February is the month of lapsed New Year’s resolutions. Forget about the ones you won’t keep, and instead, focus your energy on your financial health. Several small, easy steps can build a strong foundation that will help reduce and eventually eliminate your student loan debt.
Track Your Expenses
Where does your money go every month? It is a simple question, but not everyone knows the answer. Evaluating how you spend every dollar of your income can be eye-opening. You can use helpful, and often free, budgeting apps to visualize your spending trends. Increasing awareness of spending patterns is the first step in exercising restraint.
You can also plan for each monthly expense by setting your own calendar or getting alerts from a budget app. If you struggle with remembering to pay your bills each month, try signing up for auto-debit for important expenses like utilities and your student loan. Knowing your expenses and sticking to a schedule helps keep you on track for reducing debt.
Find Ways for Smarter Spending
Changing how you spend can reduce the amount of time (and interest you accrue) it takes to pay off a student loan. Smarter spending can give you the wiggle room to pay a little extra on your loan or even make more than one payment per month.
- Necessity or luxury? Necessities like housing, groceries, transportation and utilities are usually among the biggest chunks of anyone’s budget. Spending areas like entertainment and exercise fall into the luxury bucket.
While streaming services and gym memberships can fit into the budget, ask yourself how much value you get from those spending choices. Do you watch each streaming service enough each month to justify the cost? Are you skipping gym day more often than not? Cancel the streaming services you don’t use. Opt for a cheaper gym closer to home, or try a free form of exercise like jogging.
Spending on luxuries is not a bad thing, but try to keep your financial goals in mind. Trim your luxuries down to fit a reasonable budget. Leftover money can be put toward reducing your student loan debt.
- Where else to cut down? The budget for things you do need every month does not have to be set in stone. Could you choose a less expensive neighborhood next time you move? Could you take the train or bus instead of an Uber or Lyft? Could you grocery shop for a week’s worth of meals instead of eating out all week? Even small changes in spending on your needs can allow you to redirect some money to your student loan payments.
Earn a Little Extra
If your budget is tight or you want a little extra money to put toward your student loan payment, you can supplement your income.
- Pick up a side job. Time is a limited resource. You probably don’t want to give up all of your free hours outside of your day job to another type of work. Try turning a hobby you enjoy, like crafting, into extra income. Or, opt for a flexible side job that allows you to make your own hours.
- Organize at home. A little organization at home can uncover a lot of items you no longer use. Instead of letting those things take up space, sell them for extra cash.
- Put what you own to work. If you own a home, it can make you money even while you work at your day job. Try renting out a room in your home through a service like Airbnb.
Spare Some Change
Dump your spare change in a spare change jar every day. You’ll be surprised how quickly the spare change adds up. By the end of the year, you should have enough money to make an extra payment or two on your student loans.
Likewise, use most of the money from your income tax refund and other windfalls to pay down your student loan debt. While it might be fun to splurge on something extravagant, think of how it will feel to cut a year off of your indebtedness to Uncle Sam and Aunt Sallie.
Set a Realistic Timeline
A high amount of student loan debt can make it hard to imagine a future without it. Monthly payments can feel fruitless. Find out how long it will take to pay off your loan with the budget at your disposal. A concrete goal to work toward can make it easier to cut down on expenses and spend time earning a little more income.