Before we begin, full disclosure—my dad handles finances for a living, so I have the upper hand on this whole pay back my student loans thing. He wouldn’t steer me (and thus, you!) wrong. Dad’s got our back.
That being said, Dad and I aren’t here to tell you what to do. One size doesn’t fit all.
The best way to repay your student loans depends on:
- How many loans you have and for how much.
- Your current income.
- The income you’ll make if when you snag that great job with your degree.
- Other expenses in your budget, etc.
Together, we made the decision to consolidate my student loans, turning my three federal loans (with three principals, three interest rates, and three different monthly payments) into one through the Direct Consolidation Loan program. Basically, the government paid off my previous loans and I get to pay them back for paying those loans with one payment. Got it? Good lord…
CONSOLIDATION = CONVENIENCE FOR ME
You can only consolidate federal loans into a Direct Consolidation loan. That means I didn’t borrow money from private banks like Chase or Wells Fargo or anything like that—my loans are from the U.S. Department of Education. They’re Stafford loans, to be a bit more specific.
I smashed multiple loans into one for only one major reason: it’s easier for me to keep up with one bill than three. That’s it. To be clear, there is no guarantee that your one consolidated monthly payment will be significantly less than the total of the multiple monthly payments, but once you do the math, that may be the case. It is for me!
Another note: Direct Consolidation loans usually give you more time to pay them back. “Evelyn, that sounds pretty freakin’ awesome!” No. No, no, no. More time means more interest means more money to pay back on top of the original loan amount.
Remember, they want you to take forever to pay them back. It just racks up interest over the years! The goal is to get this debt out of my hair as fast as I can. That means paying more than the minimum monthly payment when possible. Why spend 10 years paying for something that really only takes 5?
HOW TO CONSOLIDATE
Figuring out how to consolidate your federal student loans is pretty painless… as painless as thinking about repaying debt can be. But if I can get through the process, you can too!
Here are the steps Dad and I took to get my post-college life sorted out properly.
- Calculate how much you’d pay each month for each separate loan. You should have all that information stored neatly in a physical folder or on your computer. If your school gave you a SALT membership, you can use its loan import feature to help you crunch these numbers.
- Calculate how much you’d pay each month if those loans were consolidated. Use this handy online calculator on the Direct Loan Consolidation website to do that.
- Decide if you want to apply for consolidation. Is your consolidated payment less than the separate payment added together? If so, awesome! If not… weigh the pros and cons. For me, convenience won out.
- Apply online here! They tell you every document, dollar amount, and percentage you’d need to make the application process smoother.
- Wait. You’ve done all you could do, so now you must wait. This takes about 60 days. On the consolidation website, they let you check the status of your application as frequently as you want, so that’s comforting.
Talking about finances and math and our future is exhausting, I know. Questions? Leave them in the comments. I mean, Dad might charge a consulting fee since you’re not family, but I’ll work a discount in there somewhere…