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Student Loans Stressing You Out? Here’s What to do

Student loans stressing you out? Here's what to do.Student loan debt is now over $1.4 trillion. Yep, let that sink in. The Class of 2016 (latest data) graduated with an average of $37,000 in student loans.

Student loans stressing you out? You’re not alone.

Student loans are a big problem for many people. They contribute to the delay of many life events like travel, marriage, kids, saving for retirement, buying a house. Aside from big life events, they can also affect your day to day, robbing you of the ability to have a greater quality of life that being debt-free would entail.

There was a strong sense of relief I had when I finished paying off my student loans and became debt-free. No, it wasn’t some mega event where rockets shot out and confetti rained down on me. However, it did feel good.

After seeing the final payment go through, I finally felt like I had a little bit more control of my life. More options.

Student loans stress out a lot of people. Destroying them is a long battle filled with ups and downs. If you’re feeling like student loans are stressing you out, there are some things you can do.

Assess the Situation

You probably have a general idea of what your student loan debt is. It’s the number you see when you log in to your loan provider account.

Seeing the number is a good start, but it’s best to lay out your student loans. Lay them out to get a clear picture of where each payment is going and what the current state of them is.

  • Remaining balance
  • Interest rate
  • Monthly payment
  • When they will be gone if you keep paying the minimum monthly payment.

A great free tool I found for managing this is You sign up for an account, input your various debt amounts and interest rates, and it will tell you the projected payoff date depending on how much you put towards your debt every month. lets you follow the debt payoff plan you choose. This can either be the debt snowball (lowest balance first), debt avalanche (debt with highest interest rate first) or your own custom plan.

The tool is free to use. It can be a great way to visually see your progress as you pay off your debt. I used and loved during my own student loan payoff journey. Seeing the progress I was making is what helped me stay on track and keep from getting discouraged.

Understand Your Federal Benefits

I graduated college with $21,000 in student loans. All of that debt was in the form of subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans. For an increasing number of college students, this isn’t the case.

The gap between federal loan limits and college costs continues to grow wider. As a result, more people are taking out private student loans in addition to federal student loans.

If most or all of your student loans consist of federal loans, then you have many repayment options on your side.

Standard 10-year repayment: The most common type of repayment plan. You pay a set monthly amount for 10 years.

Graduated repayment: lower amount at the start, increase in monthly payment every two years. 10-year overall repayment term. Benefits of this can be lower payments when you’re making a low entry-level salary. As your salary increases, the monthly payment does, making it manageable for some.

Extended repayment plan: extends your repayment term to 25 years. The monthly payment is a fixed or graduated amount.

Income-driven repayment plan: monthly payment is a percentage of the total income you make.

The extended, graduated, and income-driven plans can be great if you’re struggling to make the minimum payments while on the standard plan. The downside is you pay more in interest over time.

Go through each of the plans and weight the pros and cons to find the one to best fit your situation. It’s all about what works for you and helps make the debt manageable.

See if You Can Refinance Your Student Loans

The higher the interest rate, the more you pay.

The journey to paying off student loans is often a years long process. If you have student loans with high-interest rates, consider refinancing them. Doing so could save you thousands of dollars over the course of your repayment journey.

One of the things I have wondered about my own student loan payoff journey is how much I would have saved if I had refinanced them. I didn’t have any private loans. They were all federal loans with interest rates of 4-5%. I did, however, have a big unsubsidized student loan with a 6.8% interest rate that dragged me down a lot.

I’ve stories of people being able to save up to $20,000 on their student loans by refinancing them to get a lower interest rate. This usually happens to people with a lot of private (i.e. high interest) student loans.

LendEDU is a great tool to use if you’re considering refinancing your student loans. 10 questions and three minutes is all it takes to find and compare the best interest rates from several different student loan refinancing companies.

Explore ways to pay off your student loans faster

Usually, this involves making more money. Finding ways to grow your income can be tricky at first. Start by identifying some low-hanging fruit. This can be taking surveys, using cash back credit cards, and cashback sites.

Taking surveys can be a good way to make a little bit of money in your downtime, like when you’re watching TV. You’re not going to get big bucks from them. In my personal experience and from what I’ve seen, you can probably make about $50-100 a month taking surveys.

