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Pay Off Your Student Loans Like a Pro

Loan. The other four letter L-word. With the average student debt creeping past the $25,000 mark in 2015, and 40 percent of that coming from government student loans, you may not exactly get the warm and fuzzies when thinking about student loans. But if you’re done school (or nearly finished), it’s time to work on paying down that student loan.

Here’s how you can pay off your student loan, while still being able to have fun and live stress-free. Well, minus the stress of finding your missing antique pearl earring on the beach or doing a speech at your cousin’s wedding. We unfortunately can’t help you with that.

First, understand the types of debts.

Keep in mind that there are two different types of debt – good and bad. Good debt is an investment that usually pays you back, like taking out a mortgage for a house or a loan for school. Bad debt is the debt that sits on your credit card. It’s typically high-interest and can be attributed to just “stuff.”

Start paying ASAP.

If you can start paying back your debt right after graduation (or even before), do it. A government loan doesn’t require any payments while you’re in school. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start paying at the earliest opportunity.

With a government loan, you are given a six-month grace period after you graduate, finish your studies, or stop being a full-time student. Interest, however, does accumulate during this period. After this grace period, the government will send you a repayment schedule detailing how much you need to pay them each month.

Don’t forget your credit card payments.

According to a 2015 survey, about 92% of Canadian graduating students have at least one credit card. If you pay your credit card bill on time, this isn’t a bad thing – you’re starting to build your credit rating, after all. The bad news? 23% of those with a credit card do not pay off their balance each month. And among those who do not pay their balance, their average unpaid debt is $2,224. That’s a lot of cappuccinos.

If you find yourself in this boat, consider consolidating your debt with a personal loan. Rather than paying off multiple high interest credit card balances, you’ll be paying one much lower interest rate. The faster you can repay your loans, the less you’ll have to pay overall in terms of interestOur loan calculator can help you determine the amount you can borrow and what your repayment schedule might be like.

Budget like a boss.

You can still have fun – just be strategic with your funds. Here are some strategies to navigate the budgeting minefield:

  • Put together a monthly budget. You’ll need to figure out exactly how much discretionary income you have and commit to staying within your budget. You can use our nifty budget calculator to get started.
  • Going out with friends and family can be pricey, but it doesn’t need to be. If you’re proactive enough you can make suggestions about where to go and what to do before it’s decided for you. Go for drinks at happy hour, or look for fun (and free) street festivals and markets to grub down on street vendor and food truck fare. Plus a good ol’ fashioned picnic never goes out of style.
  • Allocate yourself a small budget when you go out, and stick to it. By setting $20 as your budget, for example, and bringing that $20 bill with you to spend, you’ll know when you run out. Doing this limits the urge to withdraw more money or use your cards.

Make some extra dough on the side.

Working a second job can be tough, but it’s a sure-fire way to make some extra cash in the short-term. You’ll expand your network and your experience, and even get a discount if you’re working retail or a free lunch if you work in a restaurant. But the greatest reward is hitting your financial goal and knowing you did it through your own hard work and determination.