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After College

Debt

Mini Series Part 4: How to Tackle Your Student Loans

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In this four part mini series you will find all the tips to tackle your student loans regardless of where you are in the process. Student loans affect almost everyone now, which is a very sad reality. From the time a person graduates high school, it’s usually an issue in their life. So, I’m starting this mini series with tips for before you go to college and ending it with tips for after you graduate and have entered repayment.

Mini Series Part 1: Before You Go to College

Mini Series Part 2: While You’re in School

Mini Series Part 3: Before You Graduate

Student Loans Part 4

You’ve crossed the stage, you’ve started in your very first job, and you live in your very first apartment. Everything is falling into place, like it is supposed to after graduation. Now you need to start getting serious about where all of this new money is going that you now have and how you’re going to go about your student loans based on the work you put in for them before you graduated.

  1. Finalize that budget that you drafted before you graduated.

Before you graduated you drafted a budget based on what you thought your income would be and your expenses. Well, now it is time to finalize it. You should know by now how much you will be making monthly, how much your expenses will be, and how much your student loan minimum will be each month. Once you know for sure where your money is going each month, then you can see where you can cut things out. For example, I realized I was spending about $250 each month on eating out when I first tracked my spending. That was a huge reality check for me. This is going to take some time and don’t think you’re going to have your budget set right away. Take the time to make it work for you and don’t rush the process.

2. Save a small emergency fund.

This needs to be a personal choice for you and what you are comfortable with having in case something comes up. I personally have about a month of expenses in a savings account I don’t touch, unless an emergency comes up that I need to use it for. An emergency would be something you can’t plan for, like your car dying. It’s not meant for regular budgeted items, like clothes or food. If you want to go shopping or eat out, put it in your budget!

3. Create a payoff plan for your student loans.

Creating a payoff plan for your student loans is super important to getting them gone ASAP. Without a plan, you won’t know what to prioritize or what you need to do. I personally use undebt.it to plan my debt payoff. It’s wonderful, and allows you to pick what strategy you want to use. It even tells you how each plan will change your debt free date. The things you will need to do this is to have your individual account details (amount, interest rate, minimum, etc.), and know how much extra you can put towards your debt realistically based on your budget.

4. Adjust as life changes.

The most important part of a budget is to constantly adjust it as your life and priorities change. Your budget should change as your life changes. This allows you to be in control of your money versus your money being in control of you. In the beginning, it definitely feels like your money controls you because you’re probably sending a lot of money to your lenders. I know for me, most of my income went to my debt minimums when I first graduated and it was hard. But, I knew as I paid off more, the control would come back to me.

As you continue post grad, it will get easier as you get more comfortable with the process. No matter your circumstances after graduation, there are options to make things easier for you financially. There is never a one size fits all when it comes to finances and ultimately you need to make your decisions personal. With that being said, if you have any questions about getting your budget together or creating a plan to pay off debt, feel free to email me with any and all questions! How did you tackle your student loans after graduation?

Debt

My Plan to Pay Off Almost $200K in Student Loans

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So, the day finally arrived that I had been anxiously waiting for, my first student loan bill arrived in the mail. I just finished my graduate studies in August and knew it was coming. My private loans did not have a grace period, so I assumed my first bill would most likely be due by November. Sure enough, my first payment is due November 2nd. Before I got the bill, I wasn’t sure how much my payments were going to be each month. I guessed that they would be around $1,500 a month because that’s what my sister pays with a similar amount of debt. Of course, I budgeted for the worst and went for $2,000, since I went to grad school. It turns out all the debt I paid off during grad school was worth it, my private student loan payment is $1,400, much less than I thought it would be. My federal student loan payment was originally $600 each month, but I switched to an income based repayment plan and got it lowered to $250. It was a tough decision to switch to a different payment plan, but I wanted to be able to put as much money to my private loans, since they have much larger interest rates.

Plan to Pay Off Student Loans

Where to Begin: Get Angry

Like I have mentioned in previous posts about my amount of debt, when I first really acknowledged the amount of debt I had, I felt like I would never be able to pay that off. I mean, $200K is a massive amount of debt. I don’t want to be paying this off still when my children are starting college, which is what will happen if I stick to the 30 year repayment plan. Honestly, that’s what really lit the fire under my butt, knowing I wanted to buy a house, have kids, send them to college, things that will be much more difficult if I have this massive amount of debt looming over my head. Plus, who wants to be paying off their student loans at age 50, definitely not this girl. Get angry at your student loans, put things into perspective and get crazy mad at that large sum of money that is preventing you from doing more things and saving more money. And just think about how nice it will be once it is all paid off πŸ™‚

