8 Tips for Living With Student Loan Debt

When you finish college, you may be stuck with a roommate that will be staying around for a long time. That roommate is student loan debt. You’d best get acquainted. Living with student loan debt isn’t fun. It’s probably more stressful than exams or papers. However, just like studying for exams or researching facts for a paper, dealing with student loan debt is a manageable experience. Regardless of the size of your debts or what your background is, there are methods to both eliminate the stress and the size of the debts. Here are eight ways to do it:

1. Make a Rough Budget

You don’t need to put together a convoluted spreadsheet just to see where your money is going. Let a program like Mint or You Need a Budget do it for you. Tracking your spending is the best way to see how much your groceries or late nights out are costing you. Getting a handle on your spending will let you see how much you can put toward your loans. It’s not exciting, but it works. Only one in three Americans bother using a budget, so join this exclusive club as soon as you can.

2. Complain About Your Debts

Venting doesn’t accomplish anything practical, but there are some health benefits to complaining about the absurd size of your college loans. Letting it out reduces stress, although it has the side effect of annoying your friends if you bring it up too often. Save those rants for the right moment, or for your dog, and you should be fine.

3. Cut Down Your Electricity Bill

Electricity is one of those things we take for granted. The costs of wasting it, however, are something we shouldn’t. One way to lower your bill is to put a stake through the heart of energy vampires. It sounds ridiculous, but the U.S. government describes energy vampires as those appliances that suck up energy even when they’re not in use.

These are items like cell phone chargers, computers (even in sleep mode) and cable boxes. As much as ten percent of your electricity bill can be because of these appliances. Keep them unplugged when they aren’t in use or keep them connected to a power strip you can turn on and off.

4. Get to Know Your Debts

You might hate your loans, but you really do have to get to know them. A lot of people are confused about which of their debts are private and which are from the government. Knowing this, and more importantly what the interest rates are, is important.

By figuring this out, you can put your money toward the debt that would be most expensive in the long run. Knocking out the high-interest loans first saves you money down the road.

Keeping an eye on those private school loans is especially important because those interest rates aren’t set in stone. You don’t want to be surprised by a loan that starts at a five percent interest rate and then shoots up to more than double that.

5. Invest in Yourself

This doesn’t mean going out and buying a fancy car (which studies show make a poor investment anyway). Instead, dedicate time and resources to improving yourself. The easiest way to pay off your debt is to make more money. Acquiring knowledge and skills beyond what college provided you with, such as a certification or an online course directly pertaining to your career, is often a wise investment.

In fact, acquiring the skills to earn that big promotion or a coveted well-paying position is the best way to pay off your debts. Keep an eye out for online courses or additional classes at a university that will help jumpstart your career. Just because you received your degree doesn’t mean learning stops.

6. Learn to Cook

You don’t need to have studied at culinary school to put together a tasty meal. The alternative to cooking at home is ordering out, and even seemingly inexpensive takeout can be twice the cost of making it yourself. What’s crazy is this year is the first time in history Americans spent more money at restaurants than they did on groceries. Convenience is valuable, no doubt, but learning to whip up a few basic dishes is a great way to save money. It’s an even better way to impress a date.

7. Know Your Options

The average college loan debt is rising each year, and the class of 2015 is stuck with an average of $35,000 worth of debt. Just a decade ago, that was a mere $20,000. This burden is taxing, and the truth is that sometimes it just isn’t possible to make the payments after college. It is possible to work with your lender to change up your payment plan, though. Refinancing is also an option. This lowers the short-term burden, although it could be more costly in the long run. By then, however, you should be on solid financial footing.

8. Adjusting to the Debt

Your student loan debt is important, but you shouldn’t let it become all-consuming. Never forget about it (missing those payments is a huge pain), but push it to the back of your mind and make some small lifestyle adjustments to help yourself pay it off. It may not be easy, but over time, those changes will help bring an end to your debts. What an amazing feeling that will be.

So remember, it is possible to enjoy life even with student loan debt hanging over your head. Manage your money and be mindful, but don’t fret. You will eventually get it all paid off.

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and career blogger at Punched Clocks, where she shares advice on finding happiness and success in your career. For more from Sarah, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on Twitter @SarahLandrum.

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