Student Loan Debt Calculator
The United States has some of the highest consumer debt in the world. Credit card debt, medical bills, and personal loans account for billions in monthly payments and carry balances in the trillions of dollars. One of the biggest debts, however, is student loan debt.
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A sixth of the adult population carries some form of student debt, accounting for over $1.5 trillion in total. The average student borrows $25,000 to $30,000, but this increases to over $200,000 for students at law school and medical school.
However big your student debt is and however demanding your terms are, you can use a student loan debt calculator to estimate your total interest and repayment term, while also calculating how quickly you’ll repay that debt if you utilize a debt payoff strategy, such as the ones discussed below.
Federal vs Private Student Loan Debt
Federal student loans are funded by the US government while private loans are offered by banks and other creditors. One is aimed at helping you with your education, the other functions more like a personal loan, but both are designed with profit in mind and you will be expected to repay your loan in full, with interest.
Federal student loans typically have more favorable terms, including subsidized loans, which don’t require you to make any repayments while you are still in school, and loans offered to your parents, who can fund your education.
If you experience hardship at any time, you can apply for a repayment plan or hardship program. These programs aren’t offered to all borrowers, but if you’re in need and meet the criteria, they can provide some much-needed assistance, extending your grace period, initiating a period of deferment or temporarily reducing your monthly payments.
Federal loans also have a number of forgiveness programs aimed at those in the public sector, with several specific programs for teachers, military personnel, and healthcare professionals. These programs will clear some or all of your student loans, but, in most cases, they will only do this when you have met specific requirements and you may have repaid the debt in full by that time anyway.
If you or the cosigner passes away, federal student loans will be discharged. The same can’t be said for all unsecured debts and in some states, these will become the responsibility of the decedent’s spouse, but federal loans are more forgiving in that sense. The same is true for the biggest providers of private loans, but these loans don’t have forgiveness programs and they tend to charge much higher rates.
In the first instance, you should always apply for federal student loans. Only if you can’t get a federal loan or need additional funds should you consider private loans. It’s possible to get a private loan with a very low-interest rate, but as a student with a low credit score and a limited credit history, it’s rare, and you’ll probably need a parent to apply for you or to become a cosigner.
Of the $1.6 trillion or so student debt in the United States, only around $120 billion is provided by private lenders, showing you just how common, widespread, and popular federal loans are in comparison.
How to Repay Student Loan Debt
If our student loan debt calculator gave you a bit of a fright concerning how big, how damaging or how long-lasting your debt is, then it’s time to start chipping away at the balance and getting your finances in order.
Look into forgiveness programs and repayment plans. Speak with your loan servicer to determine if any of these can help you and if you meet any of the necessary criteria. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t, however, as there are other ways that you can repay your student loan debt, both federal and private:
Stop rolling your eyes and hear us out. We know you’ve been told to budget before and we know you think you have everything under control. But let’s be honest, if that was the case then you probably wouldn’t be desperately looking for help paying off your student loan debt.
The average debtor chooses to bury their head in the sand, refusing to accept the truth about their situation, which is often that they are wasting money on frivolous expenses when they could be using it to repay debt.
The smoker doesn’t want to give up smoking, the gambler doesn’t want to give up gambling and the spendaholic wants to keep those pointless eBay and Amazon purchases flowing, so they don’t face the truth. But if you want the peace of mind that comes with a clean credit report and a cleaner conscious, you need to face the truth.
Create a detailed budget of all your incomings and outgoings. Don’t just estimate it for the month ahead—actually make a note of everything you spend. At the end of the month, it’s time to look at the expenditures that were unnecessary and avoidable, the ones you can cut to increase your disposable income. Once you do that, you can put your extra funds towards repaying your debts.
Debt creates debt, locking you in a cycle that can be very hard to escape from. Your minimum payment is calculated as a small percentage of your total debt but that calculation occurs after interest has been added, which means that the majority of your payment goes towards the interest.
If you’re only paying a fraction of the principal every month, the debt will take forever to repay and the interest will keep compounding and growing.
The good news is that every time you increase this minimum, you’re making a huge dent in the principal, greatly reducing the term of the loan and the total interest you will pay. Simply adding an extra 20% or 30% on top of your monthly payment could save you thousands of dollars over the term and knock years off your repayments.
Sell and Sacrifice
Big changes follow big sacrifices and debt is no exception. Look at the things you’re spending your money on and start making some bigger cuts. Don’t simply focus on cigarettes, gambling, and worthless purchases—think about cutting out the restaurants, the holidays, and the subscriptions.
You should also look to sell some of the things you no longer need, from computer games and electronics to designer clothes. Whatever you have that simply gathers dust, sell up, move on, and put the money towards your debt.
It may seem like a lot of hassle for a few hundred dollars, but that small gesture could save you much more in interest.
Look at Repayment Strategies
If you have multiple debts in addition to your student loan debts, then look into the debt snowball or debt avalanche methods. These will help you to clear your debts one by one, with the former giving you a motivational boost and the latter a financial one.
The strategies follow many of the same principals we have already outlined in this guide, but it’s good to have a little structure.
Use Savings and Investments
There’s no point sitting on a savings account that earns you 3% if you have a debt that costs you 6% or more. You’ll lose more from that debt than the savings account will ever earn, so cash-in, use the funds to clear your debt and start rebuilding that account again when you’re debt-free and back in the black.
Last but not least, it’s important to stay motivated. The road to paying off debt is a long one and there will be a lot of hiccups along the way, from times when you feel like you need to splash out to times when you’re hit with an unexpected bill.
It’s important not to let these times drag you down or distract you from your goal. Give yourself weekly and monthly goals, make a game out of saving and being thrifty and don’t be tempted to check your debt balance more than once per month. Constantly checking it will make you frustrated as it’ll feel like everything’s going too slowly, but if you save those checks for times when you know it has reduced, you’ll give yourself a motivational boost.