Create a Plan to Payoff the Debt

Once you have reasons to motivate yourself to payoff your debt, create a plan. Some people need to use the snowball method because they need motivation in the beginning to get going. Others think more long term and prefer a method that allows them to save the most amount of money, or the avalanche method. Personally, since I have such a large amount of debt, I’m thinking long term and how I can save the most amount of money. So, I’m sticking with the avalanche method. This means that right now I am focusing on one of my debts that has a 8.05% interest rate and started at just above $40,000 (I’m proud to say that this debt is now at $12,000 after chipping away at it for the last year during grad school, WOOHOO!!!). After this debt is paid off I will move onto my next largest interest rate and so on. If two loans have the same interest rate, then I pick the loan that is largest amount. I strongly recommend using ReadyForZero, I basically swear by this website in my debt payoff. It does take some time to type in all the information each month, but it provides me with a graph of my progress and when I’ll be debt free. Also, it’s completely free and has an app that allows me to check my progress wherever. I find it extremely motivating to see my daily interest go down after I make all my payments each month and to see how much sooner my debt payoff date is.

Update June 2016: I officially paid off that first loan!!! This means that I have now moved onto my next focus loan, which also has a 8.05% interest rate, but it is much smaller, only $16,000. I plan to pay this one off in one year, June 2017.

Update March 2017: I paid off my second loan 3 months early! I now have no loans with an 8% interest rate, finally! Now onto the next one.Also, ReadyForZero no longer offers their service. I have finally found a tool that works well and I find it very motivating and helpful in my debt payoff. Check out my review of the website!

How Much to Pay Each Month

It can be difficult to decide how much you can afford to pay towards your debt each month. I strongly recommend paying extra each month, any extra money you have, even if its $20, can make a difference in your debt payoff date. For me, I can afford my required payment in one paycheck, so I pay my bill on the 15th, when I’m paid. I never budget for my additional payment. This may sound odd to some people, and for a lot of people this might not work. However, I am currently in a very different situation than most. After I finished grad school, I moved back in with my parents in order to really tackle this debt, and they live 20 minutes from my job. This means that I don’t have many bills each month. Also, I work other jobs each month, like tutoring and babysitting, that make my income vary month to month. I do budget for gas each month, my bills, my 2 savings account, and my 403b account. You’ll notice that I do save each month, it’s not much, about $250 across the 3 accounts, but while I’m living with my parents I want to make sure I’m saving some money while I can. Since I pay my bill on the 15th each month, this allows me to make my additional payment at the end of the month when I am paid again. This is when I go through my budget for the month and see how much money I have left over that can go towards my debt. I hope to be able to pay an additional $1,000 each month.

Update June 2016: Since writing this post my monthly payment plan has completely changed, I found ways to make it much more aggressive. I made it a goal for myself to pay off all my student loans before I turn 31, that’s in 7 years. So, I went to my ReadyForZero account and changed my debt payoff date to determine what I would need to pay each month to pay it off by then. Turns out an extra $1,000 allows me to be debt free by my 31st birthday. I’m currently paying at least $2,600 each month with my teacher salary, living at my parent’s house (thanks Mom and Dad!), working extra jobs, and lowering my savings withdrawn each month. Instead of $250 I only put $125 into savings each month so that I can focus on my student loans.

This system might not work for you, but it’s what is working for me and my current situation. If I wasn’t living at my parent’s house, I don’t think this system would work for me since I probably would not be able to afford paying my entire bill in my one paycheck. What’s your debt payoff plan? What strategies have worked for you?

Personal

Moving Back Home After College

Part of my debt payoff plan consisted of finding a teaching job close to home, so that I could move back home. This was hard for me. If you had asked me 5 years ago when I started college, I would have told you I would never move back home after school. Of course, that was before I knew I would be in this much debt. When I figured out my total amount of student loan debt, it was no question that I would move back home. My parents live in New Jersey, where the cost of living is much higher, making my salary higher. When I began the process of looking at places to apply, New Jersey had some of the highest salaries. As I did more and more research and went through all my options, going home to New Jersey kept being the best option.

When I first told my parents that I wanted to come home after I graduated, they told me I would need to pay some rent. Of course, this would still be a lot cheaper than living somewhere else paying rent, utilities, etc. I was sold and put all my effort into applying to school districts in the area. Luckily, I got an interview very quickly with a district 20 minutes away from my parent’s house, and they offered me a position.

Once I knew I would be moving back home, I began brainstorming ideas and talking to my parents about ways I could live “rent-free” at home. We agreed on me paying for my own groceries, doing work around the house, and helping them get the house ready to be sold. By living “rent-free” I can now put all my extra money at my loans and pay them off even faster than I originally planned.

Now that I have moved home, I have had to move my sister out (she lives in Philly now) and move myself into her old room. I forgot to take pictures of the room before I began moving my stuff in, it was basically a completely empty room, but I took some pictures when I actually thought to. It’s a total disaster and I contemplated not even posting them because they are so bad, but here they are πŸ™‚

 

I’m super excited to move everything in and get it to be how I want it. I wish I could get rid of that rug and paint the walls, but it doesn’t fit into my budget right now.

Did you move home after college? How did you make your decision to move back home or move out?