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Nowadays, it is very rare for a student to graduate from college free of debt. Nearly two-thirds of students graduating colleges and universities around the country are starting their lives as adults with pretty significant financial deficits.  As the national student loan debt keeps rising and rising, young adults are finding themselves entering the world heavily burdened by the cost of their educations. The numbers are daunting and the statistics crippling but the fact remains that the debt needs to be paid off one way or another. The good news is that there are many things (big and little) that you can do to help manage your student loans.

1. Know and Understand Your Loans

Before you start paying off your loans, you need to educate yourself on their identities. Are they subsidized or unsubsidized? What are their repayment plans? How much is each worth and what are their interest rates?

2. Make A Plan

Once you understand your loans, it is imperative that you make a plan. Sit down and outline a 3 or 5-year plan for paying back off your debt, using a repayment calculator to help you if necessary. By creating a clear and structured plan, you can help ensure that you stay on top of your payments in order to reduce the amount of time (and money) you spend paying back your loans.

3. Know Your Grace Period

Most loans offer students a grace a period,  or brief span of time after you graduate in which you are not required to make payments. Grace periods differ from loan to loan so make sure you know exactly what your one is and use that time to save some money so that when it comes time to make your first payment, you are ready.

4. Study Repayment Options

There are many different repayment plans available to students and it is definitely in your best interests to research as many as possible before deciding on one. You personal repayment plan will determine how much you pay, when you pay, and how long you’ll pay for.

5. Consider Consolidating Your Loans

If you have more than one small loan, consider grouping them together into one bigger one. Consolidating your loans makes paying them back much easier, seeing as you’ll only be paying to one server instead of multiple ones. However, caution should be exercised in making this decision because while it does extend your payback period, it also increases your interest rate in the long run. Also, note that it is usually not beneficial to consolidate federal loans with private ones, as doing so usually negates the benefits you reap from your federal loans (such as certain repayment options).

6. Make Biweekly Payments

Most loan repayment plans are calculated on a monthly payment basis but this isn’t always the best route to follow. If possible, consider switching to a biweekly plan. Small payments more often can help ease the financial stress of loan repayment and may also help reduce your overall debt in a speedier fashion. Paying more often also helps prevent interest from accumulating, meaning your loans will not grow as fast as they would on a monthly basis. However, it is understandable that most young adults are not in the position where biweekly payments are a feasible option. Monthly payment plans are still a good option, but consider…

7. Adding Small Amounts of Money When Possible

Found $10 in your pocket? Instead of spending it on that cool color-changing glass you saw on Etsy, put it towards your loan payment! You’d be amazed at how quickly the small amounts add up.

8. Pay Off the Loan with the Highest Interest Rate First

Loans with the highest interest rates grow the fastest, furthering your debt and extending your payback period. Tackle these ones first to prevent yourself from falling further into debt.

9. Ask Your Employer for Help

Some employers offer assistance with student loans via benefits packages. Talk to your boss and found out if this is an option for you, as any help would obviously be more than welcome. Also, if you’re considering joining a volunteer organization such as the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps, both offer programs or rewards that can be used towards reducing student debt.

10. Student Loan Tax  Deduction

Most young adults are eligible for a student loan tax deduction, assuming they are making less than $60,000 a year. If this is the case, know that you can deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest you’ve paid over the past year from your taxes. Speaking of taxes, it would probably be a good idea to use at least a portion of your tax refund check towards your loans.

How are you paying off your student loans?

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