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Debt

Mini Series Part 3: How to Tackle Your Student Loans

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 4: After You Graduate

Tackle Student Loans Part 3

Graduation is right around the corner and you can’t wait to finally get out on your own and live the post-grad life. You have a job already lined up and just need to pass your last finals before crossing the stage. But you have student loans that you’ve accumulated over the years and need to get those in order before graduation. I know, most of them have grace periods and you have time to figure it out. However, there are benefits to making sure your ducks are all in a row before leaving campus.

1. Find out about loan forgiveness programs
There are a few loan forgiveness programs out there for federal loans, especially if you are a teacher or public worker. Like I said, federal loans are the way to go. Take out as much in federal loans before you go to private loans because they have so many options for you, even forgiveness.

2. Talk to a financial aid advisor
This might sound strange, why would you talk to a financial aid advisor when you’re done with school. You probably never want to think about financial aid ever again! However, the advisors at your school can help with a lot of other things. I set up a meeting with my advisor before my masters graduation to discuss paying back my federal and private loans and to go over my TEACH grant requirements. She even was able to give me some advice on refinancing my student loans, something that I wasn’t quite sure about.

3. Find out when repayment begins
This is crucial and something I did not do, which I regret. For federal loans, they most likely have a six month grace period. You should be able to find this out when you complete your exit counseling before graduation. Private loans are trickier, which is where I messed up. I didn’t need to complete exit counseling for my private loans and didn’t know when they entered repayment. My private loans had no grace period, so shortly after graduation my first student loan bill arrived. What a wonderful way to say congratulations, huh? I was in shock when I found out, especially when I owed $1,400 in a month on an income of about $1,100/month during grad school. I was running all over campus and calling the loan company constantly to explain that I was beginning grad school. After about 2 weeks of stress, I finally got my private loans deferred due to being a full time student. Don’t make my mistake, call to find out when your repayment begins so that you’re prepared.

4. Draft a budget

Start putting together a draft of a budget for when you graduate and start working. You probably won’t know your exact take home, but you can make an estimate based on your salary and definitely be sure to low ball your take home. This way when you actually make your budget, you’ll have more money than expected. List out all of the expenses you know you will have and see if you can realistically afford everything. This was the time when I completely changed my post grad plans. I realized my income wouldn’t support me moving out and my minimum student loan payment, so I made plans to move back to my parent’s house.

It’s not usually something you want to think about before you graduate college, but it’s important to have some things figured out. This will save you a lot of stress after graduation and allow you to set yourself up for a hopefully easier student loan payoff. How do you plan to prepare for your student loans before you graduate?

Debt

Mini Series Part 2: How to Tackle Your Student Loans

This post may contain affiliate links. Check out my Disclosure Policy for more information.

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 3: Before You Graduate

Mini Series Part 4: After You Graduate

How to Tackle Your Student Loans 2

When I was in undergrad I didn’t even think about my student loans. I pretended they didn’t exist and didn’t think about just how much I was digging myself into debt. It was a horrible mistake and I regret it immensely. I let my parents handle my loan stuff and just worked hard at school, not thinking about how I was able to go to such an incredible university. So, take some advice from me and don’t do what I did while you’re in school.

1. Get a job, or jobs!
I had SO much down time in college, especially my freshman year when I didn’t work. I averaged 15-18 credits every semester while also doing hours at local elementary schools averaging 30 hours each week. I usually had time for a job. When I was in a semester that required hours at a school, I was able to work on the weekends, but it was definitely a lot harder than when I wasn’t doing those hours. My last semester senior year I was able to take 15 credits while working anywhere from 20-30 hours each week, and I was able to enjoy my last semester of undergrad. It’s possible, you just need to manage your time. In the long run, it greatly helps with your loans and I wish I started paying mine off while I was in undergrad, instead of grad school.

2. Make payments in school toward the principal
I started making loan payments when I was in grad school and I wish I had started in undergrad. I didn’t make any crazy payments, I was only making about $1,100 each month, but I could usually put a couple hundred towards my loans. Any little bit you can put towards your loans really helps. The little amounts really add up after some time. If you can make payments towards your loan, make sure you are putting it towards the principal. This makes your debt accumulate less interest in the long run, allowing you to save more money. Of course, if you can make payments towards the principal and the interest, do it.

