By Kaitlin Butler
When you first started out with your student loans, you, like many other borrowers, were probably an intrepid undergrad or graduate student excited about the college experience ahead. Fast forward to now, and many borrowers are experiencing the challenges presented by the broken student loan system in the U.S.: high rates, confusing and obscure payment plans, and unhelpful lenders.
There’s no time like the present to do something many student loan borrowers don’t realize – you can change the way you repay your loans and even how much you pay. Read on for three ways to make sure that each month, every month, your student loans are totally under your control.
Change What You’ll Pay
That’s right: you can change how much you pay. You can get a better interest rate, for instance, by refinancing and consolidating your loans. This gives you the freedom to start afresh with your student debt and, if you consolidate multiple loans, manage your monthly payments on one single bill only.
Refinancing is essentially repaying your old loans by replacing them with a new loan – a “do over” for those who started off with high rates on their loans. You could also move from a variable to a fixed rate, secure a lower rate due to an improved credit history, and more.
Here’s a calculator that shows how much you could save when you refinance student loans. To get started, figure out what type of rate and term best fit your personal needs, then seek out a new lender who can make it happen.
Change When You’ll Pay
Another benefit of refinancing is the ability to select a new term, which could mean lowering your monthly payments by moving from a 10-year loan to a 15-year loan, for instance.
The government also maintains several options for federal student loans – you can view the full roster of federal programs here – including repayment options that determine your monthly payments based on your income. While these cannot be applied to your private loans, borrowers facing financial hardships may be eligible for a fair number of federal repayment plans.
Make Your Monthly Payments Manageable…
by changing up your spending.
Okay, this isn’t exactly a new repayment option, but moderating your personal budget is key to reaching any financial goal. By assessing your existing spending and saving buckets, you may find that you have more funds to allocate to your student loans than you’d thought.
Even cutting back on how often you buy a morning coffee (over $100 per month in New York) could bridge the gap between a monthly loan payment that’s merely uncomfortable and a payment that’s impossible.
It can be both daunting and unsettling to dive back into assessing your student loans after so much time, but the potential payoff is worth it. Rest assured that with more innovations arising in student loans than ever before, you’ll be able to take complete control of your student loans and become debt-free.
This article originally ran on GoGirlFinance.com.
Kaitlin Butler writes on savings, simplicity and social good at CommonBond, a student lending platform that provides lower rates, exceptional customer service, and a commitment to community. You can find her contributing to the community blog, @CommonBond, and Facebook. She’s passionate about personal finance and savings (start early for retirement!), and her work has appeared on LearnVest, The Daily Muse, Yahoo!Finance, Manilla Folder, and more.