For many student loan borrowers – including recent graduates – student loan repayments are scheduled to start this fall. Arvest has some advice to help borrowers prepare their budgets for their new payment.
Simplicity is key when it comes to managing personal finances, and that includes paying off your debt. Having a budget and tracking spending isn’t always easy, but it’s the best way to know where your money is going and what changes you might need to make when adding in a monthly expense.
Here are some tips to help student loan borrowers prepare for payments:
Review your budget. If your payments have been on pause since 2020, then your habit of making that monthly payment may have gone to the wayside. If you’re a new graduate, then you’ll be budgeting it for the first time. Look at your budget to see if there are any spending habits you might need to make to start including a new payment plan. Once your list of essential expenses is made, you’ll want to list out all non-essential spending and expenses – and be honest with yourself – eating is essential, eating out at a restaurant is not. If you find that your new payment will cause a strain on your monthly budget, you’ll want to take a hard look at what non-essential expenses you may need to cut.
Put the payment in savings. If you haven’t already, start putting the total monthly payment into a savings account to get used to the monthly expense. Not only could you possibly earn a small amount of interest on it, but you’ll be able to transfer over that “payment” more easily to your actual payment when it starts up. This approach is one way to reduce the “shock” to your budget when it resumes.
Set a payoff goal. There are loan-simulator tools available at StudentAid.gov that can help you find a payment plan that best fits your needs. The key is to pay attention to the long-term costs that come with each plan. Much like any type of debt, the longer your repayment period, the more you’ll pay in interest. Going with the lowest-monthly payment option may seem more doable depending on your budget, but it’s important to calculate the cost over the life of the loan before making a decision. This is when forgoing non-essential spending in order to pay a little extra money a month will benefit you in the long run.
Pay extra on the loan. If you get extra income through a second job, bonus or tax returns, consider putting that toward repaying your loan. While it might be tempting to spend it on a dream vacation, consider how paying extra will help you in the long run. The same can be said for any other debt you may have. If you have a credit card with a higher interest rate, and extra income can pay it off, take that monthly payment and roll it into the extra payment on your student loan.
Set up automatic payments. To avoid late fees and for peace of mind, set up automatic bill payments to ensure your repayment stays on track. You can set those up through your loan servicer or your bank. And if you were already putting aside that “payment” in another account in anticipation for your payment plan to begin, you could use that account to set up automatic payments. Don’t get too caught up in the “set it and forget it” rule, though, because you may want to reevaluate your ability to repay your loan as your financial situation improves.