So, you’ve just graduated, your job prospects are good, and you’re excited about the next stage in life. But, you have a boatload of student debt!

Let’s take a closer look at the repayment process and how you can tackle the debt head-on:

1) How Much Do You Owe?

Frist thing’s first, sit down and gather all of your student loan information and summarize how much you actually owe and to whom. You could have multiple federal student loans with different servicers and separate private loans, all of different amounts and different terms.

Note: There is no central government body that collects payments. This is done by whichever servicer you signed up with for each loan.

Put everything into a spreadsheet so you can see clearly what you’re up against.

To help you, log in to the National Student Loan Data System website, which should provide you with most of the information if you don’t have it on hand. You can also find local sites for help with loans, such as the Office of Student Financial Assistance in Florida.

It’s important to get a handle on your student loans right away, especially if you have any other loans or credit card obligations.

2) Choose Your Repayment Plan

Federal student loans allow several options for repayment, but if you don’t choose one in time you will be automatically enrolled on the standard plan, which is set up for a 10-year period of repayment.

Note: If that sounds too quick for you, make sure to choose a more suitable repayment plan.

A more manageable option is to choose for repayments to be tied to your income (i.e. the more you make then the more you pay, but if you don’t end up in a good job you don’t pay as much as the standard plan).

You will, however, end up paying more in interest in the long run.

3) Budget

As soon as you graduate and hopefully enter employment, you need to formulate a budget that takes in to account your loan repayments. It’s far too easy to overspend each month and not have enough left-over to cover your loans.

Note down all of your sources of income and track your spending, so you know the easiest ways to cut expenses if you need to.

Do you really need that unlimited cell phone plan?

Budgeting is particularly important if you have private student loans, as they do not care how much income you are making or offer any real repayment help.

4) Don’t Live the High Life

Upon graduation, you may soon be in a job earning more money than you ever have before. It’s easy to become reckless with your spending, signing on for a swanky apartment, getting a new car, and eating out a lot—but this can soon get out of control.

It’s always wise to be overly frugal in your first few years after college, so you get to grips with loan repayments and put a bit of money aside for an emergency.

Go with a smaller or shared apartment, stick with the same car or use public transport, and try not to splash the cash just because it’s there.

5) You Can Change the Due Date and Plan

Federal student loans are designed to be flexible, so don’t struggle because of things that can be changed.

If you get paid a few days after your repayment date, you can ask for it to be changed to accommodate.

You can even change the repayment plan to something more manageable if you begin to struggle.

6) Consider Loan Consolidation

If you do have several different loans and you are finding this hard to keep track of, the government regulates a debt consolidation program that allows you to merge all of your loans into one easy repayment. This is called a Direct Consolidation Loan.

The downside is that the new consolidated loan will have a longer term, which also means you’ll be paying more in interest in the long run.

7) Consider a Public Service Job

If you’re particularly strategically minded you could actively seek out a public/government sector job, which will often entitle you to have some of your federal student loans forgiven.

Once you understand how they work, student loans are less scary than they first seem. By following the above tips you’ll soon be on top of repayments and enjoying your new career path.

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