After years of hard work and studying, graduates also face their own set of challenges – finding employment, adjusting to working life, and paying off student debt.
According to the Canadian Federation of Students, Ontario graduates have the highest average debt load in the country – over $28,000. With numbers like this, the challenge of paying off student loans can seem monumental. However, with the right tools and the right attitude, students can work towards becoming debt-free sooner than they might think. Here are eight crucial tips to paying off a student loan faster:
1. Know your debt
It’s impossible to tackle debt without knowing what you owe and where. Take some time to draw up a list of all the credit you have, including government loans, money owed to parents or other family members, and student lines of credit. Then, note the interest rate on each, how much you owe, and how much time you have to repay it.
2. Make a plan
Armed with the knowledge of where and how much you owe, you can now move on to make a plan of action.
Draw up a budget and see how much you can realistically put each month towards your debt repayment. Then, use a repayment calculator to figure out your expected date of completion. Use this calculator to test various repayment scenarios, and tweak your budget accordingly.
3. Start your repayment ASAP
While graduates typically have a six month grade period before they must begin repaying their loans, it’s wise to start making payments right away. Start contributing to your debt repayment as soon as possible – every little bit helps. Even paying interest on your loan during this grace period will help you save money down the road.
4. Tackle high interest-rate loans first
Now that you know which loans have higher interest rates, make it a priority to tackle those first. If you’re forgoing your grace period to start repayment right away, focus on the loan with the highest interest rate. After your grace period is over, you will need to make minimum payments on all your loans – focusing your attention on the higher-interest ones, however, will make the biggest impact in your debt repayment plan.
5. Pay more than the minimum
One of the most effective ways to eliminate your student debt faster is to make more than the minimum payment each month. Any extra amount that you can put towards debt repayment – even if it’s only an additional $20 – will go straight to your principal, cutting down the length of your loan.
6. Use your tax break
If you’ve claimed the interest paid on your student loan on your income tax return, make good use of this extra money by putting it towards your debt repayment. While it may be tempting to use the money towards a shopping spree or well-deserved vacation, some discipline now will help you become debt-free that much sooner.
7. Put that birthday money to good use
A cash windfall – such as yearly birthday checks, an inheritance, or a bonus at work – can be used to pay off your student loan even faster. Just like the money earned from a tax break, this unexpected influx of cash is another way to boost your debt repayment.
8. Keep living like a student – for now
Although you’ve officially graduated, if you continue living like a student – staying frugal and living below your means – you can focus on tackling that student debt head-on. Forgoing expensive outings, extravagant vacations, and daily restaurant meals for a more budget-friendly lifestyle is key.
Being budget-friendly also means looking for opportunities to save everywhere you can. Take advantage of any opportunities for savings on necessities like car insurance, so you put as much money as possible into repaying your debt.