3. Check your loans
I never checked my loans ever in undergrad. I ignored them, like I said earlier. I had no idea how much interest was accumulating, until I checked them when I was in grad school and I became serious about my debt. Seeing how much interest was accumulating was enough motivation for me to get serious about paying off my debt. I realized I was just losing more and more money by not paying attention to them. It’s hard to really understand how much interest is accumulating, but there are ways to easily see it. I use undebt.it to help me plan my loan repayment. Once you put in all of your loans it shows you how much interest is accumulating each day. This was shocking for me! I couldn’t believe how much interest was being added each day to my debt, this is what really motivated me to get serious about paying off my student loans.

4.Keep looking for scholarships
Every year you should be looking into scholarships and applying to them. Some schools offers scholarships only for sophomores or upperclassmen. These are perfect to apply to because a lot of people don’t know about them or don’t want to be bothered applying to them. I definitely regret not looking for scholarships while I was an undergrad.

I made the huge mistake of ignoring my debt until I was in grad school. If I could go back in time, I would definitely think about my debt and use these tips to make my burden a little less now. How were you able to tackle your student loans while you were in school?

Saving Money

Saving Money in College

I was pretty carefree with my money my freshman year of college. I didn’t think about my student loans, didn’t get a job, and just kept pulling money from my savings account. Not the smartest moves on my part, but you live and you learn, right? 6 years later, 2 degrees, and about $200k in student loans, I definitely wish I did a few things differently back then. Don’t make the same mistakes I did, think about your financial future before you even step on campus.

Saving-Money-In-College

Saving Money Before College

  1. Carefully fill out the FAFSA form. Make sure you correctly fill out the FAFSA form, if you have any questions, I strongly recommend getting advice through your high school or college. Filling out this form wrong can result in you getting much less financial aid.
  2. Apply to scholarships. Apply to every scholarship you can find, and then apply to more. There is SO much unused scholarship money out there, it’s crazy! Look for local scholarships where the pool of people will be much smaller, but also apply to the larger national ones as well.
  3. Check in with the scholarship committees. This is one I never thought to do until I was in graduate school and it paid off incredibly. I went into the scholarship office every two weeks to check in until I finally got an answer. That poor woman knew me by first and last name, but it paid off because she had a face to a name and knew I really needed the scholarship.
  4. Ask for more financial aid. As soon as you get your financial aid package, call the financial aid office. Typically your financial aid package will arrive sometime in the summer before you head to school, call them immediately when it arrives. I learned this trick after my freshman year and was able to get more financial aid for my sophomore year. The schools send out financial aid packages and then a lot of students don’t come to the school. This makes more money available and they give it out on the first come basis.

Saving Money in College

  1. Price compare for textbooks. Look everywhere for your textbooks before immediately buying them at the bookstore. Yes, the bookstore is convenient and you will know that it’s the correct book, but it’s also usually a lot more money! I usually found the best deals on Amazon for buying and selling my textbooks all throughout undergrad and grad school.
  2. Sign up for student deals and discounts. There are so many deals and discounts out there only for college students, sign up for them! My all time favorite one was definitely Amazon Prime Student, which also made buying and selling my textbooks so much easier. I could easily procrastinate buying my textbooks and still get them in two days, FREE 🙂
  3. Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, Work. I just had to reference the Rhianna lyrics here, get out there and WORK! There were so many job opportunities presented to me, especially if you have work study as part of your financial aid package. Most universities will even pay you to be a note taker for the classes you are already taking notes for. You’re basically being paid to be a good student! It really is a win win for you.

These were some of the things I learned throughout my college experience and learning how to manage my money. It’s hard managing your money in college and trying to plan for your financial future with potentially so much debt. I wish I had known these things when I was a senior in high school so I could plan better for my future after college and have saved a lot more. Like I said, you live and you learn, right? What tips and tricks did you learn about saving money throughout your college journey?

Debt

5 Tips for Making a Debt Payoff Plan

5 Tips for Making a Debt Payoff Plan

This post may contain affiliate links.Check out my Disclosure Policy for more information.

