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The average monthly student loan payment is a whopping $393. With it being so high, you might struggle to afford everyday essentials. Here are several different ways you can lower your student loan payments to give you some room in your budget.
- Sign up for an Extended Repayment Plan
- Enroll in a Graduated Repayment Plan
- Sign up for an Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan
- Apply for an income-driven repayment plan
- Sign up for automatic payments
- Make all of your payments on time
- Consolidate your federal loans
- Ask your employer for repayment help
- Apply for repayment assistance
- Refinance your student loans
- Get help from the state
1. Sign up for an Extended Repayment Plan
If you have federal student loans and need a lower payment and are willing to make payments over a longer repayment period, an Extended Repayment Plan might be for you. Under this approach, your repayment term could be as long as 25 years, dramatically reducing your monthly payment. To qualify, you need to have at least $30,000 in Direct or FFEL federal loans.
Because of the longer repayment term, you could pay thousands more than you originally borrowed due to interest. However, the tradeoff might be worth it to get a lower payment and make room in your budget now.
2. Enroll in a Graduated Repayment Plan
A Graduated Repayment Plan is perfect for someone who doesn’t qualify for an income-driven repayment plan for their federal loans, but can’t afford their payments under a standard 10-year term.
With a Graduated Repayment Plan, your payments start out very low, regardless of your income. Every two years, your payment increases. After 10 years of making payments, your loans are paid off.
3. Sign up for an Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan
Under an Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan, your federal loan payments are based on your income. After 15 years, your loans are paid off in full. You’ll pay more in interest than you would under a Standard Repayment Plan, but you’ll get more breathing room in your monthly budget.
Only those with FFEL loans qualify; Direct Loans are not eligible.
4. Apply for an income-driven repayment plan
If you have federal Direct Loans and need to reduce your monthly bill, consider applying for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. With IDR plans, your repayment term is extended to 20 to 25 years, and the loan servicer sets your monthly payment at a percentage of your discretionary income. Some people qualify for a payment as low as $0.
There are four different IDR plans:
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
5. Sign up for automatic payments
If you sign up for automatic payments, some lenders will reduce your interest rate by 0.25% to 0.50%. That might sound like a tiny difference, but that adjustment in interest rate can add up to significant savings over time.
Check with your lender to see if they offer an autopay discount, so you can take advantage of it.
6. Make all of your payments on time
Make sure you make all of your payments on time. Not only will that help you avoid extra charges and late fees, but you might even qualify for a discount. Some lenders give discounts as high as 0.25% for consistently making your payments by the due date.
7. Consolidate your federal loans
If you have multiple federal loans, one way to streamline your payments and qualify for a lower payment is to consolidate your student loan debt with a Direct Consolidation Loan.
With this approach, you take out a Direct Consolidation Loan for the total amount of your current federal loans. Going forward, you’ll have just one monthly payment and one due date. You can also extend your repayment term, which will help reduce your monthly bill.
But keep in mind, extending your term means you’ll be paying your loans longer and end up paying more in interest over the life of your loan. So carefully weigh the pros and cons before doing so.
8. Ask your employer for repayment help
It might sound too good to be true, but some employers will help you with your student loan payments. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 4% of employers offer repayment assistance to their employees.
Contact your company’s human resources department to see if this benefit is offered — or if it can be offered in the future.
9. Apply for repayment assistance
Depending on your occupation, you might qualify for repayment assistance. For example, doctors, lawyers, and MBA graduates can qualify for thousands of dollars to pay off their loans. In return, you’re expected to dedicate some of your career to underserved areas, but it can be a great way to significantly reduce your loan balance.
10. Refinance your student loans
If you have private student loans, you don’t qualify for federal programs like income-driven repayment plans or Direct Consolidation Loans. However, there’s still a way to reduce your repayments: student loan refinancing.
With refinancing, you take out a new loan for the amount of your current student loans (both federal and private loans). The new loan has different repayment terms, including interest rate and loan length. If you qualify for a lower interest rate or opt for a longer repayment term, you can significantly reduce your monthly payment.
If you decide to move forward with this approach, make sure you compare offers from multiple student loan refinancing lenders, so you can find the best lender for you.
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11. Get help from the state
Where you live can have a big impact on your student loan balance. Some states offer student loan repayment assistance to attract professionals to the area. For example, North Dakota has a program that gives STEM professionals up to $6,000 in repayment assistance.
Visit your state’s education department website to see if similar programs are offered in your area.
Repaying your student loans
Keeping up with your student loan payments can be stressful and overwhelming. But if you’re wondering how to lower your student loan payments, you should know that there are several options available to you.
For more ideas on how to tackle your student loan debt, check out our guide on how to decide which loans to pay off first.