College comes with many lessons and one of the most important one is about finances. College can be a costly venture and student loans are often used to pay for all of the expenses that college comes with. So learning to be an educated borrower is the best way to approach student loans. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Know your grace periods so you don’t miss your first student loan payments after graduating college. Stafford loans typically give you six months before starting payments, but Perkins loans might go nine. Private loans are going to have repayment grace periods of their own choosing, so read the fine print for each particular loan.
Try getting a part-time job to help with college expenses. Doing this can help you cover some of your student loan costs. It can also reduce the amount that you need to borrow in student loans. Working these kinds of positions can even qualify you for your college’s work study program.
If you have extra money at the end of the month, don’t automatically pour it into paying down your student loans. Check interest rates first, because sometimes your money can work better for you in an investment than paying down a student loan. For example, if you can invest in a safe CD that returns two percent of your money, that is smarter in the long run than paying down a student loan with only one point of interest. Only do this if you are current on your minimum payments though and have an emergency reserve fund.
Be sure your lender knows where you are. Keep your contact information updated to avoid fees and penalties. Always stay on top of your mail so that you don’t miss any important notices. If you fall behind on payments, be sure to discuss the situation with your lender and try to work out a resolution.
Choose the right payment option for you. Most lenders allow ten years to pay back your student loan in full. There are other options if this doesn’t work. If you take a loan at a higher interest rate, for example, you can extend your time to pay. Your future income might become tied into making payments, that is once you begin to make more money. Some loans are forgiven after a 25-year period.
To reduce the amount of your student loans, work as many hours as you can during your last year of high school and the summer before college. The more money you have to give the college in cash, the less you have to finance. This means less loan expense later on.
To keep your student loan debts from piling up, plan on starting to pay them back as soon as you have a job after graduation. You don’t want additional interest expense piling up, and you don’t want the public or private entities coming after you with default paperwork, which could wreck your credit.
Take advantage of student loan repayment calculators to test different payment amounts and plans. Plug in this data to your monthly budget and see which seems most doable. Which option gives you room to save for emergencies? Are there any options that leave no room for error? When there is a threat of defaulting on your loans, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
To ensure that your student loan funds come to the correct account, make sure that you fill out all paperwork thoroughly and completely, giving all of your identifying information. That way the funds go to your account instead of ending up lost in administrative confusion. This can mean the difference between starting a semester on time and having to miss half a year.
To get the most out of your student loan dollars, take a job so that you have money to spend on personal expenses, rather than having to incur additional debt. Whether you work on campus or in a local restaurant or bar, having those funds can make the difference between success or failure with your degree.
To get a better interest rate on your student loan, go through the federal government instead of a bank. The rates will be lower, and the repayment terms can also be more flexible. That way, if you don’t have a job right after graduation, you can negotiate a more flexible schedule.
To stretch your student loan dollars as far as possible, make sure you live with a roommate instead of renting your own apartment. Even if it means the sacrifice of not having your own bedroom for a couple of years, the money you save will come in handy down the road.
Stretch your student loan money by minimizing your living expenses. Find a place to live that is close to campus and has good public transportation access. Walk and bike as much as possible to save money. Cook for yourself, purchase used textbooks and otherwise pinch pennies. When you look back on your college days, you will feel very resourceful.
The above advice is just the beginning of the things you need to know about student loans. It pays to be an educated borrower and to understand what it means to sign your name on those papers. So keep what you have learned above in mind and always make sure you understand what you are signing up for.