So, you’ve graduated. You’ve gotten a job, a new life, and you’re on your way. You’re paying rent, maintaining a car, buying food, clothes, and otherwise keeping yourself alive.
But you still have that pesky student loan. Here are three things every student graduating with student loans should do:
1. Check If Consolidating Is The Right Decision For You. If you have more than one loan, consider asking if a consolidation plan is right for you. Ask your bank, your counselor, or your current student loan holder. If you have a Federal Loan, go to them first. Be careful of terms, and practice what you learned in the class every student should have: practical life skills. Educate yourself about interest rates, annual rates, discount rates, and prepayment penalties. Don’t get caught paying more interest just because you’re consolidating your debts. Stay away from professional bill consolidation agencies; their interest rates are way higher than banks, and their practices are often questionable.
2. Tighten your belt just a little longer. Every new graduate should try to make double payments on your loan if you can. Sure, you liked Ramen noodles in college, you can keep eating them for a bit while you hack away at your debt. Be sure to note on your check or electronic payment: APPLY TO PRINCIPAL. The faster you chip away at the principal amount, the less interest you’ll pay. Nana’s birthday check can go directly to paying down the debt and any funds that come your way need to be applied directly as soon as possible. Because student loan debt is the worst possible debt (even worse than owing taxes, some say), you have to attack it relentlessly. Once you are free you can breathe easy, but for now, suck it up and keep applying payments until you are free. If you are really dedicated, get a second job and put all that income against your loan. Remember, you’re after a permanent solution, so working a temporary job to get that done is a way to get on top of it.
3. Put at least 10% of your salary into a savings account and forget you have it. Have your employer automatically deposit it into a savings account, the then rest goes into your disposable income account that’s used to pay bills and have some fun. Yes, you could pay it toward your student loan, but you have to have something to fall back on. It will earn income, and when you get to a certain level ($1,000, say), convert it to a different account that earns better interest. Here’s the key to this method: When you are close to paying off your student loan and just can’t wait another month or two to finish it, you have a pot into which you can dip and – voila – your student loan is paid off earlier.
Celebrate. Your hard work and dedication to get this monkey off your back made this loan go away faster than you thought. Feel free to buy real food.