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If you are a recent college graduate, you are standing at the precipice of lots of big life changes. You are figuring out how to live independently, how to spend and save money and what you want to do with your new degree. And if you took out student loans to help you pay for college, you will need to tackle student loan payment, too. Developing a loan repayment plan will not only help you visualize what you owe, but it will also enable you to live a life you enjoy while you continue paying down your debt.

Here are 6 tips to help college graduates navigate student loan payment and still have a life.

Create a clear picture of what you owe. It might sound obvious, but the first step in creating a student loan payment plan is to visualize everything you owe. You might want to utilize your six-month grace period to do this, if you have one. Make a chart outlining each loan, how much is owed, the interest rate and the term. This visualization will help you chart your next step in the student loan payment process.

Prioritize your loans. Looking at the student loans chart you created, identify the loans with the highest interest rates and most money owed. You will want to begin paying these down first. While it might be tempting to tackle your smaller loans right out of the gate, making a dent in your higher interest loans will help lower your payments over time.

Create a student loan payment plan that works for you. Tackling your biggest and highest interest loans first doesn’t mean that you should ignore your smaller loans. Instead, create a custom repayment plan that takes into consideration what you owe in student loans along with all of your other monthly payments. That might include rent and utilities, cell phone bills, credit cards, savings and more. Mapping out this payment schedule is a big part of managing what you owe and helping you budget for your everyday life.

Get ahead when you can. If you’re just starting out on your own, having extra cash at the end of the month after paying your rent and other bills might seem like a distant dream. But as you continue working and learning how to balance your savings goals and social life, you could find yourself with a little extra money each month. Paying even $20 extra toward your student loan payment when you can will make a big difference over time.

Use a student loan repayment calculator. Whether you are just starting to evaluate what you owe or are trying to decide if you can put some extra money toward your loan this month, using a loan repayment calculator can help you figure out how your loan repayment fits into your life.

Work for an employer that offers student loan assistance. Each year, as employers seek out new top talent, many are getting creative with their benefits to attract you, the recent grad. A growing number of employers are offering to help their employees pay down their student loans each month up to a certain amount. Including this benefit in your job search can help you not only decrease your student loan debt but also find an employer that is truly invested in your future.

For many people, paying for college is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to be your whole life. There are ways to build student loan payment into your budget while still enjoying your post-graduation years. If you have questions about balancing your student loans and your savings and budgeting goals, we can help, contact us today.

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