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The Ultimate Guide To Overcoming Student Loan Debt


For many of us, student loan debt is a bit of a necessary evil. We have to take out student loans to cover the cost of higher education, because without them, it’s unaffordable.

In doing so, the ultimate goal is to land a job that will allow us to make a steadily increasing income as we move up in our careers.

Sounds straightforward, right? Unfortunately more often than not, it’s easier said than achieved and paid back.

Student Loan Debt By The Numbers

Did you know that the class of 2017 had an average student loan debt of $39,400 per student? And for the class of 2018, that number is expected to increase to over $40,000. Over 44 million Americans have student loan debt, totaling over $1.75 trillion.

What’s more, 60% of borrowers are expected to pay off their loans by their 40s. The average student loan debt in the United States is $37,172. As you can see student loan debt is not uncommon. Many people, including 16.8 million people under age 30 are struggling with their loan debt.

If you’re one of them, we put together this guide to overcoming student loan debt to help you pay it off faster.

The Ultimate Guide To Overcoming Student Loan Debt

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The Ultimate Guide To Overcoming Student Loan Debt

When it comes to paying off your student loans, the faster you’re able to do so, the better. Whether you’re fresh out of school or not, there are quite a few things you can do to become debt-free.

1. Know your loans, terms, and interest rates.

You may or may not have kept careful records of your loan information while you were in school. If not, you can likely find out through your school’s financial aid office.

Your other option is getting a free copy of your credit report to see who your lenders are. Once you know who the lenders are, you can visit their websites or contact them for your loan information.

Either way, your lenders will be contacting you once you are no longer enrolled in school. They do want their money back, after all.

Once you have the information, keep track of it. We have a free spreadsheet you can download and use for this exact purpose here:


2. Be smart with your grace period.

Your loan providers give you a grace period between when you graduate and when you have to start paying back your loans. You’ll most likely see your grace period is either six or nine months. Keep in mind, though, that some loans might not have a grace period at all.

It’s tempting to use this period as a “free pass” on not making your loan repayments. However, we strongly suggest that you use this period to strengthen your debt repayment strategy instead.

If your loan payments will be $500 a month after the grace period, start setting that money aside now. It may give you more breathing room to not do so, but when your loans come due, you’ll have a more difficult time adjusting.

Plus, if you’ve already been setting $500/month aside, you’ll already have a lump sum you can put towards a loan balance or to start your emergency fund.

3. Keep your expenses — especially your fixed expenses — as low as possible.

I know everyone’s living situation and options vary, however, something to keep at top of mind is to keep your fixed expenses as low as possible! Now is not the time to go buy a new car. It’s not the time to buy a house. It’s probably not even the time to consider renting an apartment on your own. It might even mean living with roommates or your parents for a little while longer.

You know your income and your loan debt payments. Even if you *can* afford something, it doesn’t mean you should. Don’t take on more debt until you’ve either paid off your student loans or are making a significantly larger income where you are able to save at least 40% of that income even with your fixed expenses.

It might seem like a smart move or like your only option, but you’ll be paying for it into your 50s and beyond.

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4. Be aggressive with your repayment.

Minimum payments are the least amount of money you can pay back per month, but they come at a high rate of interest, meaning that over time, you will be paying back anywhere between two and 20 times what you borrowed to begin with. It’s not ideal.

At the very least, make the effort to pay more than the minimum payment. The more you can throw at your balance, the better off you will be. It can be very frustrating at times, but the more you pay today, the less you have to pay tomorrow (or five years from now).

As I’ve spoken about before, the only way I was able to see real progress with my loan debt was to double and triple my payments. It wasn’t easy and took some very intentional and not attractive choices, but being debt-free is worth it.

5. Consider consolidation.

You might find yourself in a situation that makes it impossible to pay off your debt or even make your assigned monthly payments. Don’t give up hope! There are options available to you and people who can advocate on your behalf for a better financial future.

In some circumstances, loan consolidation may be the right move for you. Essentially, all of your loans become lumped together in a single loan with a fixed interest rate. There are many pros and cons to debt consolidation and it’s best to speak to a credit repair consultant to establish if this is reasonable a path for you. The credit repair consultants at Lexington Law are able to explain this option given your unique situation.

6. Ask for other payment options.

At the end of the day, your loan provider wants their money (and interest) back. Some lenders might give you options like Pay-As-You-Earn and Income-Based Repayment options. They’re worth looking into, especially if you are already on a tight budget!

The Ultimate Guide To Overcoming Student Loan Debt

7. Refinance your loans.

Refinancing your loans could give you a lot more breathing room when it comes to paying back your loan debt. Unfortunately, doing so may also come with some sacrifices (like giving up the ability to defer your loans). Speaking with a credit repair consultant can help you decide if this is the right move for you.

While they may not apply to everyone, there are also options for negotiating student loan debt that may work for you.

8. Jobs with debt or loan forgiveness.

There are some career paths, often in the public or nonprofit sectors, that will help you pay back your loans or even pay them back entirely.

This might mean you work there for a certain amount of years (I’ve seen this range from two years to 10+ years) while simultaneously making your loan payments in the meantime. This could be a great option if you are flexible on where you live and work and/or have a high loan balance.

Make sure you know the ins and outs of what you’re signing on for!

9. Know the impact of your student loans on your credit score.

Like any line of credit, your student loans and repayments can drastically impact your credit score. This is something you always want to be aware of, especially for your financial future.

If your loan repayment has become a challenge and your credit has suffered as a result of unfair credit reporting, the Student Loan Debt Track at Lexington Law can help you by advocating on behalf of your credit rights. Hard times happen, but your credit shouldn’t suffer unfairly because of it.

10.  Make and stick to your budget!

We’re strong believers in a budget. Not only will having one help you stay on track with your financial goals, but you’ll be more likely to reach them as well.

Download our free budget worksheet from the Resource Library to get started. If you’ve never budgeted before, now is a great time to start. Here are a few additional resources to aid you:

11. Make more money.

You can only reduce your expenses so much. As your career and skills start to grow, you’ll soon learn that to be able to afford more, you’ll need to make more money.

Whether it’s through a side hustle, negotiating a raise, or changing careers, don’t be afraid to diversify your income streams and ask for what you’re worth.

Now that you’ve seen the numbers and know your options, how do you feel about your financial future? I want you to remember that you do have the power to overcome your student loan debt.

This guide to overcoming student loan debt is meant to show you that you have options. From making your loans more affordable, to earning more income, to working with a consultant who will advocate on your behalf, you have options. Use them!

About the Author

Nicole Booz

Nicole Booz is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of GenTwenty, GenThirty, and The Capsule Collab. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is the author of The Kidult Handbook (Simon & Schuster May 2018). She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, eating brunch, or planning her next great adventure.