Did you know that nearly 20% of US households have student loan debts? It’s gotten to the point where paying back a student loan is about as challenging as getting a degree. In fact, today a student borrows on the average of $27,000 for his or her education, which is about twice as much as students borrowed just 20 years ago. What can you do if you’re facing a mountain of student loan debt? Fortunately, there are ways you can destroy it.
First, recognize the problem
You may not realize how much student loan debt you have until you put it on paper. This can be especially true if you’re married. I know of one couple that didn’t realize how deeply they were in debt until they added up what they owed and realized they had a combined $27,000 in student loan debts. The same could be true if you have multiple student loans and have never added them up.
Practice strict budgeting
The first and best step toward getting rid of those student loans is to put yourself on a fairly strict budget and maybe use what’s called the “snowball” method for paying down debt. If you’re not familiar with this method, it’s where you organize your debts starting with the one with the smallest balance up to the one with the largest and then begin paying off the smallest. Once it’s paid off, you will have money freed up that can be used to pay off the one with the next largest balance and so on.
List all your expenses
Next, you should write down all of your expenses and then see where you might be able to make cuts. Most people who go through this exercise find that the easiest places to make cuts are in food, entertainment and clothing. You might also be able to reduce the cost of your cell phones and your cable or satellite service.
Implement the cash envelope system
If you find you’re having a problem staying on your budget you might try what’s called the cash envelope system. This is where you convert your paycheck into cash and then put the cash into separate envelopes by category. For example, you might have a category labeled groceries, one for rent (or mortgage payment), one labeled entertainment and so on. When you have an expense in one of your categories, you take the cash out of the appropriate envelope. When that envelope is empty, that’s it. You can’t spend any more money in that category. And yes, this is kind of a harsh way to budget but it can be a very powerful solution.
Plug the leaks
When you see where your money is going, you’ll probably see budget leaks that you could close. For example, you might be able to cut your food costs dramatically by planning your menus for the week and then buying only the food you need for your menus. You could also learn to build those menus around staple items such as pasta, beans, rice and hamburger that can be bought in bulk and used over the course of several weeks.
Earn extra income
If you’re really serious about paying off those student debts, you should be able to find ways to generate extra income. You or your partner might be able to take on a part-time job. It’s likely that you have stuff just lying around the house that you no longer need or use and that you could sell on eBay. Many people generate extra income by working garage sales and then selling the items they find on eBay. If you’re handy with tools, you might put an ad on Craigslist and do handyman jobs. The fact is that if you put your mind to it, you should be able to think of at least a dozen ways to earn extra money that could be used to destroy those debts.