It can be difficult to stay on top of paying off multiple student loans, but it isn't impossible. Taking charge of your student loan repayment strategy can help you feel more in control of your debt and give you greater peace of mind.
Getting organized is a great way to begin. And the start of a new year is the perfect time to set goals and put yourself on track to make real progress.
Here's how to get organized and tackle your student loan debt this year.
The key to staying organized is understanding the full picture when it comes to your debt. If you haven't done so already, create a spreadsheet that includes all of the details about the terms of your loans. This may include the amount borrowed, interest rates, who the loan servicer is (as well as contact information for that specific loan servicer), and when your monthly payment is due.
Often, student loan borrowers will have multiple loans, and even multiple loan servicers with different repayment plans for each. Laying all of your loans out in a spreadsheet will help you gauge which loans you should begin paying down first, depending on their interest rates and the amount you borrowed.
Note the status of each loan. If your loan is currently in deferment or forbearance, make a note of that, and include the date that your loan is expected to enter repayment so that you don't accidentally forget to make a payment on time.
You should also keep track of log-in information for your student loan servicer so that you don't get locked out of your account.
Making on time payments is crucial for paying off any kind of debt, and in turn building up your credit. By enrolling in auto-pay, not only will you ensure that your payment is made every month on time, but you may also save a little money.
Some student loan servicers like Sallie Mae will offer a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on eligible loans.
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Using the "set it and forget it" approach to student loans will help you avoid any chance of your loans going into default.
"If you aren't making payments on your federal loans, the government can withhold a portion of your tax refund or paycheck," says Teddy Nykiel, managing editor and client service manager at My College Planning Team. "There are pretty extreme measures they can take, so you should be making those payments on time, or adjust your payment so that you're able to do that."
If you're struggling to make your monthly payment, review your current repayment plan and figure out if it's still a good fit.
Remember, you're not stuck with your plan. As your goals change, so should your repayment strategy. If you've set certain long-term goals, like saving for retirement, or you want to start saving for your first home or your child's college education, you may want to reevaluate your plan and possibly even change it so that you're able to meet all of your financial goals while still paying down your debt.
Go through your budget and do some research on the various repayment plans that you are eligible for. Then, schedule an appointment to discuss your options with your loan servicer.
"I would definitely suggest that [borrowers] get a budget routine together and utilize the repayment estimator, and that'll help them to see what payment they're going to need to make," April Sanderson, a financial counselor for LSS Financial Counseling, told Grow earlier this year.
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If having multiple loans is too much to handle, Nykiel says you should consider whether consolidating your loans is the best option for you.
This is a chance for you to consider what your timeline for repayment will be: whether you want to adjust your plan to pay off your debt aggressively, or extend it to give you a little extra breathing room in your monthly budget. Make any necessary adjustments that will help keep you on track and moving towards your goals.
"Consolidating gives you the option to combine all of your loans into one," says Nykiel. "I would caution that if you do choose to go this route, it might extend your repayment, but it can make it easier to keep everything organized."
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