Cashback credit cards can be really good. You probably have several regular, recurring expenses like groceries, cell phone bill, gas, rent, and auto insurance. Why not put those expenses on a cashback credit card and get rewards?

I have a Discover It Card that earns me 1% cash back and 5% in rotating categories. I also have the Ebates cash back browser extension installed so I can earn cash back on my online purchases. I’m able to redeem my cashback by sending it to my bank account or getting things like an Amazon gift card, which allows me to buy books (I love books!).

After you’ve implemented some simple ways to make a little extra cash, it’s time to step up the game. Look into how you can start and grow a side hustle that can yield you a nice little stash of side income.

Arm yourself with some knowledge to get going. Read books on side hustling to get in the growth mindset. Become a frequent visitor to freelance/side hustle focused websites. My favorites are Side Hustle Nation, The Write Life, and the And.Co blog.

Starting a blog can a great way to build your skillset and a side hustle. When I first started this blog, I had no idea what I was doing (sometimes I feel like I still don’t….haha). Along the way, I started to improve.

A blog allows you to gain experience in digital marketing topics and parlay it into different side hustles like freelance writing, social media management, virtual assistant, and digital marketing consultant. 

My first freelance writing client came about because the person read my blog, liked it, and decided to hire me to write content for their website.

Pick a Debt Payoff Plan

Debt snowball or debt avalanche? It’s a constantly debated topic about which one is better.

The debt snowball method involves paying down the debts with the lowest balances first. This allows for quicker gratification since you’re able to pay the debt off faster.

The debt avalanche involves paying off the debt with the highest interest rate off first. Mathematically, the debt avalanche saves you more in interest since you’re saving money on interest by paying off the highest interest debt first.

The answer? Whatever the heck works for you. The important thing is to get on a debt payoff plan. So many people don’t and just get by on paying the minimum. Be strategic!

Bottom line

Student loans stress a lot of people out. They suck. I’m pretty sure that’s something most people can agree on.

If your student loans are stressing you out, start mending the situation by taking some small steps. Understand your student loans, figure out their interest rates, see how they fit into your monthly budget. Take action and find different ways to destroy them.

Are student loans stressing you out? How do you manage them?

The Average American is Drowning in Debt. Here’s Your Life Preserver

Today I have a guest post from Joseph Hogue over at, talking about the scary state of debt in America, and how to overcome it. Enjoy!

how to save yourself from debtPaying off debt has become more than an individual goal, it could mean the very survival of our nation

I love the debt payoff stories you read on blogs. Following the story of how someone paid off a seemingly insurmountable amount of debt is not only hugely motivating but usually comes with some great ideas.

At the same time, reading these stories can be difficult for the millions of Americans that struggle with their debt.

Colin’s own story of paying off $21,000 in debt over 18 months relates to a long journey of changing his debt mindset, understanding his spending triggers and dealing with setbacks.

As exhausting and as frustrating as that debt payoff journey can be, it’s a journey we need to make, not only as individuals but as a country.

We talk about debt on an individual basis but it’s every individual that makes up our nation and the massive sum of that individual debt could soon affect everyone in ways we’ve yet to realize.

America Has Gone Overboard on Debt

The average American household owes more than $52,500 in debt and that doesn’t include mortgages. The average household pays a dollar of every $5 earned just to meet those monthly debt payments and people in 13 states owe more than they make in a year on average.

Debt in America has grown to Titanic-proportions and the ship is about to hit the mother of all icebergs.

You probably have a good idea of what all that debt is doing to your own life and financial goals. It leaves you little or no money to save for retirement. More than 40% of households report having less than $10,000 saved for retirement.

Not being able to save also means that you’re just one financial emergency away from having to severely cut back on spending or even a total financial collapse in bankruptcy.

Now imagine what that means collectively to the entire nation, a nation where 10,000 people reach retirement age every day but don’t have enough saved for basic expenses. It’s a nation that could soon see consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of the economy, take a nosedive because there’s just nothing left after debt payments.

Ditching our debt addiction has become more than just a personal goal, it’s become a national necessity!

How to Save Yourself from Debt

Sometimes, it’s just that harsh wake-up that gives you the motivation to change. Realizing how much your debt is costing you and how long it will take to pay it off can be one of those wake-up calls.

