The materials in this article are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute financial advice
Graduating in 2009 seems so long ago, but if you’re like me, your student loans are still looming large. Turns out, student loan debt is the number one financial concern among Millennials (hello, fellow youths!) with over $1.2 trillion, yes, trillion in student loan debt.
For years I thought I was being responsible, making my minimum payment each month. Little did I realize that I was not doing myself (or my future self) any favors. Next time you get a statement regarding your loan, read it. Chances are most of the minimum monthly payment pays for interest on the loan, not the principal loan amount.
Paying only the minimum may make things easier in the present, but it can greatly extend the life of your loan and end up costing you considerably more overall. The more you pay now, the less you pay over the life of the loan.
Nobody wants to think about budgeting, but there are easy ways to cut back on your spending so you can apply that savings to your student loan payments. The first step is understanding where your money is going (and where it doesn’t have to be going at all). The next step is cutting back and applying those savings to help pay more than just the minimum.
Need some ideas on where to start? Here are some areas where I cut back:
The Cable Bill
Cutting the cord can be one of the most cost-saving measures you can take. I did it a few months ago and my cable and internet bill went from $120 to $30 for just internet. That’s $90 in savings, every month.
Think about it. Your friends and co-workers may still be talking about the premiere of the new Daily Show on Monday, but did you actually watch? Probably not. I didn’t either. Instead, I enjoyed drinks with friends after work and then caught up on the highlights, like Trevor Noah’s opening segment.
Chances are, you’re watching less TV and more Netflix. And with the average cable bill hitting a high of $99 this year, that means you’re paying your cable company when you don’t really need to. Get rid of the cable, keep the internet and start streaming. Today there are more choices than ever–from Hulu to HBO Now, to Vessel– for awesome content on demand.
Savings: $90 per month
The Morning Coffee
My morning coffee routine is hallowed ground. For years I religiously paid tribute to the Starbucks Siren. Turns out that $2 tall coffee every day really adds up. On average, I was spending about $40 a month on coffee.
Needless to say, I’m no longer paying for coffee on my way to work. I’m becoming my own barista and making coffee at home. I have become a master of the pour-over method. It’s simple, doesn’t take much effort, and tastes great. Try this method once, you’ll be addicted. It is arguably the best way to drink coffee.
Projected Savings: $30 per month
The Weekday Lunch
In downtown San Francisco, there are countless options for lunch right outside my office. But buying lunch five days a week gets expensive. It’s tough to find take-out lunch options for under $10 per day. Even when I find cheap eats, I’m averaging $50 per week and $200 per month-minimum. That’s my student loan payment right there.
I now bring food to work most days–leftovers from the previous night or a sandwich I made in the morning–and have cut my weekly lunch bill in half.
Project Savings: $100 per month
These three small, thoughtful changes allowed me to save $230 every month. I doubled the monthly payment amount on my student loan.
If I’d continued to pay the minimum $200 payment on my $25,000 loan, it would have taken 219 months to pay off. At the end that 18 year period, I would have paid $18,611 interest. Do you know what you could do with $18,000? I do. Buy a water propelled jetpack, travel abroad, or travel abroad on my water-propelled jetpack.
On the other hand, by applying the savings I just made to my student loan and increasing my payment to $420, the amount of interest I’ll pay over the life of the loan goes from $18,000 to only $5,581. The life of my loan would also decrease from 18 years to 6.
Small changes really add up. When you apply these changes to help pay a student loan, your savings can go from a few hundred dollars a month to thousands of dollars over the years.
And when that happens, it frees you up to start pursuing your passions, even if it doesn’t include a water-propelled jetpack.