Right after I received my college diploma, I returned home to live with my folks and was unemployed for the upcoming few months. Then, a student loan debt bill came in the mail – at that point, it seemed like classic millennial life had started! To add to this new lifestyle change, Kix cereal became an essential part of my diet while also daydreaming about settling down on a farm somewhere and launching a basil & strawberry jam business. As I agonized over job applications and invented new projects, a sense of guilt for not finding success in my career search consumed me. Simultaneously, anger toward the expensive education that seemed to be rendering no tangible result overwhelmed me. Along with these turbulent emotions was an urge to shake my fist at the air – time after time!
Even though I retain a heartfelt idealism, as many millennials do! Optimism: the dear companion of our generation. This quality might not help us pay off our student loans but it certainly encourages us to free ourselves from this financial stressor and chase after all those grand ambitions we have in life.
To help you escape the burden of student loan debt and start achieving life’s other aspirations (like traveling, creating new things, or playing music), here are my top 10 strategies for eliminating it quickly.
1. Make friends (or at least amends) with your debt.
In the US, student loan debt has surpassed a staggering trillion dollars. Though it’s an overwhelming amount to be part of, it can also create a sense of solidarity for those whose financial situation is similarly impacted. However, such camaraderie shouldn’t overshadow your personal need to pay off that debt: you must come face-to-face with your figures if you’re to make measurable progress in diminishing them! Don’t let the magnitude of this shared issue distract from what matters most – proactively tackling and conquering your specific portion of it. Embrace your student loan debt and accept that it is a part of life. Open each statement sent to you and do the necessary research so that you become more knowledgeable about potential solutions for faster repayment. Doing this will help ease the burden of having to manage multiple loans with varying interest rates, terms, etc.
2. Familiarize yourself with the conditions of your repayment plan.
Ready to tackle your student loan repayment? I certainly was! When I was in college, the federal loan repayment plans seemed tailored-made for me–the low earner and high debtor. Under an income-based repayment (IBR) plan, dedicating myself to 25 years of consistent on-time minimum payments meant that any remaining balance would be forgiven. Plus there were options like grace periods, forbearance, and deferment which could help delay payment for a year or more. It all sounded easy enough at age 22…which may have been due to my ignorance about how interest worked over time.
When I look back, 25 years is an eternity! I don’t want to remain in debt for that long if it can be avoided. Not only would the compounding interest accumulate quickly and cost me a fortune, but tens of thousands of dollars are too high a price to pay for being locked into debt.
Although these debt repayment programs can be beneficial to those struggling financially, they should not be the only strategy used. Initially, I opted for a plan that allowed me to pay the least amount each month as it seemed like my best option at the time. However, without fully understanding how much I should have been paying over an extended period of time and despite having more money coming in, later on, I continued making minimum payments every month. I was ecstatic to have a plan in place! Unfortunately, it wasn’t one that would lead me to become debt-free quickly. Doing your research (whoa, I never thought I’d say this again!) and examining all of the available repayment plans is paramount. Make sure you take into account the duration of the loan repaying period, ways to expedite as your income rises and comprehend what it means to have student loan payments for multiple years ahead.
3. Design a payment plan that is tailored to your needs.
Now that you’ve pinpointed the perfect repayment plan for your current and future situation, it’s time to put those stellar college skills into action! Making your payment system will help keep track of payments and make sure you’re tackling debt in an efficient manner. Figure out a timeline, decide on how much can sensibly be paid each month, and discover the best strategy to pay off student loans quickly and effectively. When you display visuals that illustrate your repayment timeline, it may help you to get a better understanding of repaying the debt. My experience was no different when I started using ReadyForZero – each time I looked at my principal balance increase on the graph due to interest accrual, it motivated me more and more!
4. Make your payments work FOR you.
Take charge of your debt! By being mindful, you can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to pay off student loan debt. Prioritize paying off higher interest rates first while making minimum payments on the rest; also make sure that your payments are contributing towards the principal balance. Keep a close eye on your progress and be consistent with payments or else this process will drag out much longer than desired.
5. Bi-weekly payments.
Are you looking for an exciting way to accelerate your repayment plan? Then bi-weekly payments might be the answer! It’s a great trick that not many people know. With bi-weekly payments, you’ll take your monthly payment and divide it by two; thereafter, make two half payments every two weeks instead of one full payment at month’s end. This additional “bonus” payment will allow you to pay off debt faster since there are 52 weeks in a year! Experience the incredible power of this calculator for yourself! All you have to do is enter your information – it’s that simple and the results are stunning. Try it now!
