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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Prepper’s Financial Guide (Book Review)

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Financial freedom is something I often preach about here on Suburban Steader. All suburban homesteaders can benefit from being free of financial burden.  How do you get there?  There’s lots of ways to go about it.  You can get quite overwhelmed with all the different ways to get to financial independence.  Jim Cobb’s latest offering, Prepper’s Financial Guide, walks you through different topics which will lead towards financial independence.

Book Set-Up

Jim has laid out Prepper’s Financial Guide in a very concise manner as is typical with his books. Each chapter is precise and addresses both the why and how of each topic. The chapters are as follows:

Chapter 1 – What Is An Economic Collapse?

Jim spends some time talking about the definition of an economic collapse as well as describing what can cause one.  He goes into depth talking about some economic collapses in history including Germany (1921-1924), the US (1929-1940) and Argentina (1998-2002).

Chapter 2 – Debt Reduction

The first step in finding financial freedom is debt reduction. You’re halfway home if you don’t owe anyone anything .  Jim discusses topics such as authoring a budget, reducing your realistic debts (debt snowball, anyone?), managing credit cards and cutting your expenses in both soft and hard approaches.

Chapter 3 – Currency

Do you know the difference between commodity and fiat currencies? Want to understand more about exchange rates? This chapter of Prepper’s Financial Guide will set you straight.

Chapter 4 – Precious Metals And Minerals

Most preppers know that gold and silver are the mainstays in ‘prepping currency.’  Jim dives into these precious metals and others.  He also talk about minerals (diamonds, rubies, etc.) in this chapter.

Chapter 5 – Post-Collapse Barter And Trade Goods

Stocking up on vices, consumables and medical supplies is recommended in this chapter because barter items will be the ‘normal’ currency in a SHTF scenario.

Chapter 6 – Bartering Skills Instead Of Stuff

Don’t have any material possessions to trade? No worries. Jim talks about trading time and sweat of your brow in this chapter.

Chapter 7 – Safeguarding Valuables

Safes, hiding spots and caches – as you might expect – are the main topics in this chapter.

Chapter 8 – Investing In Self-Sufficiency

This chapter of Prepper’s Financial Guide is one of the longer ones.  Jim spends a lot of time explaining how the best way to survive a financial downturn is to reduce your dependence on purchasing power.  Grow a garden, raise your own livestock, learn about medicinal plants and herbs, grow your handyman skill set – these are all skills you can be doing now to reduce your financial dependence later.

Chapter 9 – Putting It All Together: The Home Of The Self-Sufficient Investor

Setting up your property to be self-sufficient and maximize your investments is a key part of being a financially free prepper.  Jim’s exploration of this topic is broad and general due to the fact that each situation will be unique.

Chapter 10 – Final Thoughts

Jim summarizes the books and gives a few parting shots of wisdom.

Prepper's Financial Guide by Jim Cobb

Why I Liked Prepper’s Financial Guide

You’ll notice that Jim doesn’t have any Earth-shattering information in his book when you compare it to most financial books. Everything he presents is rock solid advice that most anyone will provide AND he paints it in a prepper’s hue. In my opinion, there are a few things in this book that make it a quality addition to your long-term survival library:

  • Bluntness – Jim has a history of not sugar-coating anything. An economic collapse situation is going to be tough. Getting your mind wrapped around that idea and accepting it is going to be half the battle.
  • Checklists – Much like in Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide, Jim disperses valuable checklists in the chapters and provides a large, long barter item checklist at the end.
  • Creativeness – Jim’s approaches are not always inline with mainstream thinking.  He’s not afraid to think outside of the box and present unorthodox ideas.

What I Didn’t Like

In my opinion, an economic collapse will bring out the worst in people.  Folks will be capable of doing most anything when they are hungry, thirsty and cold.  I would have expected a bit more in the chapter about safeguarding your valuables.  I think Jim’s view is a little too utopian – although this book wasn’t intended as a prediction of social environments.  I have to say that I was a bit surprised that the “Oldest Profession In The World” didn’t come up in Chapter 6.  I wouldn’t expect Jim to promote it, but I would expect that – if you’re talking about bartering “skills” – the topic would come up.

Overall Thoughts on Prepper’s Financial Guide

I think Prepper’s Financial Guide by Jim Cobb is a solid addition to your long-term survival library.  Most of the financial information and advice provided is no different than the majority of financial books and websites out there, however, the book is written with the prepper in mind.  That last fact makes it a good read.

Prepper's Financial Guide by Jim Cobb

Disclaimer: Jim Cobb supplied a copy of Prepper’s Financial Guide for me to review. I can assure my readers that I gave it a fair and honest review.

*** Consider letting folks know about this article at TopPrepperWebsites.com ***

Dan
Founder/Owner at Suburban Steader
I am a middle-age guy with a wife, two young kids and a couple of crazy dogs. We live on Long Island, NY and had an interesting experience with Hurricane Sandy. That experience led me towards the self-sufficiency movement and eventually led to the founding of SuburbanSteader.com. I aim to provide suburbanites with the confidence and know-how to become more self-reliant by providing content on topics such as gardening, personal health, financial responsibility, cooking, self-preparedness and self-protection.