Paying off your student loans can be intimidating – and for many students, no small financial burden to chip away at. When someone graduates from university or college, they’ll have a lot of things on their mind – including the big task of landing a solid, well-paying job and a nice place to live on their own. All those things combined with paying off their loan can frighten many people.
But don’t worry. Alleviating student debt loads of thousands of dollars isn’t an impossible task. It’s also one that can be highly instructive for people in their 20s. This is because tackling student loan debt is for almost all young people the first big financial obligation that they’ll have to deal with in their adult lives. And by coming up with a plan and sticking too it, the debt load can be brought down to zero in good time.
And paying it off sooner than later can make a big difference in your total payment. Think about it. If you have $30,000 in debt (not an unheard of amount these days) with a rate pegged at a 4.5 interest rate, you’re looking at about $15,000 in interest payments if it’s paid off over two decades. However, to get out of debt in 10 years – half the time – and you’re looking at roughly $8,000 in interest payments – a substantial chunk of cash.
One thing to keep in mind is that declaring bankruptcy will not wipe out that debt if you’ve attended school within the last seven years. Though this will stop collection of the debt for a few years while the trustee handles the bankruptcy file, interest will continue to accumulate – and if you want to go back to school you may face difficulties if a credit rating becomes part of the eligibility requirements. After seven years, however, student debt can be included in a bankruptcy like other debts.
But how do you do it? Here are five top tips to get prepared for paying off a student loan, and doing it in less time than it would otherwise take.
Achieving a goal of debt repayment involves a lot of factors, but perhaps the most important is staying positive. If you feel you can do it – pay off that mountain of debt – then you’re more likely to achieve your goal. The power of positive thinking, as it’s been called, can be powerful indeed. It’s good to keep in mind how great you’ll feel (and not just financially) when the loan is finally gone for good. It’s extra cash in your pocket (that would otherwise be spent on loan payments) as well as a burden off your shoulders.
Make a Plan
Get to know your student loan obligations and plan for them. You can do this by using a loan repayment calculator (Ontario has a good one here), and read the fine print on your loan to make sure you’re not being overcharged or missing out on ways to defer the payments. And of course you should draw up a monthly budget that includes student loan payments.
Begin Payments in School
If you can, consider starting to pay down a loan before your time in school is finished. While most students live paycheque-to-paycheque (or loan deposit to loan deposit) any head start you can get on chopping your loan down will pay off later, due to lower amounts of interest paid.
Make sure you aren’t missing out on making the minimum monthly payment (and thus paying higher total interest) by having the regular withdrawal made automatically and directly from your bank account. Consider student debt like a phone bill – something that should always be paid each month, with no chance to forget about it.
Pay more than the Monthly Minimum
This one’s obvious, but people psychologically are susceptible to missing it – pay more than the bare minimum. Take the mandatory amount you have to pay a month not as the total monthly payment, but a starting point. Then, go through your budget and find as much free or loose money as possible. If you do have regular room in your budget after your basic loan amount is taken out, budget in a higher amount each month. Then set that amount as your monthly automatic payment.
By keeping on top of your post-school budget, you’ll find it easier to free up money for student loan payments, and pay them off earlier than otherwise. You’ll be glad you did.
The author of the article is Jeremy Benson. He has been writing about finance, mortgage and Canadian law since 7 years. Blogging is one among his greatest passions. Follow him on Twitter@jeremybenson19.