Posted on 13 May 2013.
Apart from finding your first job out of college, there is no greater sign of “adulthood” than paying down your student loans. Writing out those first couple checks may be painful, but it’s crucial to be on time with your student loan payments. Late payments can rack up fees in the form of higher interest rates and also negatively impact your credit score. While it may not seem like a big deal right now, when you go hunting for your first car, first apartment, or even your first home, a low credit score can limit your options or even make you ineligible for financing on any of those major items.
But let’s snap back to the present! At first glance, paying your student loans may seem overwhelming. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few ways to make your financial life after college much simpler.
Make a Monthly Budget
Planning out your expenses for the month can go a long way towards making sure you’re not wondering where all of your hard-earned cash went at the end of the month — and not digging through couch cushions to pay your student loans or electric bills.
To begin making a monthly budget, determine how much you make each month after taxes. Determine how much your rent, utilities (and yes, this can include your cable, Internet, and cell phone bill, too!), and any credit card or student loan payments amount to each month. Look at your receipts for the month and take an honest inventory of how much you spend on food, evenings out with friends, and any transportation costs.
Once you have a clearer picture of your finances, you’ll be able to decide how to best go about cutting corners to get some extra cash in your pocket at the end of the month.
Consolidate Your Loans
One way in which you can ensure you have a little extra left over at the end of the month is to consolidate your student loans. Student loan consolidation can help make the monthly task of paying your loans much more manageable. For starters, consolidation helps to reduce your monthly student loan payments by locking in a fixed interest rate. Depending on the loan, interest rates can vary. Student loan consolidation may be able to help you lessen the repayment rate of your loans by “bundling” them together. Once those loans are consolidated, you can lock in a rate that’s better — and lower — than what you were paying on each of your loans separately.
Additionally, consolidating your student loans allows you make just one monthly payment — which is a lot easier than having to keep track of multiple loan payments to send to different lenders.
Factors vary when it comes to consolidating your student loans, so be sure to check into whether or not you are eligible.
Be Aware of Your Options
Remember when you were applying to colleges, poring over student loan financing options available to you? Those hours spent applying for scholarships or financial aid? Well, it’s not over yet! Before and during college, you may not have been as aware of the financial aid options that were available to you. Now, during the repayment phase, a little “homework” on your part can go a long way towards helping your bottom line at the end of each month. There are a few ways in which borrowers with federal loans can keep their monthly payments within their means.
Some folks can also qualify for deferment of their student loan payments for a specified period of time, typically 3-6 months. While deferment can be of great help to those in dire financial straits, please be aware that interest will accrue on the balance of the loan, so it may not necessarily be the best option.
To ensure you’re able to make your monthly student loan payment on-time, there are a number of options recent — and even not-so-recent — grads can explore. Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plans are available to borrowers with Federal Direct and federally-guaranteed loans who have a financial hardship with the amount on the eligible loans exceeding 15% of your monthly discretionary income — anything left over after paying your taxes, food, shelter, and clothing expenses.
The recent Pay As You Earn program launched by President Obama can help keep monthly student loan payments to 10% of your discretionary income. To qualify, borrowers must have taken out loans on or before October 1, 2007 and have at least one additional loan after October 2011. This additional loan can come in the form of a new loan, or having consolidated their loans after October 2011.
It pays to do your homework even after you graduate to ensure a healthy financial future!
About the Author:
Today’s guest article was written by Holly Wolf, the Chief Marketing Officer of Conestoga Bank. Conestoga Bank, which offers student loans, has locations across Philadelphia and Southeast Pennsylvania and provides banking to consumers and businesses, including checking, savings and loan services. Conestoga Bank is a partner with iHelp Student Loans – a leading provider of financing of private student loans and private student loan consolidation.
The Small Print:
This publication does not constitute legal, accounting or other professional advice. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither the publisher nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this material.