I got serious about paying off my credit card debt when I used a credit card payoff calculator and saw it would take 62 months and nearly $5,400 in interest to pay off the debt. I would have been paying half again as much interest on my original purchases if I kept to my monthly $250 payments instead of really attacking my debt.

So I ask you…

  • How much interest will your current debt cost you?
  • How long will you be paying off your debt with your current payments?

If that’s not enough to shock you into getting serious about your debt, create a mental picture of your financial goals and what your life will be like once you’ve paid off your debt.

This is an activity I use with investment advisory clients and it’s critical to helping you stay on budget and saving. If you can create a real mental picture, not some vague goal of retiring on a sandy beach somewhere, your goals become real and help motivate you even when you’re tempted to outspend your income.

  • What will you be able to do with that extra money that isn’t going to interest payments? What vacations will you plan and what other plans will you make?
  • What do you want to do on a daily basis once you’ve reached your financial goals or in retirement?

Attack your debt from both sides, from expenses, and from the income side!

Too many people think of their budget only as a way to track and cut their expenses. The sorry fact is that most people don’t make much money, not enough to pay basic expenses and save enough for retirement anyway. The solution is to look for ways to earn more on the income-side so you don’t have to cut your expenses to the bone.

  • Read up on side hustles like starting a blog or self-publishing that can make hundreds a month on as little as a few hours a week
  • Don’t feel like making extra money is something you have to do forever. Set small goals like paying off your debt or building an emergency fund.

Create a strategy to pay off your debt.

There are two popular strategies for debt payoff, the avalanche, and the snowball method. Which you follow will depend on whether you need more motivation or want to save more money.

  • The debt avalanche starts with listing your debts from highest rates to lowest. You make regular payments on all but split extra payments among the debts with the highest interest rates.
  • The debt snowball starts with listing your debts from lowest amount to highest. Again, you make regular payments on all but split extra payments among the smallest balances.

The avalanche method saves you the most money because you’ll pay off those high-rate debts first. The snowball method may cost a little more but it can be incredibly motivating to see those debts fall off your list.

The word financial freedom is used pretty casually on the internet. The actual feeling is difficult to describe but it’s one of the benefits to paying off your debt and knowing you are on your way to reaching your financial goals. In our society where money is the #1 reported cause of marital arguments, not having to worry about debt or reaching those goals is an amazing change.

The secret to financial freedom is to owe yourself a debt. After you’ve paid off your debts, keep saving and investing as if you were paying a debt to yourself. Instead of paying interest on that debt, you’ll benefit from the return on your money.

I try to be an optimistic person but I’m not confident that the debt situation in America will get better before it gets worse. Fortunately, you don’t have to move the entire country to change. Changing your own mindset and turning your own finances around will help you avoid the worst of our debt-burdened future and create the financial future you deserve.

Joseph Hogue worked as an equity analyst and an economist before realizing being rich is no substitute for being happy. He now runs five websites in the personal finance and crowdfunding niche, makes more money than he ever did at a 9-to-5 job and loves building his work from home business. 

So, What’s the Catch?

how to set actionable goalsThere comes a point when you just have to look at how things are and work with what you’ve got.

Money is like this in a way. People have lots of opinions on how best to navigate personal finances.

Which is the best way to set actionable goals? Do you do the debt snowball or debt avalanche? Should you have an emergency fund or not? Are side hustles all that important? What about privilege?

One of the top things people say whenever there is an impressive debt payoff story, rags to riches tale, or financial breakthrough is “So…what’s the catch?”

Those Debt Payoff Stories

Everyone loves a good debt payoff story. The sensational ones where a person paid off a big amount of debt in a small amount of time.

I don’t think I have one of those, depending on who you ask. I graduated university with $21,000 in student loans. I paid off those student loans in 18 months, at the age of 22, partly while living abroad in Thailand.

I’ve been congratulated on doing such a thing. Critical comments have been about how that “wasn’t even a lot of debt” or “there must be a catch”.

Indeed there is a catch to my debt payoff story. The “catch” is that I worked overtime at my blue collar job, worked seven days a week while in Thailand, set actionable goals, and upon being sick of looking at my debt, paid off the remaining amount with a large part of my emergency fund.

