6 best ways to manage your student loans

Having a plan for managing student loans can make repaying them less stressful. (iStock)

Student loans can make paying for college easier when you don't have savings to pay out of pocket.

An estimated 43 million borrowers owe federal student loans, according to the Department of Education. Of the $1.7 trillion in outstanding student loan debt owed, private student loans account for $131.8 billion of that total.

If you have private student loans, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans while rates are low. A student loan refinance can lower monthly payments, allow you to get a better loan term, and more. Get started now.

Chances are you, too, also have student loan debt. But don't worry, there are loan repayment options and easy ways to eliminate student loan debt fast (and you don't necessarily need a financial advisor to tell you what to do).

6 ways to manage your student loans better

If you already have student loans, or you're planning to borrow to pay for school, here are six ways to make managing student debt easier.

  1. Shop and compare student loan lenders
  2. Don't borrow more money than you need
  3. Get to know student loan servicers
  4. Review your repayment options
  5. Consider student loan refinancing
  6. Make paying off debt your priority

1. Shop and compare student loan lenders

If you're applying for federal student loans using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), any loans you're offered will come through the Department of Education.

But if you plan to pursue private student loans, you can choose your lender. Visit Credible to explore private student loan options.

It's important to shop around as not all private student loan lenders or loans are the same. When looking for private student loans, consider:

  • Whether fixed interest rates or variable interest rates are a better fit
  • How rates from different lenders compare
  • Minimum credit score and credit history requirements
  • Minimum and maximum loan limits

Consider visiting Credible to learn more about private student loans and compare rates. You can also use an online student loan calculator to estimate your monthly payments when taking out new loans or refinancing existing ones.


2. Don't borrow more money than you need

When evaluating student loans, it's important to understand how much you need to pay for college. That includes:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Room and board if you're staying on campus
  • Books and supplies
  • Computers and other equipment

Borrow too little, and you may come up short when it's time to pay for your next semester. But borrow too much, and you may end up financially strained when it's time to repay your loans later. Establishing a realistic budget for college can help you more accurately determine how much you need to borrow.

Once you've established your budget and determined the loan amount you'll need, head to Credible to shop around for private student loans. Compare student loan rates and lenders within minutes using Credible's free tools.


3. Get to know your student loan servicers

Your loan servicers are who you'll send your payments to each month. The Department of Education works with a number of federal student loan servicers, whom you can contact for information about:

  • Student loan repayment
  • Student loan deferments
  • Student loan forbearance

If you have private student loans, your lender and loan servicer are one and the same. Knowing who your loan servicers are and how to contact them matters if you have questions about your loans or if you're having a hard time making your loan payments.

If you're looking for student loan payment relief, visit Credible. You can get prequalified student loan refinancing rates from up to 10 lenders to find out if this approach could save you money.


4. Review your repayment options

Federal student loans offer multiple repayment options after graduation. You're automatically enrolled in the Standard Repayment Plan but you may prefer an income-driven repayment plan if you're just starting out in the workforce and aren't earning a lot.

An income-driven repayment plan may be required if you're interested in seeking student loan forgiveness. These plans tailor your loan payments to your income, based on your household size.

If you have private student loans, however, income-driven repayment isn't available. But your lender may offer other repayment options to fit your budget, including deferments, grace periods, and graduated payment plans.


5. Consider student loan refinancing

You have the option to consolidate student loans borrowed through the Department of Education. While it can simplify your payments, consolidation loans won't reduce your interest rate.

Student loan refinancing, on the other hand, can help you lower your interest rate and monthly payments. Since the Federal Reserve is currently in a holding pattern of keeping the Fed Funds Rate low, now could be a good time to consider refinancing student loans.

To see what kind of private loan refinancing rates you qualify for, use Credible to compare options (without any impact on your credit score) from different private loan servicers. Click here to get started.


Keep in mind that refinancing student loans through a private lender may involve a check of your credit history and credit score. If you're new to using credit, you may need a cosigner to get approved at the best interest rates. And consider using an online student loan refinancing calculator to estimate your savings.

6. Make paying off debt your priority

Once it's time to begin repaying student loans, it's important to have a strategy for doing so.

That begins with making a budget to estimate how much you can afford to pay toward your loans each month. It can also mean looking for ways to increase your income so you have more money to apply toward your loan balances.

If you're struggling with student loan payments, get in touch with your lender or loan servicers to discuss options. For example, you may choose to consolidate federal student loans to streamline your payments.

Also, consider the benefits of refinancing student debt if it would allow you to get a lower interest rate or reduce your payments. Visit Credible to learn more about student loan refinancing and compare rates from multiple lenders without affecting your credit score.