6 Quick Tips for Managing Student Loan Debt

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Statistics show that about 33% of all Americans age 25 and older have college degrees and those numbers are rising  over time.  Unfortunately, many Americans use loans to finance this higher education.  Nothing welcomes your adulthood like getting the first student loan bill in the mail.  These bills can control your life if you’re careful.  And, while we don’t recommend taking loans in the first place, following these six steps will help you steer clear of trouble and manage your debt in a responsible manner:

1. Don’t Ignore Your Student Loan

Most of us would agree that student loans are no fun to pay back.  Completely ignoring them, however, will lead to serious consequences in both your credit rating and financial future. Make sure you start paying them off right after finishing college.  

Editor’s Note: College loans typically give you a six month grace period from graduation before you have to start paying them off.

2. Set Up A Budget

Your lifestyle completely changes after college.  You’ll need to start paying attention more to your financial surroundings and managing the flow of money through your accounts.  Part of managing your income and expenses will involve tackling your student loans.

Monitor all your incomes (pay checks mostly) and expenses (rent, food, utilities, student loan payments, etc.) and create a budget off this information.  It will help you determine your repayment strategy and show you where you can and cannot spend money.

There are apps and programs that can help. Third Party phone applications like You Need A Budget (YNAB), Mvelopes, and Mint as well as software programs like Zilchworks and Quicken can help you get on track.

3. Set An Affordable Monthly Payment

There is no one solution for everyone. Once you’ve set up your budget you’ll be able to get a clearer picture of what you’re capable of committing to pay each month – no less than the minimum of course so you don’t default.  If you can’t handle the minimum for whatever reason, it is best to talk to the loan manager as they are usually willing to work with you.  It is much better to set up smaller monthly payments over a longer time than default on your loan.

You will get rid of your loan sooner (and pay less interest) if you pay a higher amount than the monthly minimum.  This approach should be a goal, however.  Minimum payments should be considered mandatory for the reasons we’ve listed above.  Side note – if you have a lot of debt, consider looking into the debt snowball payment method as a way of getting out of debt faster.  It won’t be easier, but it works..

The recently created Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE) also aims to make paying off student loans more manageable.  

Editor’s Note: I have no experience with this plan so please check with consultants to see if your loan and circumstances qualify you for the program.

4. Research Forgiveness Options

There are some lawful ways to have your student loans dismissed.  There are also certain criteria you must meet to qualify for a student loan forgiveness program. Research available student loan forgiveness programs at the state and federal levels to see if there is a student loan forgiveness program that suits your situation.  In the meantime, make sure you’re keeping up with your minimum payments.

5. Set Up Automatic Payment Options

One of the best solutions for student loan repayment is to opt for an automatic payment option.  These programs will automatically deduct a preset amount each month from your account to pay off the loan.  You will not have to worry about writing a check each month as it will be deducted automatically on a certain date.

Typically, you have the option of picking which day of the month you pay the loan.  This option allows you to do helpful things like schedule your payment for the day after your paycheck is credited to your account.

This approach takes the responsibility of remembering to write a check and mail it (or even just log-in and process payment) each month out of your hands and keeps your credit and status in good standing.

6. Make Extra Payments Whenever Possible

We touched on this item in Step 2, but the best tip for managing your student loans (after not taking them) is to pay them off as early as possible.  You can do this by making extra payments whenever you have a few dollars in your pocket.

When making extra payments, make sure it is explicitly clear that the extra money in your payment is to be put against the principle of the loan and not against the next future payment.  Also, if you have multiple student loans, always apply any extra payments to the loan with the highest interest level first.  This approach will reduce the amount of interest you pay and reduce the total cost of your loan over time.

Conclusion

Student loans are beastly things that are best avoided.  That being said, if you have them, it’s best to service them as much as possible.  We recommend following these six steps and also consulting with the most experienced, informed and active student debt consultants you can find in order to resolve your debt the most beneficial way possible to your current situation. Student loans can be trying but they are survivable.

manage your student loan

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Homesteading And The Debt Free Lifestyle

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It’s difficult being an urban homesteader. In order to make it, you need to be independent.  Independence can mean many things, but a lot of people think of owning a good amount of land.  So what is a poor city inhabitant who longs for the country life supposed to do? Become debt free!

Going Debt Free

Homesteading and independence go hand-in-hand with being debt free. The tips below will allow to homestead anywhere.  They will also show you how to cut expenses and save cash.  The culmination of this effort can result in a debt free lifestyle.  The same kind of lifestyle that might see you own that real estate in the country.

Container Gardening

Think you need a patch of earth to grow vegetables? Reconsider. You can grow tomatoes, lettuce, squash and potatoes in simple containers.  Items such as barrels, pots or hay bundles will do.

Even better, container gardening is perfect for those new to planting. You have fewer plants to manage, less weeding and less immediate cost and time.  You can grow a significant number of crops in minimal space, even if all you have is a small balcony.  All you need is a little planning.

Zucchini and strawberries can grow in hanging wicker bins.  Similarly, tomatoes can grown in little tubs.

Gardening and growing vegetables doesn’t require large machinery or planting equipment. All you have to do is make use of the things available to you.

Make and Use a Solar Oven

One of your biggest expense can be your utilities.  Have you thought about how you can continue on the debt free path and cook for free? A Solar Oven is simple to make and can completely reduce your utility costs.

Keep Some Chickens

A friend of mine hatched chicks from prepared eggs utilizing an electric skillet set on low.  They used some water to keep the air inside the skillet soggy and a towel to pad the eggs. Five of the eggs hatched and three of the birds made it to adulthood. She now keeps these three hens in her lawn. When they are mature enough, these animals will supply her with eggs once a day.

The cost of feed will most likely be offset by the amount of money you spend on eggs.  You can take the savings and put it towards your debt free goals.

Raising chickens isn’t for everyone.  Make sure you check the rules and regulations of your city.  Also, make sure you are onboard with raising livestock.  It’s a full-time commitment.

Live Simply

A smart thought for anybody, yet key for a trying homesteader. Figure out how to curtail costs now, keeping in mind you are busy.  Dispose of the extra costs in your life. A homesteading lifestyle requires that you figure out how to deal with what you have as opposed to rushing to the store for something new.

Do you need those three TV sets? What about that vast closet of clothes? Learn to get by with what you have now.  Heading to the store when you’ve ‘made it’ might not be as easy as you think.

Conclusion

Living simply also means curtailing any extra costs that you might be incurring.  Doing things like paying off any loans that you have taken as soon as possible can lead to a debt free lifestyle. Do not to buy items on credit. The simple life may be what’s needed to get you to your debt free goals.

Homesteading & Debt Free Lifestyle

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