If, like 58.8% of college graduates, you’ve found yourself in student loan debt, you’re likely feeling overwhelmed and burdened by the amount you owe. Not to mention intimidated by the horror stories of graduates who can’t find work and are unable to make their loan payments. Where do you even begin?
First, know that you are not alone. While that simple fact might make the idea of job-hunting a bit more nerve-wracking, it should comfort you in that there is a community of graduates – and non-graduates – in similar situations, willing to share their advice, provide support, and help out when you may need it the most. There are resources all over the web detailing your rights as a borrower and listing ideas on how best to cope with your situation. Be sure that you are also surrounding yourself with people who understand your situation and want to help you in whatever way they can. A support system can easily turn an unbearable situation around and add hope to an ugly situation.
If you are unemployed, or underemployed, taking on side jobs to increase income can certainly add up to a lot. Waiting tables, blogging, selling items online, walking dogs: there are plenty of small gigs that can be combined to equal a good amount of income. Don’t shy away from seemingly menial tasks, as you can of course continue your job hunt while you are still earning money to put toward your debt.
Controlling your spending and increasing your savings can also go a long way. Cutting costs like living at home instead of paying rent elsewhere, or getting rid of your car to save on insurance and gas, can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year – money that can be directly applied to your loans. Saving money here or there, by, for example, collecting change from around the house and depositing to a savings account, can also add up fast! Before you know it, you could have several hundred dollars in your account that you can choose to save for an emergency fund or even apply to your debt. Don’t underestimate saving a little here or there.
It’s also wise to choose a repayment strategy that will work best for you. Some experts recommend applying any additional loan payments to the smallest balance first because it helps you stay motivated. However, ReadyForZero makes it easy to stay motivated while paying off the loans with the highest interest rate first, which saves you money over the long term. Once you choose which plan works best for you, try your best to stick with it and motivate yourself to earn more, cut costs further, and apply as much as possible to your debt.
Worrying, particularly about things out of your control, will always make things worse. No matter how much time you’re spending doing work or budgeting, be sure to schedule some time to yourself each week doing things you love to do. Don’t lose your hobbies or talents due to a predicament you no longer have the control to erase. Work hard, but give yourself time to breathe, and you might even find yourself inspired.