So you've finally walked across that stage, shaken the dean's hand and received your diploma. But if you used student loans to get there, you're also faced with the realization that you have some debt accumulated. College debt can be one of the most challenging types of debt, simply because you're allowed to put off repayment - and thinking about the money you owe - until after graduation. If you're starting to realize just how deep in debt you are, get to know your debt and make a plan so that repayment isn't painful.
You have several options for repaying your loan. In general, if your loan balance is less than your annual starting salary, you can expect to pay off your college debt within about 10 years. If it's more, you may have to spread your payments out longer. There are several types of repayment plans outside of the traditional 10-year option, including extended, income-based and graduated. Explore all your options to see which one works best for your budget and debt amount, keeping in mind that the longer you stretch out repayment, the more interest you'll pay.
Once you've settled on a type of repayment plan that works best for your budget, get it down on paper. A repayment plan that factors in your living expenses, salary increases and other variables can help you feel more comfortable with your college debt - you control your loans, not the other way around. Of course, your plan can always change from time to time, but being able to see your repayment path clearly can help you stay on track.
Think about all the unnecessary expenditures you have in your budget each month. A mocha latte here, a movie night there - it all adds up. And while those expenses might be helping your social life, they do nothing for your student loans. Whenever you can, pay extra into your student loan. It may only be an extra $20 per month, but it can add up quickly and help you pay your education off and be debt-free sooner.
It's never okay to skip a student loan payment. While most programs offer a deferment option - where you can legally skip a payment - it only prolongs your repayment process. Skipping payments without a deferment means defaulting and then dealing with dings on your credit report and a potentially lower credit score. Make your student debt a priority each month so you can take care of it quickly and without hurting your future ability to borrow.