No matter how a person paid off debt there is always some critical comments. If the person makes a high salary then people complain that it was easy for them because of it. If a person side hustled their way to debt payoff, then people complain about the person having to do side hustles to pay off debt.

A former co-worker once said to me “Well, I’d like to see a debt payoff story where the person worked a regular job and  didn’t make a high salary or do side hustles to pay off their debt!”

While I understand their sentiment, I’m not sure they will ever see one those due to this thing called math. You have to grow the gap between your expenses and income in order to pay off your debt. That’s what it boils down to.

Yes, it can be annoying when a lot of personal finance news stories focus on middle-class couples with good paying jobs who suddenly had a ~~magical epiphany~~ and decided to stop wasting money.

Although, when you break it down, paying off a lot of debt or making significant financial progress comes down to it.

Income – expenses = the gap (focus on growing it)

Do The Actual Work

Sometimes people put too much focus on one area while neglecting the others. This is really true when it comes to talking about (touchy?) subjects like privilege.

Privilege is a real thing. Some people have a leg up on others when it comes to situations and opportunities. Not everyone is able to live at home in order to save money on rent. Different socioeconomic backgrounds have advantages. The list goes on.

However, when you choose to solely focus on that one area, you start to miss out on other opportunities that could come from when you put in the work.

For the longest time, I was angry with the fact that other people had their parents pay for cars for them and pay for part of their college. Meanwhile, I had to work as a dishwasher, work lots of hours, and save up for months to buy my first car at age 17. I had to pay for my college education on my own through the use of loans and working. I didn’t even have a laptop for the longest time. Instead, I had had to go to the public library to use one.

Things didn’t start improving until I sat down, acknowledged my situation, and made a plan for growth from there.

You can choose to sit idle and focus on your limitations or you can make a plan based on what you have.

Put What You Learn Into Practice

I’m part of a few blog and business groups on Facebook. There was one massive online business group I was a member of. In the group, I would constantly see people posting critical responses of other business owners.

The post would catch on, attract hundreds of comments from people agreeing, and then a few days later the same type of post would pop up and the cycle would repeat itself. While criticism of things can be good at times, when you’re constantly doing it, it can give you a false feeling of having actually done something.

It’s kind of like when you read a self-help or motivational book. You go through it, highlight a bunch of motivational quotes in it, and talk about it on social media. While that’s great to do, it’s even more important to put what you learned into practice.

Related: The Problem With Motivational Quotes

Don’t just read some book on entrepreneurship and share quotes from it on social media. Use what you learned from the book. Test things out, see how it works. You’ll learn a lot more when you’re in the process of doing rather than reading self-help book after self-help book over and over.

The Cautionary Tale of the Underpants Gnomes

Gotta go to work, work, work, work! We won’t stop ‘til we have underpants!

-The Underpants Gnomes (South Park)

You don’t want to look back several months or years from now and realize all you’ve been doing is collecting underpants.

What the heck am I talking about, you ask?

It’s a concept I learned about in the book Level Up Your Life by Steve Kamb. In the show South Park, there is an episode where a group of gnomes sneak into people’s houses and steal their underpants and take them to a large underground cave each night.

The gnomes are stealing the underpants so they can have a mass collection to use when they build a highly successful business. When a gnome is asked why he is collecting underpants, his response is, “Collecting underpants is just phase 1!

When someone follows up with, “So what is phase 2?” The gnomes are confused and just say, “Phase 3 is profit! Phase 1 is collecting underpants!”.

They know what Phase one is (collecting underpants) and phase three (highly successful business) but they don’t know the critical phase two.

This happens when you read some amazing self-help book, watch an inspiring TEDx talk, or hear of somebody doing something amazing.

Don’t get stalled in the phase one stage of watching or reading something inspiring and then go, “Well, it’s easy for them!”.

Bottom Line

This post isn’t some call to “hu$tle harder” or “grind more”. It’s a call to acknowledge the situation and limitations you have and moving forward set some actionable goals. 

It may take longer or be harder for you to reach your goals compared to others, but small or slow progress is better than nothing.

What’s the catch? It’s figuring out your phase two and making a plan from there.

How have you been able to get past your limitations and setbacks? What is your phase two?

