Graduation was several months ago and now your grace period’s over.
For the last six months, you’ve been enjoying that sweet spot between college graduation and student loan repayment. But now it’s time to pay up, which for some people means paying back several student loans from different lenders. It can feel pretty overwhelming, like a boss dumping a bunch of papers on your desk to have completed by Monday.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are five things you can do to organize your student loans.
1.) Set up automatic payment
Setting up auto-pay enables your student loan lender to automatically deduct your monthly payment straight from your bank account. Doing this can give you a peace of mind, since you don’t have to worry each month about making payments or being late on payments.
There could also be a discount for setting up auto-pay. According to FinAid.org, “The most common loan discounts include a 0.25% interest rate reduction for having your monthly loan payments direct debited from your bank account.” And don’t worry: you still have the option of paying above and beyond the minimum payment via a one-time payment, according to a Wise Bread article.
Just don’t forget to account for those automatic loan payment deductions when checking your bank balance. Record payment dates on your calendar.
2.) Set due dates all around each other
If your student loan payments have widely varying due dates each month (say, one is due the 1st, another the 15th, another the 25th), they can just add to your stress. Many companies will let you request for a new date, including big name banks like Wells Fargo.
If you have auto-debit, then this can help give you more time to ensure the money’s there versus frequently having money withdrawn from your account. If you don’t have auto-debit, then paying everything around the same time will make it much easier and less stressful than spreading out your bills.
Besides, who wants to pay bills every week? Knocking them out all at once is the way to go.
Perhaps the best way to organize your student loans is to reduce how many of them you have. By consolidating, you can combine your loans and only have one payment to one lender. In many cases, this means one smaller payment instead of several payments that add up to a larger monthly amount.
According to Fox Business, you can usually consolidate federal student loans with each other, can sometimes consolidate private loans with each other, but can’t consolidate federal student loans with private ones. With federal consolidation, according to the article, the consolidation loan is an average of all the interest rates. And with private student loan consolidation, you usually end up with a variable interest rate (the rate changes as the market changes).
Still, consolidating can make your life a whole lot easier.
4.) Make a spreadsheet
If you don’t consolidate or set up auto-pay, then making a spreadsheet to list all the important details of your student loans (amount, due date, interest, etc.) can really help you stay organized.
Fulbright Fellow Matthew González wrote in a Mgregueiro article that Google Spreadsheet is the way to go since it “allows you to have access to your doc from anywhere and it can be easily updated when changes need to be made.” Microsoft Excel spreadsheets can also be helpful and now allow mobile and web access via apps.
Regardless what you use, you can never go wrong with a spreadsheet. It will always make you feel more organized. Find out your student loan info on the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) website and start filling out that spreadsheet.
5.) Use Tuition.io
If you have multiple student loans (especially if you have a blend of public and private), then the web app Tuition.io (pronounced “tuition I owe”) can be your saving grace. It shows you how much you owe, to who, your payment history, your payment plan, your repayment options and more. You can even see graphs of your student loan situation, if you’re a visual person. It’s all there.
Tuition.io places all pertinent information on one simple web browser, in a clean design. It does all the organizing for you, for people who aren’t good at organizing or don’t want to go through the hassle of retrieving a bunch of information and sorting through piles of papers.
Just because grace period’s over doesn’t mean your life has to go into chaos. Get organized and on a plan that best accommodates to your circumstances and personality. If you were able to navigate college, you should be able to navigate getting your student loans organized and repaid.
Jon Fortenbury is an Austin-based freelance writer who specializes in higher education. He’s been published all over the place, ranging from USA Today to the Huffington Post, and is a featured contributor on Schools.com. Follow him on Twitter (@jonwrites).
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