- I owe $94,482 in student loans. My monthly payments are $637.
- I felt hopeless, but steps like talking about it with other people helped me change my mindset.
- I also used an app that transfers change from my bank account to my student loan account.
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I have student loan debt of $94,482. My private student loan monthly payments alone are $637, and I have no idea how I’m going to handle returning monthly federal loan payments.
Before, I felt hopeless and ashamed of my debt, especially because in addition to the money I took in my own name, my mother took out additional Parent PLUS loans in her name. Once I started sharing my story more openly, I realized I wasn’t the only one facing this same problem.
It doesn’t matter how many slices of avocado toast I skip or how many times I cancel my
subscription, I always feel like I can’t keep up with the monthly payments. I check for updates on student loan forgiveness daily, but it doesn’t look like large-scale student loan forgiveness is imminent.
To try to change my mindset about managing my student debt, I tried to focus on implementing simple changes that made a huge difference.
1. I started telling more people about my debt
I started broaching the subject while I was out for lunch or having coffee with my friends. I started talking to my mom about how I felt more about our student loans. I even say the exact numbers out loud, even though it feels uncomfortable at first.
Whenever I talk about my debt, I expect people to shame me and give me unsolicited advice. Instead, I get a lot of kindness from people who can relate to my story.
Talking more openly about my debt makes me feel like I don’t have to tackle this issue in secret and can always ask for help when I need it.
2. I hired a financial planner
I started working with a financial planner Cait Howerton, MBA, AFC, CFP, which specializes in LGBTQ+ wealth, at Facet Wealth. She helped me develop a debt repayment game plan that fits my lifestyle.
My student loans kept me awake at night. I once heard the story of a man who lived in a van for a year just to pay off his student loans quickly. I’m happy for him, but I don’t want to live in a van.
Fortunately, Howerton allowed me to keep my feet on the ground. Instead of looking for vans on Craigslist, Howerton asked me what small changes I could make to my daily life to save $75 a month to channel into paying off a student loan. She suggested having one less appetizer or drink while I eat with friends, or taking a few things out of my grocery cart while I shop.
3. I started putting my spare change into my student loans
I downloaded a free app called Crusher which allows you to deposit spare change directly into your student loan accounts every day.
Chipper also lets you see all of your student loans in one place, making it much easier to see what kind of impact you’re having over time when making payments. Chipper also makes it easy to understand what cashback and discount plans are available to you. I can honestly say that I’ve never opened a student loan platform and thought, “Oh, that sounds easy”, so using Chipper was a whole new experience.
To me, I feel like the app was created to support people in the long game of paying off student loans instead of finding some kind of cheat code to make them disappear. This mindset is really refreshing when I hear so many stories about people stressing over paying off their debts.
I know putting a few pennies into my student loans won’t magically make them disappear, but it gives me great peace of mind to feel like I’m taking small steps towards eliminating my debt.
4. I informed my student loan provider of my legal name change
As a transgender person, I have to jump through so many bureaucratic hurdles that cisgender people don’t have to go through. It’s really time consuming and frustrating, but I continue because I need to.
My financial planner encouraged me to start changing my legal name on my old accounts. I’m sorry that I didn’t do this sooner, because it really is much easier to check the account now that it has my correct name.
When it comes to my student loans, I’m learning to focus on small things that might improve my experience instead of trying to solve the whole problem all at once. Changing my mindset about my student loans reminds me that my debt doesn’t define me. I can still live a full and happy life even though I have student loans.