What does a currently enrolled graduate student, a recent graduate, or a Doctorate student all have in common? The answer is simple, student loans. Sounds like a bad joke, but student debt in the United States is no joking matter. The current student loan debt total has hit $1.5 trillion as of 2018 according to Federal Reserve data. If you find yourself a borrower of student loan debt, know that debt doesn’t just start after graduation. The moment your loan is approved you become a borrower and therefore take on the responsibility to pay down that debt. As a borrower, here are some ways to be financially responsible and pay down debt quickly ensuring yourself a brighter financial future.
Don’t Go Overboard
According to CollegeBoard the average full-time bachelor degree seeking student, who attends a four year school will pay somewhere in the range of $21,370 to $48,510 per year in 2018 – 2019. Now the average Master’s seeking student will pay about $19,080. These estimates do include the cost of room and board and will differ depending on if the student is attending an out of state school or an in-state school.
When the time comes to apply for your loans, be sure you have a budget! We cannot stress this point enough you need a financial plan before you make the decision to apply for student loans. Know what you’ll need to borrow money for. Think about tuition costs, housing, meals, book costs, personal costs, and transportation costs. Only borrow what you absolutely need for school.
Don’t be the student who has the countdown until graduation. You know, the one using the grace period to look for their future career and move back in with their parents. Now there’s nothing wrong with moving back in with the parents to save a few bucks, in fact, we would encourage it. What we mean is instead of waiting until the clock starts at the end of your grace period start paying down debt on day one! The sooner you can start throwing money at your student loans, the better off your future self will be.
Now it doesn’t have to be an astronomical amount of money. Even the smallest contribution towards your debt will help you in the long run. Let’s say that instead of going out to brunch with your friends on the weekend you decide to make it. Let’s say you usually buy an egg and cheese, on a bagel with a coffee for about $10 for simplicity. That $10 a week can turn up to $40 a month.
Say you took out $30,000 in student loan debt. If you completed a $40 payment every month while you’re in school, you would save $2,515 from the total of your loan. Yes, you can drop almost $3,000 off your loan by simply making a $40 a month payment. Small sacrifices make all the difference in paying down your student loans before graduation.
It’s No Vacation
College in the past was seen as an experience but it is not any longer. Don’t treat your education like a vacation with a limitless budget. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual American household cost for eating out is $3,000. Even if it’s only one person, that would count as a household. Broken down that would be $250 a month the average household spends eating out! Before you start spending money on food remember that’s money that could go towards your student loan debt. We all have to eat to live, but is eating out necessary? Try using that meal plan or doing weekly grocery shopping and meal prep.
Stay in Budget
Someone once said “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” that could not be truer here. Though you may have money for streaming services like a Spotify Premium® membership or Netflix® – doesn’t mean you should have it. In addition to cutting down on eating out, you could lose that Netflix® account. About nine out of ten college students use Netflix® according to Daily to Reader. If you’re living on campus you’re provided with free cable. Yes, the keyword being “FREE” – drop the subscription services and put them towards student loan debt. No, you won’t be able to watch the latest series of Stranger Things on your own, but I’m sure your friend or their friend has Netflix®. The Basic plan on Netflix® as of 10/2018 is $7.99 a month. Let’s take your savings from cutting back on eating out including our previous example- $100 and savings from losing that Netflix® subscription $7.99 that equates to 107.99 a month towards student loan debt. When you pay $107.99 every month towards your loan it is a savings of $7,083.71 from the total loan amount.
They’re Called Doctors
If you’ve ever seen the movie Tommy Boy you’ll get the reference. If not, you can watch the clip online. Going to school for seven years is for doctors, not the average student seeking a bachelor degree. All jokes aside, you need to do your best to graduate on time. Staying in school longer means more debt and that means more money you’ll need to pay off in the long run.
In recent years there has been a trend of typical 4-year degrees taking 6 years to achieve. Students who take longer to graduate are spending 50% more than participated for their degrees according to Student Debt Relief. One major tip (no pun intended) know what you want to major in before starting. It’s okay to change your major but work closely with counselors take summer classes. Do your best to stay on track for your estimated graduation date.
Yes, you finally graduated! Don’t be fooled the work doesn’t stop. To continue being a financially responsible borrower you’ll need to evaluate the types of loans that you have. Do you have federal or private loans? The type of loans that you have will have major implications on the options that you available to you moving forward. Pay attention to your interest rates and knowledgeable regarding repayment types.
Be wise; if you are within that 6 month grace period, continue to make those payments because we know that they will pay for themselves and then some. Create a long-term plan to pay down your debt. Use your income to create the long-term plan and stick with your budget. There are so many resources available at your fingertips to research things like loan consolidation, student loan refinancing, student loan forgiveness, and deferment and forbearance.
Your responsibility for staying a responsible borrower is to continue those healthy spending habits that you created for yourself in college. In addition you should look to further your education. Do you want to get a Master’s Degree? Use reliable sources and stick to a budget and long-term plan. Education is so no joke. Whether you’re the currently enrolled graduate student, a recent graduate or a Doctorate student debt doesn’t have to weight you down forever.
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