It has been one month since my college graduation and I have already paid off half of my student loan debt. Although I started saving to pay off my debt while I was just starting college, here is what I do:
Start a coin jar
This seriously works. I started a coin jar during my second year of college and in 2 months I had $25. Every time I received change while purchasing something it immediately went in the jar. If I found a penny on the ground or a nickel in one of my old wallets, it immediately went in the jar. If I was really in the saving mood, I would put $1 bills in the jar as well. As silly as it seems, the money really adds up. Although $25 seems so little when you need to pay thousands, it is $25 more than you had before.
I have watched friends and family members struggle with paying their bills and student loan debt. I know how hard it can be to feel like you have absolutely no money. You need to prioritize. Pay your bills and put the rest of your money toward your debt. Don’t feel the need to go shopping for new clothes or a new pair of shoes each month. Get out of your habit of going out to eat too frequently or stopping to get coffee every day before work. Sell the big box of toys you have in your basement that hasn’t been touched in years. Start making crafts to sell on Etsy or sell your gently used clothing online, at Plato’s Closet or other retail shops. Sell the pair of basketball shoes that you have only worn twice.
Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. Graduating college is an exciting time and you should be proud of yourself. But understand that everyone experiences some tough times after. Even if you found your full-time dream job, or are still looking, there are always unique ways to make some extra side money. Even if it’s just an extra 6 hours/week at minimum wage, that is still extra money. Use the skills you learned in college to work freelance on CloudPeeps or help someone with their homework on Craigslist. Once you get that pay-check, instantly send that money to your loan provider.
Set up your payment plan. Pick the plan you know you will absolutely have the money for each month. Calculate how much money you will be able to put towards your student loan while still having money for bills, groceries, and other necessities. Always pay more than what is due. If you picked a plan that requires you to pay $150 a month, never pay $150. Always pay more. Some months you will be able to pay $30 more because you saved money on groceries, but some months you will only be able to pay an extra $3. The extra money will help you pay your interest off early. If you have a job before you graduate start paying your student debt as soon as possible. With most loan providers, paying before you graduate lowers your principal amount, which will save you a lot of money on interest in the long run.
Buy back your freedom
Stay motivated. This is extremely hard. You are going to be overworked, overwhelmed, and exhausted, but do not give up. Reward yourself at the end. Once you have paid off your student loan debt, use that money each month to save up for the vacation of your dreams. You deserve it.