The joy of graduating from college can be short-lived once you open your inbox and find an email alerting you that the first payment for your student loans is due. And yes, four-plus years of tuition costs can add up to some big numbers, but if you set some reasonable goals and adjust your spending, you can take on those loans and still find ways to enjoy post-grad life.
Ducks in a Row
In between job hunting or during your first-week orientation, you should figure out a plan for repayment. Gather as much information about your living costs as you can. Pull the paperwork for your loans, rent/mortgage and utilities, insurance premiums (health, car, home) and other payments (vehicle, credit cards, etc.). If you’re unsure about how much you’re spending on things like entertainment and groceries, you’ll need to compile the data for those costs, too.
Lay it all out in a spreadsheet or use an app to give you a clear idea of what you can reasonably spend, save and afford. Once you have those ducks in a row, it’s time to dive in. Give yourself a jump-start by actively finding ways to cut costs.
Start, Snip & Sacrifice
Once you know how much money you’ll have coming and going each month, you’ll be ready to trim some of your expenses. This doesn’t mean living on ramen noodles or with six untidy roommates. Instead, you can:
- Cut the cable. Stream content through Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu and pick up a digital antenna for local channels. Don’t be afraid to haggle for the cost of your Internet connection, either.
- Dig it. Want organic veggies? Skip the fancy grocery stores and plant some seeds. If you don’t have the outdoor space, search for local food CSAs in your area.
- Hitch a ride. The daily commute can be expensive. Talk to your co-workers about a carpool or get in some free fitness by biking to and from your nine-to-five.
Once you start looking for ways to save yourself some money, you’ll likely start noticing opportunities everywhere. Further motivate yourself by making it a challenge to put an extra $25 or $50 toward each student loan payment you make. These amounts may seem small but they’ll make a big difference.
To pay off loans quickly, small sacrifices aren’t the only ones you’ll need to make. Look at jobs in smaller communities with a lower cost of living and keep your car as long as you can, even if it’s starting to look a little rusty. For some, the sacrifice isn’t objects, it’s time. A second, part-time job can help you make more than one payment a month.
Repaying your student loans may feel daunting but with some extra effort and a solid understanding of your budget, you can do it. After all, you got through finals week every semester, didn’t you?
How long did it take you to pay off your student loans? Have some tips to share? Tell us in the comment section.