Now that I’m finished with my grad degree, my loan payments are about to begin. This might sound crazy, but I’m actually really excited to start this journey. As I shared in my student loan story I have about $200k in student loan debt, mostly from my undergraduate studies. When it all really hit me how much I owed, I quickly began searching the internet and Pintrest to find out as much information as possible about debt payoff. This was almost a year ago now (Fall 2014) and I can’t wait to put my plan into action. Through the process I found these helpful tips that I have been using throughout grad school, and will really start using next month when my first bill comes in the mail!

1. Budget

Find a budgeting system that works for you, and stick with it! I was shocked to find how much I was carelessly spending each month, mostly on going out to eat. The easiest way I have found to budget is to use Mint to track all my spending. I have all my banking accounts linked up to my Mint account and created a budget for the things I spend money on each month, like gas and groceries. Also, it reminds you of the bills you have to pay and you can get a free credit check with advice on ways to improve your score! They even have an app to make it super easy to check and edit your budgets whenever you want.

2. Manage your Loans

For me, this meant using ReadyForZero to manage my loans. This tool allows you to enter in all of your loans and create a plan to pay off your debt. It even has this nifty tool that lets you see how much faster you would pay off your debt and how much your would save by making larger payments. Also, it shows you how much your daily interest is, talk about motivation!!! I have to say I am not planning to follow my plan completely that they mapped out for me because I don’t love the order that they pay loans off in. They go by the smallest loan with the highest interest rate, and that just isn’t something I want to do. However, this tool is wonderful to see your progress and easily calculate daily interest rate, how much is left, etc.

Update July 2017: ReadyForZero no longer offers their service. I have spent the last couple of months trying to find a tool that works like it, I couldn’t find anything and almost started making my own tool. Then I found this tool and I couldn’t be happier with it! Check out my review.

3. The Snowball or Avalanche Method 

Look into Dave Ramsey, the man is a financial genius. He has some great tips about managing your finances in general, but has a debt repayment plan called, the snowball method. This method has you focus paying down one specific loan by putting all of your extra money towards this loan. All your other loans you should make a minimum payment on. When your focus loan is paid off, you apply that payment to your next focus loan. How you pick your focus loan should have some reasoning, either you are focusing on loan amount, interest rate or a combination of both. If you’re focusing on the smaller loans first, this would be the snowball method. This method plays more to emotions because you get small victories in the beginning to motivate you through the end. If you focus on your highest interest loans, this is the avalanche method. This method is purely mathematics and allows you to pay less in interest. Personally, I am focusing on my highest interest rate loans first, if I have more than one loan at a certain interest rate, I focus on the larger one.




4. Get Organized

This is going to look different for everyone, but it is important to find an organization method that works for you. Personally, I use a combination of ReadyForZero and a binder. ReadyForZero allows me to keep track of the bigger picture of my plan, how much I’ve paid off, my daily interest amount, etc. While a binder keeps all those pesky bills organized because they tend to go missing if they don’t have a home, and it helps me keep track of each individual loan I have.

5. Have Fun

During grad school I said no to doing a lot of fun things because it would cost me money. At the beginning, I was in hardcore debt payoff mode, and wanted to put as much money as possible to my loans. But I sacrificed having fun with my friends, and eventually the stresses of going to grad school full time and working full time weighed down on me. I realized I needed to enjoy myself and quickly found ways to do that without spending a lot or any money. My personal favorite is having a potluck with friends. What’s better than great food, great friends, and wine. It’s a lot of fun, and pretty cheap, too.

The goal of paying off student loans is pretty hefty, with a plan it makes it much more manageable. I hope these 5 tips help you as much as they have helped me to plan my debt payoff. What are some tips you have for making a debt payoff plan?

Debt

How I “Paid Off” $23,000 of Debt During Grad School

How I Paid Off $23,000 of Debt During Grad SchoolYou might be wondering why I wrote “paid off”, because I didn’t truly pay off that amount during grad school. Like I shared in my student loan story, I created a strategy to make grad school work and pay down my loans during it. Some of the $23,000 was truly paid off, but most of it was just redistributed I guess you could call it.

I highly suggest poking around on Pintrest if you have large amounts of debt. It’s what I did when I first started realizing I needed a plan to pay my debt off. There is nothing quite like reading other people’s success stories to motivate you to get serious about debt pay off and money management. Also, I recommend looking into Dave Ramsey, he is brilliant when it comes to debt pay off and money management. I’m planning to use his snowball method to pay off my debt.

