each month, apply them to the higher interest rate loans first to reduce the total interest you’ll have to pay. Also, since student loans don’t have prepayment penalties, you won’t be penalized if you choose to put extra money toward repaying your loans.1
Consolidation of your student loans can possibly reduce and simplify your monthly payments. You may be able to combine all your student loans — private and federal — into one new private consolidation loan, or you may be able to keep your federal loans separate in a new consolidated federal loan, typically known as a Direct Consolidation Loan. If consolidation increases the length of time you are repaying the loan, it may also increase the total amount of interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan, so you’ll want to determine if this will work for your situation.
Know when to ask for help
If you’re facing financial hardship and find it difficult to make your private student loan payments, you might be able to apply for forbearance. Forbearance isn’t forgiveness — you’ll ultimately have to pay the loan in full. But this may allow you to postpone your payments and ease your current cash crunch. Be aware that interest will continue to accrue, so in the long run you might end up paying more interest over the life of your loan. Federal loans offer deferment options for certain circumstances, such as military service, in addition to several repayment options so check with your loan servicer or the U.S. Department of Education to learn more.
Setting up a plan and paying off your student loans as soon as possible will help you free up valuable cash for life’s other necessities.