Why You Should Speak Up About Your Money Struggles

speak up about your money strugglesLong before I started this blog, I was an avid reader of personal finance blogs. It had started back when I was in university  looking for a way to read about other people’s thoughts on money.

Up until that point, the only time I ever had money conversations was when it was centered on being broke and feeling super stressed about it. When I clicked through to the world of personal finance, new conversations opened up.

There were discussions about financial health, savings strategies, debt, career, and making extra income. It opened up my mind to learn more about navigating my financial life and ways to improve it.

Talking about money in day to day life was hard. Reading blogs and hearing people’s stories made it easier. I revised my budget. I went through different savings strategies after reading several posts. I tried out new tools and my financial life started to improve. It was at a glacier’s pace, but slow and steady progress nonetheless.

Eventually, it led to me creating my own personal finance blog. I was ready to set out on the mission of demystifying personal finance and blogging about paying off my student loan debt.

In a way, it was cathartic. I got to write about my inner motivations, my hatred towards my debt, and finding my way towards financial confidence.

Writing each post was fun, but I did start to get a nagging feeling. Whenever I was going through a period of struggling with money, I would shy away from talking about it. In place of any updates on my own money journey, I would usually just not write, as evident by a blogging hiatus and sometimes in-frequent content.

It’s hard to write about money when you’re broke or struggling

It’s hard because you feel like you’re constantly behind. You’re not putting thousands towards investments like the early retirement crowd. Debt still plagues you. You don’t have some high-paying job that allows you to take the ultra-common advice of “cut expenses and spend less”.

People like to ask the question “what’s next?” a lot. In some ways, growth is seen as trying and doing new things. The routine isn’t very fun.

When you’re just staying afloat with debt behind you and a low savings rate, there isn’t much to say.

Restlessness and stress are common among a lot of millennials. We constantly see others going on vacations and living it up. We have money struggles because we’re making low wages and stuck with $37,000 of student loan debt on our backs. Living like a real, bonafide adult (like our parents were able to do in their time) isn’t possible.

Massive saving rates, fully stocked emergency funds, and having the ability to travel don’t feel applicable to us. For most, we’re just trying to get through the day.

Experiencing money struggles is stressful and awkward, but it’s something you shouldn’t  hide away. Here’s why you should speak up about your money struggles.

Growth Comes From Discomfort

Discomfort can be a terrible thing. It keeps you anxious. You’re always in an “on” mode and never able to rest. Fear lingers as your back aches from carrying your burdens.

Your burdens could be a number of things. Maybe it’s a heaping pile of debt. You could be underemployment and hate it. Whatever it is, come to terms with it.

Don’t bury your head in the sand. Yeah, you may not be maxing out your retirement accounts or jaunting around the world, but when you get clear on your situation, you can start to make progress.

The path of personal growth is rarely a linear and comfortable route.

If you don’t speak up and say something, then nothing will change. Words are powerful. They allow you to get brutally honest about your strengths and weaknesses.

From there, you can start to make a plan to move forward. Maybe it’s throwing an extra $30 a month at your debt, doing a few Craigslist gigs for extra money, or reading up on ways to better yourself and your finances.

You’re reading this blog right now, so I know you’re committed to learning about how to get out of your money struggles.

Everyone Has Their Ups And Downs

I’m sure there’s someone you look up to a lot. There are people in real life who seem to have it all together. Someone on social media looks like they’re living it up and doing great.

While it looks like people have it together, everyone has their money struggles they’re going through.

Back when I started reading blogs, there was this one blogger who I loved. Their site was full of great blog posts, they traveled several places, got to work with well-known brands, and posted income reports. They even ditched their full-time job for a life of solopreneurship.

It truly looked like they were doing great.

As time went on, changes happened. This person struggled with their business, trying to find the right business model, and dealing with fluctuating income from month to month.

Then one day I read a post by the blogger where they had made the decision to quit solopreneurship and go back to working a 9 to 5 job.

Everyone has their struggles, no matter what the surface level looks like. People can have more empathy than you may think.

Connecting with others who are going through similar money struggles, either presently or in the past, can be helpful. Plus, a little accountability can be good.

When You Speak Up, You Can Make More

Speaking up and asking around can yield results and opportunities you may not have even expected. It could be doing compiling your work accomplishments and using it to ask for a raise, negotiate your salary for a job offer, or seeking out cheaper alternatives for expenses.

