Are you struggling with a mountain of student loan debt? Unfortunately, that debt is a sad fact of life for millions of Americans. Paying off those loans might seem like an impossible task. But, there are ways to tackle the mountain, and I reveal four of them in How to Pay For a Student Loan.
How to Pay For a Student Loan
Are you wondering how to pay for student loans and get them out of your life? Here are four approaches.
1. Get the Facts
There are different types of student loans, and they all have their own rules and payment guidelines. When you’re making a payment plan, sit down with all your lenders or your paperwork to figure out the following.
- Grace periods: Does your loan have one? Most federal student loans have a six-month grace period. The grace period on privately funded student loans can vary. Federal Perkins loans have no grace period.
- Consolidation: If you have several types of loans, it is probably a good idea to consolidate them into one. You can consolidate through the Department of Education, your loan servicer or a private lender.
- Monthly amount: You should know your exact monthly amount and whether there’s a penalty to pay more each month.
- Length of repayment plan: Most repayment plans are 10 years. What is yours? When will your debt be fully paid?
- Payment date: If the payment date hits at a particularly bad time for you each month, you have the right to change it to a more convenient day.
- Defaults: Defaulting on your student loans can have severe legal and financial penalties. If you can’t make your monthly payments, it’s better to talk to your lender than to just stop paying the loan.
Once you know exactly what you’re dealing with, you can make a solid plan that’s based on your personal circumstances.
2. Use Loan Forgiveness Programs to Pay Off a Student Loan
There might be a federal forgiveness program that applies to your situation. Full or partial forgiveness is a big help.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
At the moment, there are several student loan forgiveness programs that might apply to your situation. These can change depending on the outcome of the presidential election.
In 2007, President George W. Bush instituted the Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program. It forgives student loans to members of the U.S. Armed Forces, police officers, firefighters, first responders, prosecutors, public defenders and other public servants.
According to a recent article in Forbes, President Trump plans to cancel this program in 2020.
As the article notes, the Democratic presidential candidates have their own plans for student loan debt. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) proposes a total elimination of all student debt. Former Vice President Joe Biden has said he has an alternative plan for dealing with the student debt crisis.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
This program has been in existence since 1988. If you teach at a school in a low-income area for five full, consecutive years, the government will forgive up to $17,500 in your student loans.
Other Loan Forgiveness Programs
Other programs target people in specific professions including nurses, doctors, lawyers and the military.
These programs require specific, detailed guidelines for applying. If you fall into one of the categories, it’s worth the time to do this.
3. Develop a Plan
Paying off a student loan debt is the same as paying off any other debt. You must make a plan to save money, add income, cut expenses and tackle it with everything you have.
Use Specific Tactics Aimed at Student Loans
At the financial advice site NerdWallet, Brianna McGurran and Ryan Lane give a good rundown on how to pay for student loans. They suggest several measures specific to this type of debt:
- If you add extra money to your monthly payment, make sure it goes to the principal.
- Refinance your loan at a lower interest rate.
- Make biweekly payments.
- Use autopay to get a discount from the federal government loan servicer.
- Use the standard 10-year repayment plan if you can.
- Put any extra money you make into paying off your loan.
Which One Is Right for You?
In a Forbes article, Zack Friedman offers a detailed look at the advantages and disadvantages of each tactic for dealing with your debt. He notes, for instance, that if you refinance your loans, you may not qualify for the income-driven repayment plans. You’ll have to judge which one is best for you.
Go On a Debt Diet
Financial guru Dave Ramsey offers his usual no-nonsense approach to pay off a student loan. He suggests putting yourself on a strict financial diet, finding extra money in your budget and using that to pay it down.
Ramsey also suggests cutting out unnecessary expenses.
“Look at your lifestyle,” he writes. “What extra stuff have you been living with that you can do without? Bye, cable package. See ya, bougie subscription boxes. Maybe cut your housing cost in half by finding a roommate. Do you have a guest room that’s not getting much use these days? Rent that sucker out! Just think how quickly you could pay off your loans if your housing costs were cut way down.”
Ramsey also recommends adding your student loan to your debt snowball.
These tips apply to any type of loan, but they require a lot of self-discipline.
4. Make More Money
Increasing your income seems like an obvious way to pay off any debt, but it’s one that people often don’t think about. Getting a part-time job or a side hustle just to pay off debt doesn’t sound like much fun, but it’s one of the better ways to chip away at that debt until it’s gone.
Another option is to make enough money that you can afford to pay your loan off quickly and painlessly.
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