Believe it or not, this mind-blowing technique isn’t a trick of magic; it’s just crazy cool!
6. Track your daily interest…
… because you will be traumatized into action. I still recall the moment when I truly comprehended how much attention was stacking up every day. It shocked and scared me to my core! And if that wasn’t enough, seeing it snowball into monthly and annual interest payments shook me even more.
Watching the amount of interest accumulating on a daily basis serves as one of the most powerful tools when it comes to repaying your student loans. Seeing how much you are paying in interest even if at low rates can be disheartening, but this motivates me to work harder and make sure I am up-to-date with my repayment plan. Several years into loan repayment, these numbers still hit hard when I see them – which is why they serve as such an effective means for encouraging me toward financial freedom from debt!
7. Making additional payments over the minimum due is a smart financial move.
Millennials who want to rise out of the depths of student loan debt must pay more than just the minimum. For those stuck paying only suggested payments, you will remain in a seemingly never-ending cycle for longer than anticipated. This is because these payments are often composed mostly of accrued interest from last month’s balance. Making even small additional weekly contributions ($20) helps you break free and make real progress!
8. Transform your financial habits to accelerate debt repayment and set yourself up for future success.
Before purchasing something that I don’t necessarily need, I use a trick to connect with my spending habits and ensure financial stability for the long term. My go-to line is “are you willing to buy this AND match the amount in your repayment?” For example, if I spot something that tempts me but won’t benefit me beyond its momentary flicker of joy, then instead of indulging in it fully, I challenge myself by committing to put an equivalent price into debt payoff. Shopping can be a daunting task without proper intention, especially when hunger sets in at the grocery store. To ensure that I am making wise decisions with my money and purchases, I often factor in how much extra effort it will take for me to pay off the purchase – Sometimes this discourages me from buying something but other times it encourages me to make a plan of action on how to repay what I owe sooner rather than later. This helps keep my spending habits in check while also giving more thought to each potential purchase.
9. Use accountability.
It’s time to broadcast your student loan debt! Discussing it can be hugely beneficial in enabling you to stay on track with repayment plans and remain committed to achieving those objectives. No need for an announcement at a social gathering or displaying numbers on your resume, yet telling someone trustworthy about your goals and who will give you a nudge when needed is immensely worthwhile. So don’t hesitate – to talk about that student loan debt today! Moreover, the camaraderie we discussed at the start of this post can be utilized to motivate each other’s loan repayment!
10. Trust your gut and tap into the wisdom of Kali.
It’s no exaggeration when I say Kali is a truly inspiring example of how successful financial blogging can be. Through smart and sensible decisions, she has been able to secure her finances using the most basic tool– common sense! And yet in spite of its simplicity, it is something that many people find challenging on their own. By providing simple tips that are easy to follow and implement, Kali has demonstrated that everyone can benefit from sound financial practices if they make well-informed choices.
She’s an incredibly intelligent individual – I would highly recommend heeding her advice.
Bonus: Open up a retirement account
Alright, I mentioned ten tips earlier. Here’s a bonus tip to top it off!
If you have yet to start a retirement account, now is the time! I highly recommend opening up a Roth IRA. It was one of the best decisions I made in my early years. Not only did this provide me with savings for when I retire, but it also got me qualified for tax credits during tax season! Don’t miss out on this opportunity – head over to your bank or talk to a financial advisor today and get started on building your very own retirement kingdom. As millennials, we have a unique opportunity to reap the rewards of compounding interest in our retirement accounts. By investing $500 today, you can increase your savings while also receiving more than half that amount back at tax time! Don’t miss out on this chance – start building for your future right now!
Carrying student loan debt is something we all have to deal with at some point in our lives, but it doesn’t mean finances can’t be tackled creatively. Kali’s posts are a great example of how fun and interesting financial topics can be! Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available out there that will help you manage your repayment plan for maximum efficiency, so you’ll still have enough funds left over to pursue the things that make life worth living. Start optimizing the way you live today by getting on top of those payments! Now is the time to start your journey toward gaining financial freedom and making that dream career of traveling around the world while managing your own business come true! Or, in my case, using my newfound wealth to go see where Lord of The Rings was filmed in New Zealand.
This article was originally published on commonsensemillennial.com.