College is a wonderful experience, and usually a very costly one. Unfortunately, not everyone can get – much less qualify for – grants and scholarships. So, what do college students do to pay for their education? Why, they get student loans, of course! All of the money up front, and you don’t have to start paying them off for at least a year after you graduate.
Sounds terrific, right?
Getting money up front is always terrific. You feel liberated. You can pay for college. You can pay for books. Heck, you might even be able to pay for a few extras by finding quick ways to borrow money. What you don’t realize is that you have to pay these loans back in the future. Sure, it may be far in the future, but YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY THEM BACK! And believe me, this usually occures at the most inopportune time in your life.
Then again, when is it an opportune time to pay back hefty student loans?
It is very important for you to be prepared for when the student loan payback period begins. Try your best to set aside some money every week into a savings account. Even $10 a week starting from your first week in college will help more than you can imagine. You usually start paying back loans a year after you graduate college. Let’s say that you set aside $10 per week for 40 weeks per year. That’s $400 per year. You would have a total of $1600 in that bank account, just to be used for your student loans.
Another good idea is loan consolidation. I balked at it at first, because a lot of people told me it would be a mistake. Now, I regret not doing it right after I got out of college. My payments used to be $245 per month. I consolidated my loan and got it down to $122. Granted, I stretched out the life of the loan, but it is SO much easier for me to manage.
Things may get sticky for you, as they did for me when I moved out to Los Angeles. You can work out something with your loan company called forbearance. Basically, you let them know the financial issues that you’re having, and you don’t have to make loan payments for a year. Usually, this has no repercussions. You must talk to your loan company about it. Remember that this does not relieve you of paying back your loan– It just delays it a bit longer.
Also, if you are enrolled in school, you don’t have to pay back your loan immediately. Usually, you don’t have to start paying back your loan for another year after your last class. Keep this in mind if you are going for your Masters. You could also take a class or two at a local college if you want to delay your payments further.
Remember that missing payments on your student loans CAN and WILL hurt your credit score. Your credit score will become increasingly important as you make major life decisions and purchases. It is imperative that you make your student loan payments on time. If you can’t do that, make sure that you COMMUNICATE with your student loan company. They are not going to hunt you down. Believe it or not, many student loan companies are very easy to deal with, not to mention very understanding.
Learn how to budget. This is something that truly needs to be learned, or you can create your own system. Whatever works for you. Learn from my mistakes and don’t fly by the seat of your pants. If you don’t have a plan to follow – or a budget, in this case – you will find yourself in trouble later down the line. It is amazing how debt just acrues. As you tame the student loan beast, you will be able to learn to keep other debts in check. (Um, no pun intended…)
While you have all of these different options to put off paying back your student loan, it is definitely a good idea to pay them back as soon as possible. You don’t want these hanging over your head later in life. Get them paid of and enjoy life later!