Let people know the ways you’re looking to improve.

How have you gotten through money struggles?

How To Get In The Debt Payoff Mindset

how to get in the debt payoff mindset. Some tips I personally used to help me stay motivated in paying off my debt and gaining more freedom in my life. Click through to read.

One of the best accounts I follow on Instagram is Humans of New York. The creator of the project, Brandon Stanton, posts updates several times a week. Each photo comes with a story.

One of my favorite stories he shared was a story about focusing on the work. Even when times get uneasy and tough. The person in the picture, the one telling the story, was then-U.S. President Barack Obama.

Obama talked about his career progress and times he felt defeated. He ran for Congress and got beat, or “whooped” in his words. He had put so much time and effort into running and to lose felt devastating. He felt behind and unsure.

Paying off debt feels like this. Unsure thoughts sweep through you constantly. You think you’re not making enough progress. The pace isn’t fast enough.

I would be making a far-reaching claim if I told you paying off my $21,000 of debt in 18 months was easy. It wasn’t. Although I’m thinking I probably could have whipped it up to seem like it.

I’m not a copywriting headline whiz but I can think of what they probably would have looked like.

See this guy’s one simple trick to vanish $21,000 of debt in 18 months!

I was bored so I decided to pay off my thousands of dollars of debt super fast! Here’s how!

You get the message. When I was paying off my debt, I thought I had to do it within a short timeline. I would make several extra payments and then…my debt would still be there. A little smaller, yeah, but still there, looking like it was never going to go away. For some reason though, while I was in the throws of paying off debt, I thought it was, in fact, a simple linear progress.

My mind thought the debt payoff process worked like this:

Wanting to get rid of debt. Start and do a debt payoff plan. Finish paying off debt and celebrate. YAAA

If only. A debt repayment journey usually takes several years of fighting, hustling, and keeping your head up. Reading other debt payoff journeys, making extra income, all of it can feel good and motivating. However, they don’t stop the ruts from happening. The ruts where you feel uninspired and trapped with your debt, unable to move forward.

Paying off my debt was hard. Really hard and really exhausting. The journey was tedious but I reached the finish line. There are some things I learned about getting into the debt free mindset while paying off debt.

How to get in the debt payoff mindset

Understand your spending triggers

I’ve never been one of those people who has to leave their cards at home in order to not overspend. My spending trigger was more subtle. And you know what people say about subtle, sometimes it can be the most dangerous.

Case in point, one afternoon when I was cleaning and I had to come face to face with the big stack of Amazon boxes I had. I had Amazon Prime at the time, which if you don’t know, offers free two-day shipping. Having Prime caused me to spend a little too much on things I really didn’t need.

Figure out what your spending triggers are. Whether it be eating out, spending a lot on entertainment or whatever. Hone in on it, and prioritize on fixing it as much as possible.

Write down your negative thoughts and why they’re not true

Don’t let your negative thoughts continue to beat you up. You don’t have to pay off your debt in x amount of months or do it like so and so. You don’t have to make goliath payments all the time. And it’s okay to feel down sometimes.

Whenever I thoughts about how I wasn’t doing enough towards debt, I would write down the negative thought and a few examples of why it wasn’t true.

Example: I have so much debt. It’s going to take forever to pay off
Counter-points: I’ve put $1,000 towards my debt 

Debt progress charts were my favorite thing for this. Whenever I would pay off $500. I would color in red on this debt-thermometer chart. It was a great way to physically see my progress.

Surround yourself with people who have a debt-free mindset

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me to “just pay the minimums because debt was normal” I would probably have had enough to have paid off my debt. People don’t see the freedom that comes from being debt free.

Surround yourself with debt destroyers. People who realize the clarity that comes from being debt-free.

It’s about the work

This is where the Obama speech about his 1999 Congress run comes in. A debt payoff journey is exhausting. You fell behind and defeated. In spite of it all, you can’t lose hope. Losing hope is the real tragedy.

Remember that it’s about the work. If you let your mind constantly wonder about whether you’re making enough progress or succeeding, then you will get frustrated. Keep it about the work.

What keeps you motivated in your debt payoff journey?

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