If you’re brand new to taking out loans, as most students are, it can be tricky to find your footing when the bank comes knocking on your door demanding their money back.
While paying back your loans is no walk in the park, it certainly doesn’t have to be a heavy financial burden. I’ve provided some tips for paying back your student loans.
This is a guide meant more for younger people who have to pay back their student loans, but can apply to those more “mature” students who have debt to pay back as well. These tips come from personal experience since I was a student and currently in the process of paying back my loans.
1) One of the most important things to do when you’re entering the repayment period of your loan is to understand when your due dates are.
If you have multiple loans with multiple institutions it can be difficult to keep everything straight. They will send you statements with the due dates on them. Make note of these dates, or call the bank and ask when your monthly due dates are. Remember, most banks are willing to work with you on paying them back. They can be flexible with the payment date and work to accommodate your schedule.
2) When you know what your due dates are and you’re ready to pay, how you pay can make a big difference. There are several options available to you to make your payments.
You can pay by phone or online using your checking account or your debit/credit card, you can pay in person at a bank branch, you can set up automatic payments to be debited from your checking account each month, or you can be old-fashioned and pay by mailing in a check.
I personally prefer automatic payments. Your lender will usually give you a small break on your interest rate if you elect to sign up for automatic payments. Also, if you tend to pay a day or two late, it will save you from paying accrued interest over that period of time.
3) Paying online or over the phone is another quick and easy method of payment. However, most banks will charge you a fee (usually under $5.00) for paying online or over the phone using a credit or debit card. I recommend paying with a checking account, which is often free. I like to avoid writing and mailing checks for two reasons. One reason is that there is a chance of the check getting lost in the mail and never reaching its destination.
The second is that checks are inconvenient. They do not debit from your account automatically, and the fewer uncashed checks floating around, the better. When you pay via phone, internet, or automatically you receive confirmation numbers that can easily be tracked. Remember to save those confirmation numbers.
4) If you are having trouble coming up with the money to pay your student loans, it’s probably time to look at your budget. What do you spend most of your money on? Are there luxuries that you can live without? Can you dine in more often rather than eating out? In this economy, it is difficult to find work after you get your degree. Tightening your belt is one way to be able to make your loan payments. While living cheaply isn’t fun, it is necessary for maintaining your loans and preventing your loan from going into default and destroying your credit.
Keep in mind that paying off student loans isn’t going to last forever and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Temporary financial sacrifices are ultimately worth it in the end. You will pay off your loan more quickly and you can avoid unpleasant collection calls. The best part is that you’ll be able to save your credit score.
5) If cutting back on your spending isn’t working for you, there are other options still available. Deferment and consolidation are options that should only be exercised if you’re facing a financial meltdown. Deferments allow you to negotiate a later payment date with your lender. However, they do reflect poorly on your credit score. There are limitations to deferment as an option and it varies from lender to lender.
Consolidation is when you consolidate your loans into one monthly payment. This option cannot be used if you have a combination of federal and private loans.
Be careful when considering consolidation. Make sure that the interest rate for all of your debt is lower than what you were paying before. Often, consolidation is merely more convenient and won’t actually save you money in the long run.
6) The banking industry isn’t as nasty as it has been made out to be in recent months. They are there to help you and would like your business. Hopefully your degree will payoff and you won’t have to worry so much about paying your student loans, but in the meantime, focus on getting the paid and out of the way.
Finally, I understand that student loans can be overwhelming. Whatever you do, do not get yourself into further debt by trying to reduce your debt. Don’t take out short-term loans to make payments. That is a vicious cycle and one that is very difficult to get yourself out of.