Drowning in Student Loan Debt? Take This Step.   - No BS Investing
Posted 212 views April 15, 2022, 9:00 - Dylan in Debt Management

Drowning in Student Loan Debt? Take This Step.  

According to a Select and Dynata survey, 44% of 18- to 34-year-olds feel like they are “drowning in debt.” 

But student loan debt doesn’t have to mean feeling overwhelmed for the rest of your life. Whether you’re $5K or $100K in student loan debt, here’s how to take that first step in swimming up and out of debt. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Don’t focus on your total loan amount. First, organize your loan information. 
  • Determine the balances you owe, payment obligations, and due dates.  
  • Find federal loan information through U.S. Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System. 
  • Find private loan information through your credit report or university. 
  • Break down your debt in manageable S.M.A.R.T. goals. 
  • Automate payments so you make consistent payoff progress. 

Organize your loan details into clear, automated payment goals.  

Stop drowning in student loan debt

Have you ever heard the saying, “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time?”

While we don’t condone the eating of elephants, the principle of the quote is that you shouldn’t try to tackle a huge task at one time. Apply this concept to paying off your student loans. 

Instead of focusing on your total amount such as $25K or $250K and freaking out, take a step back. First, get organized. Grab a notebook or create a spreadsheet. Find out what you owe and when you need to pay your loan(s) off. Write down interest rates and payment details. 

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Break down the total amount into achievable goals. Automate payments so you make consistent progress. You’ll then be on track to pay off your overwhelming student loan debt! 

Let’s look at each of these tasks in detail:

1) Know what you owe.  

Student loan debt sometimes feels more comfortable living as an ambiguous amount in your head. But you can’t make a successful debt payoff plan if you’re not 100% clear on

  • the balances you owe, 
  • payment obligations, and 
  • due dates  

Take care of that problem right now! Know your exact principal balance and interest rates. Find out this information whether you have federal or private loans:

FEDERAL LOANS

To find what you owe in federal loans (loans made by the government), go to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System

This website is a centralized portal that shows everything you need to know about your student loans, including:

  • Borrowed amount
  • Type of loan
  • Interest rate
  • Payment history
  • Current service provider

If you don’t already have a Federal Student Aid ID, you’ll have to create one to access the site. Log in to access information about federal student loan debt. 

PRIVATE LOANS

While there’s not a centralized portal to check information on private student loans, there are helpful resources. 

Here are two ways we recommend to find private loan info:

  • Check your credit report such as via AnnualCreditReport.com to view loans that you’ve taken out. 
  • Contact your university’s financial aid office for loan details they have on file.

Once you have your private loan provider, contact them to determine things like payments and interest rates. 

Record this information in a spreadsheet or notebook so you don’t forget, and can set payoff goals.

Avoiding looking at your student loan debt might make you feel better in the short-term, but it actually adds to your stress in the long-term! Pull off the bandaid. Get familiar with your full loan debt (interest rates and all).  

Hint: Sign up for the Get Out Of Debt Fast—A Proven Plan to Stay Debt-Free Forever course on Udemy to learn proven debt payment strategies. 

2) Turn your debt into manageable goals.  

Don’t panic if your student loan amount and interest rates are high. Instead, break down the full amount into smaller, manageable goals. This helps you celebrate small wins and keeps you motivated!

For example, say that you owe $50,000 in student loans. You have one $40,000 federal loan with a 3% interest rate. You also have a $10,000 private loan with a 7% interest rate. 

Turn the $50,000 into S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) that can be achieved within a few months or year. This helps with motivation and ensures you make consistent payoff progress over time. 

Here’s an example of S.M.A.R.T., short-term payoff goals: 

  • Goal 1: Pay off $3,000 of my private loan by May 20XX.
  • Goal 2: Pay off $4,000 of my private loan by August 20XX.
  • Goal 3: Pay off $2,000 of my private loan by November 20XX. 
  • Goal 4: Pay off $3,000 of my federal loan by January 20XX. 
  • Goal 5: Pay off $3,000 of my federal loan by April 20XX.

That’s $15,000 paid off right there, turning $50K into a more manageable $35K! We could keep going, but notice how these short-term goals prioritize your student loans with the highest interest rate first (following the debt avalanche method). 

Assuming that you’re making minimum payments on lower interest student loans, this helps you pay less interest over time. Learn more about using this debt payoff method here

To help you set your own goals and break down how much you should pay monthly, try out a free loan calculator like unbury.me. Experiment with how much faster you can get out of debt if you increase monthly payments:

Note: If you have high-interest debt such as credit cards, prioritize paying off this debt before eliminating low-interest student loans. High interest significantly grows your balance over time, sinking you further into debt. 

3) Automate your student loan debt.  

Once you’re organized, time to put your debt payoff plan into action. Automate your student loan payments based on the S.M.A.R.T. goals you’ve set. 

This means that your payments are automatically applied to your debt every month, instead of you having to do it manually. 

The top benefits? 

  • You make progress on your debt without even thinking about it! 
  • You also never forget to make a payment. 

Set up these payments through your federal or private student loan provider. You might also go through your bank. Confirm how long it will take for payments to go through to avoid late fees. 

Pay more than the minimum to help you get out of debt faster, especially if your loan has a high interest rate. For example, if your minimum payment is $200 for your loan with the highest interest rate, make a $400 automatic payment each month.

Related: How to Automate Your Finances in 3 Steps

Stop drowning in student loan debt with an organized plan

Drowning in student loan debt is overwhelming, especially when you’re also covering day-to-day expenses. Keep your head above water by mapping out your loan details, breaking down your loans into manageable goals, and automating payments. 

Here are a few extra ways to get out of student loan debt: 

  • Create a clear budget so you can plan how much you make vs. spend. 
  • Consolidate your federal loans to make them easier to manage.
  • Use an app like Qoins to ensure extra change goes toward loan payoff.
  • Work a side hustle to put more money toward your debt.  

And remember – a little payoff progress is better than no progress at all! Even an extra $20 toward your monthly payments each month can make a difference in eliminating your student loan debt. 

Want to learn more about getting out of debt and stop drowning in student loan debt? Take the Get Out Of Debt Fast—A Proven Plan to Stay Debt-Free Forever course on Udemy to learn proven debt payment strategies. Check out the course here

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Elisabeth O. is an MBA graduate with a specialization in International Finance & Investments and over six years of financial writing experience. She is passionate about long-term investing to build wealth, avoids day trading and speculations, and loves a good Warren Buffet quote.