Student loan repayment often begins after a six-month grace period. In that time, you’ve (ideally) settled into a job and a new, post-school routine. That means you’re ready to take on all your financial responsibilities—including building up a savings account—right?
If that sounds daunting, you’re not alone. One in five Americans report that they save less than 5% of their yearly earnings, and another 20% save no part of their annual income.
Building up an emergency fund is an important step toward financial stability, but paying your student loans is required, too.
Is it better to pay off student loans than to save? When both feel important, what do you choose?
Unfortunately, there may not be one right answer—but it is possible to do both. Here are some moves to help make both student loan repayment and saving more manageable.
Considering Refinancing Your Student Loans
In the last decade, interest rates on federal student loans have ranged between 3.4% and 8.5% . Rates on private loans—those provided by private institutions such as banks, credit unions, or schools themselves—can be even higher.
Refinancing your student loans is an opportunity to lower your interest rate. If you can refinance at a rate lower than your existing one, you may pay less on interest throughout the life of your loan.
Alternately, you could elect to lengthen your loan term in refinancing, which could lower your monthly payment and may allow more wiggle room in your budget to pay down other debts or save more. That said, lengthening your loan term can mean you’ll pay more interest over the life of the loan.
Considering Consolidating Your Student Loan Debt
Another reason to consider refinancing student loans is that doing so can simplify the repayment process. If your initial loans are with multiple institutions, you are keeping track of several due dates and recipients. Refinancing gathers all of those loans into one place—with one lender—leaving you with a single bill to pay each month.
Refinancing can consolidate both private and federal loans. However, if you only have federal loans, you can also consolidate them with the government through a Direct Consolidation Loan.
This may not reduce your interest rate, but it would combine all of your loans into one. And with a Direct Consolidation Loan, you’re able to keep your federal student loan benefits. On the other hand, refinancing means you’ll no longer be able to take advantage of federal loan benefits.
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options to help you pay off
Paying Student Loans On Time Can Help Build Your Credit Score
A silver lining to student loan debt is diligently paying your student loans on time may help build your credit score, which is a number that reflects your credit risk at a
given time. On-time student loan payments in the long term are an opportunity to show a long history of consistent payment, which may positively affect your credit score.
Consider setting up automatic payments or an electronic calendar reminder to avoid missing student loan payments. If you do miss a payment, you may want to call your lender immediately to ask how you can rectify the situation.
In some cases, a lender may be willing to waive the fee on a missed payment if it’s your first one, and if you pay it before 30 days have passed, you may be able to avoid getting the missed payment reported to the credit bureaus.
Trying Increasing Your Student Loan Payment Each Month
Paying more than the minimum on your monthly student loan bill can lessen the amount of interest paid over the life of your loan, and may help you pay off loans earlier than your original loan term.
If you get a windfall of extra cash—from a holiday gift or professional bonus, for example—consider using a portion of it to send in one extra payment on your student loan. There are no prepayment penalties for federal or private student loans. Manage to do this every year and you can help reduce the interest you pay and therefore the total cost of your loan.
Finding a Way to Save In Addition To Your Payment Plan
Even if it feels like a negligible amount in the moment, you can try to prioritize putting some money in a savings account each month.
None of us is exempt from the unpredictability of the future, so growing an emergency fund can help you weather an unexpected financial strain, such as a medical bill or car repair.
Saving between three to six months’ worth of expenses is a common goal suggestion. But if that sounds overwhelming on an entry-level salary, remember that even a small start is just that—a start.
Trying to Paying Your Savings Account Like a Bill
There is urgency in the word “bill,” so trick yourself a little by thinking of your monthly savings as a bill to be paid. Or you can consider setting up automated monthly payments, so that you don’t need to lift a finger to save.
Considering a Side Hustle
If you’re already working a full-time job, chances are you’d want a side hustle that requires minimal effort or that brings you a good deal of joy. If you’re social and happy to meet new people regularly, renting out a room in your home via Airbnb is one way to earn extra cash.
It isn’t necessary to try all of the above strategies at once. But the more ideas you have, the more likely you are to find the ones that work for your life and financial situation.
And striking a balance between saving, spending, and paying down debt is a win in itself.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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