When I decided to go to Physical Therapy school, I knew I would have to pay for it one day in student loans. But really, I didn’t fully understand how much I would be paying monthly. To be honest, it gets really overwhelming at times. I wanted to chat with y’all about it because I know I can’t be the only one! I’ve been paying my student loans for 2.5 years now and have cut my student loan debt in half. I wanted to share how I’m tackling my student loan debt to pay it off early and tips to manage the stress that comes along with it.
I know this is a dry/lengthy post unlike my typical fashion post, but I hope if you’re in the same boat with student loan debt you can find something useful in this post.
Comment down below your tips or how you’re tackling student loan debt.
My Student Loan Repayment Strategy:
There are so many ways to pay off your student loans and everyone’s repayment will look different. Some people want to make the payments as small as possible, so they’re willing to pay towards them the next 25 years. I’m definitely not willing to make payments that long, because if you didn’t know, the longer they sit there the more you end up paying in the long run. I’m tackling mine as much as possible now so when we start a family I won’t be as burdened every month with payments.
For the sake of transparency and because I think it will be helpful, I graduated with 4 student loans totaling just under $60,000 for 3 years of PT school. I selected the standard repayment plan (a 10-year payoff plan) and my monthly payments started around $700. That number goes down as you pay off a single loan, but will remain the same throughout 10 years if you don’t pay them off early.
I set up direct debit as soon as repayment started because it saves .25% on your interest rates and I wouldn’t have to worry about a late or missed payment. Plus, it was less frustrating to manually go in and make payments every single month. While I was there, I would also go ahead and schedule extra payments targeting specific loans on the day of my paychecks. I definitely recommend targeting specific loans for your extra payments instead of making a generalized payment that will disperse between all your loans.
My plan from the beginning was to focus on the smallest loan (at the time I referred to it as the dingleberry.. lol), which conveniently had the highest interest rate. I think it’s best to focus your extra payments on a specific loan instead of the overall sum because you can really see the difference it makes as the loan goes down. For me, I needed that motivation to keep going. I ignored the bigger numbers and just focused on one loan going down.
My smallest loan was $5,000 taken out in 2013. By the time I started making payments on it in 2016, it accrued $1,000 in interest. That right there was enough to tell me I don’t want this little loan continuing to grow over the next 10 years because I’m making a $68 monthly payment towards it. So whenever I could, I would make an additional $150-$500 payment towards that one single loan.
As you pay off one student loan, the monthly payments you commit to will go down. This creates a snowball effect because not only does it allow you to put more towards it each month, but it stops your monthly payment from being divided across multiple loans. Basically, as you pay off each loan, the quicker your remaining loans will go down with extra payments.
How to make extra payments on your Student loans
- Try and set up a second income. Whether it’s dog sitting, selling your clothes on Poshmark, picking up extra shifts at work, etc.
- Typically, I use my extra blogging income to go toward future blog expenses (photography, equipment, website development, clothes, business cards, conferences, etc). However last year, I’ve decided to put the income I earn from blogging as an extra payment towards my student loans. So whenever you shop through the links on my blog or Instagram, you are directly helping me pay off my student loans!
- Track your expenses to see where you mindless spend money on things you don’t need. For example, how much are you spending at Target, on coffee, on lunches out, on Uber eats, etc.
- Put your yearly raise towards student loan debt
- Spend your tax return wisely. You may want to splurge when you get a big check but think about the financial freedom you will have once your student loans are paid off.
- Ask for money for your birthday – I did this one year and paid off the remaining balance of my small student loan with the money!
- My husband and I decided before getting married that he would support me while paying off my loans. He covered the house expenses, and I put the majority of my paycheck towards my student loans. Every relationship is different, but we are a team and decided this was the route we wanted to go to pay them off as quick as possible to save tens of thousands of dollars. Now that my loans are paid off, we can tackle our home loan in the same way and I can put an additional payment towards that!
How to Manage Stress From Student Loans
Don’t look at the overall amount of your student loans
This is definitely personal preference, but I found it helped me to focus on one loan at a time. Some people like to consolidate their loans so it’s one large sum, but it was more overwhelming for me to look at the bigger picture.
Don’t feel like it has to be paid off overnight
Making small, consistent extra payments towards your student loans will be a big help in the end! In fact, I think it’s even better to pay a small amount consistently versus paying $300 extra really inconsistently. Go ahead and schedule out small payments you can afford on the day of your paycheck and it will help keep you accountable. Speaking of that…
Whether its a friend that’s also paying back student loans (hello, I’m a friend!) or your spouse or parents, find someone to help keep you accountable and offer support when you feel overwhelmed.
Take a big, deep breath
No seriously, right now… do it! I find myself taking a few deep breaths every day because real life is stressful. It’s amazing how a few deep breaths can slow down your heart rate and help you re-focus.
Don’t hide from your student loan debt
Pretending they don’t exist and not taking action towards your student loans won’t do anything but build interest and even more frustration in the long run.
Don’t completely deprive yourself
This is where I can’t handle the Dave Ramsey Method. I think it’s healthy to pick one or two things to treat yourself to help keep you sane. Even if it’s a manicure or your favorite coffee, I know when I completely deprive myself of things (a diet is a perfect example) I will relapse twice as hard. I work really well with rewards when I reach goals, so I plan to wait and treat myself to something bigger when my next loan is paid off.
Know there is an end to student loan payments
In the beginning, you have to commit yourself to extra payments. It really does suck when you’re working and just feel like you’re giving it right back. But now I’m in a place where I’m so thankful I was disciplined in the beginning, because I see a light at the end of the tunnel.
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I know that was a lengthy post, but I just wanted to share what I’ve learned so far on tackling student loan debt and encourage you if you’re in the same boat. Thank you so much for reading!
xo Amanda John