During my one year of graduate school I truly paid off about $3,500 of the $23,000. I did this by working 2 jobs while going to school full time. It was definitely a lot, but with some organization and time management I was able to pull it off. If you’re going to work almost full time (I roughly worked 30-35 hours a week), I highly recommend working jobs that require minimal take home work. What I mean by this is, work jobs that allow you to do very little work at home once you leave work. For me, that involved working in a toddler half day classroom, babysitting afterwards, then going to class at night. The toddler classroom required minimal take home work and babysitting never required any work at home. Actually, babysitting worked perfectly because I could do work during the toddler’s nap time. Also, I lived by a budget and cut spending wherever I could, while still making sure to save 10% of my income every month.

The other $20,000 was paying off some of my private loans with federal loans. Even though I only needed a couple thousands to make it through graduate school, I still took out the maximum amount of federal loans they would offer me. I know, this sounds crazy and when I first decided to do it, I thought I was crazy too. But, I’m a teacher, meaning there are a lot of great federal loan forgiveness programs in place for me. This didn’t help me much since I had a ton of private loans (with super high interest rates) from my undergrad. By taking out federal loans to pay down my private I was kinda swapping the same amount of debt for a better interest rate. My particular private loan I worked on paying off with my federal loans carried a 8.05% interest rate and the federal loan had a 6.21% interest rate. I was very pleased 🙂 It might not seem like a big difference, but interest is the absolute worst, so getting a lower interest rate is always better.

What are some strategies you used to pay down debt while still in school?

 

Debt

My Student Loan Story

When I first got accepted to Syracuse University as an undergrad, I was over the moon excited. It was my first choice school and had one of the best programs in the country for what I wanted to study, inclusive elementary and special education. Of course, it came with a hefty price tag, about $200k to be exact after the 4 years.

I applied to every scholarship I could find, but unfortunately got nothing. I received a small grant from SU, and work study, but nothing that made much of a dent in the cost of attendance. This continued for all 4 years. During my senior year, I began to look into graduate programs, and took a closer look into my actual amount of debt. My stomach turned when I saw the number that I had accumulated. My dreams of graduate school seemed impossible and I quickly arranged a meeting with the graduate recruiter at my school. She’s hands down the best human being on this planet and has helped me through all of my troubles throughout undergrad and grad school.

I walked out of her office with a meeting set up with a financial aid adviser, scholarship applications started, switched to a new, less credit grad program and emails sent out to all contacts within my school to get me scholarships. I had done a lot for the School of Education through my undergraduate career, so she hoped this would help me get the scholarship I needed. The process was slow, but I felt better knowing that I was doing something to hopefully be able to go to grad school that upcoming summer.

When I met with the graduate financial aid adviser she immediately asked what my major was currently and what I planned to study as a grad student. As soon as she heard teacher, she questioned why I had an ABSURD amount of private loans. Here’s a tip: Get as many Federal loans as possible before private. Federal loans offer much lower interest rates, more payment plans and more opportunities for forgiveness, especially for teachers. She recommended only taking federal loans for graduate school and to make whatever kind of payments I could during school.

I began graduate school studying literacy education, and took out another federal loan to cover the cost for that semester. As much as I didn’t want to take out even more loans, I figured I was so much in debt already, what was a few extra thousand? Then, everything quickly changed during the first week of classes.

While break during one of my night classes, I got an email that I received a scholarship that would cover half of my credits that semester and the following semester. Then, I found out my teaching job at a preschool would give me 4 free credits. That meant I would have 10 credits paid for completely out of my 12. I immediately emailed the financial aid adviser and asked if there were any other grants available to teachers. She said that the TEACH grant was still available to me as a grad student, it would cover the rest of my credits (if you’re going into teaching, look into it! It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing)!! I couldn’t believe that my entire fall semester would be covered!

My spring and summer semesters I didn’t receive as much aid, but in comparison to what I thought I was going to pay, it was a huge relief. You’ll probably find it to be funny, but I ended up taking out the maximum amount of federal loans they would offer me each semester of graduate school, even though I didn’t need much. I’ll save that for another post though 🙂

What’s your student loan story? How did you make higher education possible for yourself?