If your family has student debt, you're not alone. If you feel like it's a mountain with no end in sight, that's also quite normal. The fact is that student loan debt is a huge part of our lives. Some people think that their debt is something they'll have to deal with forever. But, it doesn't have to be that way. You can manage student loan debt. It might not be easy or quick, but a good plan can pay off. Here are a few way for your family to manage student loan debt.
Make Student Loan Debt Payoff A Priority
Some people think that student loan debt will be around forever. For some people, paying off their debt is just another bill payment. If you're serious about getting rid of student loan debt, give it more priority. Additional attention is necessary to tackle something so big.
Additionally, your entire family will have to commit to your plan to manage student loan debt.
Build excitement. Look at the end goals. Picture your life without debt. Have plans for what you can do when student loan debt is gone.
To properly manage your student debt will take time and dedication. Know this up front and be ready for a long but fulfilling journey.
Create A Budget
If you don't have a budget, now is the time to get started. You cannot manage student loan debt optimally without one. A budget will show everything you're bringing in and sending out. Put student loan debt payments at the top of your budget. Make sure it's front and center. Give it the attention in your budget and it will spill over into your life.
Keep in mind there are some tips, especially if you've never had a budget before. Start simple. Spend some time just tracking at first. Eventually, expand it to track goals. Then, track against them. Keep building your budget. A good budget is something you grow into. A good budget will help you manage student loan debt. It won't take long to get there, I promise!
Review Your Extras
Once you're cruising along with your budget, start looking at it in depth. What are your spending categories? Are any of your spending habits changeable?
The goal here is to find money in your budget that you can re-allocate to your student loan payments. Any bit of extra counts! Don't think that just because it's only $5, you shouldn't bother. Guess what? Every dollar makes a difference! Plus, dollars add up. In fact, starting small is a great way to start. Chances are you'll find small amounts and the difference in your life won't even be noticeable. Once you get a few of these changes under your belt, you can challenge yourself to go bigger.
Keep reviewing your spending and asking what you can change. Premium cable channels. Your cell phone bill. In fact, do you really need to replace your cell phone already? All of these and many other things are questions you can ask. The answers can help manage student loan debt.
Allocate New Money
If you want to start paying down your debt faster, a great way is to allocate new money. When you get a raise at work, figure out the difference in your paycheck and increase your student loan payment. If you get a bonus, send that as a one time payment. Same goes with income tax refunds.
The bottom line is that you should be living within the budget you created earlier. Committing extra money to your student loans is a fast and easy way to knock that balance down.
Set Goals And Track Targets
Paying off your student loans will likely take considerable time. In order to stay motivated, set some targets. Every so often, check how you're doing. Targets give you something to track along the way. For example, if you set a target to pay off 5% of your balance the first year, but you end up paying off 6%, that's great progress. It may not seem like a lot, but it is. Why? Because it shows that you're ahead of schedule.
That kind of little check up can provide extra motivation to keep on going. Plus, you can challenge yourself to do even better the next year.
If you can pay extra on your loans, target one payment for the extras. Which one is up to you. Some people like paying off the loan with the smallest balance. Others prefer targeting the loan with the highest interest rate. To me, there's no hard and fast rule. But, regardless, pick one and knock it out. Otherwise look into student loan consolidating and refinancing.
Why do I recommend this instead of spreading payments to multiple loans? For me, it's a matter of motivation. Once you get a loan fully paid off, guess what? You're going to feel great. That's going to be a meaningful accomplishment! You can immediately start applying that payment to the next loan. Then you can knock that one out, and so on and so forth.
A side benefit is that eliminating loans change your cash flow obligation. While the goal is to never reduce your student loan payment, reducing the number of payments does give you flexibility in the event of an emergency or job loss.
Paying off your student loans can take years. It's easy to lose sight of the big picture over a long period of time. In order to reduce this, set milestones and celebrate. When you hit your first 10%, go to a special dinner. If you get that smallest loan paid off, consider a small getaway. When you're halfway there, get that fancy bottle of wine you once sipped.
These little motivations along the way will show definite achievement. And, the celebrations will keep you motivated to hit the next goal. That's what it's all about in the end!
I hope that these tips have helped. I won't sugarcoat it. Paying off debt isn't easy, especially if you have a lot of it. But, you can do it and you can come in way ahead if you follow these steps.
Readers, do you have any good stories about paying off student loan debt? How do you manage student loan debt? Please comment below. And, thanks so much for reading!