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Student Loan Payments Are Back: Here's How To Budget

Student loan payments have resumed after a long pandemic pause. Now, many Americans face hundreds of dollars in new monthly bills.

Student loan debt image by 905513
Source: Pixabay

I know from firsthand experience that this can and will strain budgets that stretched over the last few years. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce expenses and find extra cash. With some planning, you can make those new student loan bills manageable.

This guide shares simple money tips tailored to different income levels. Use these tricks to free up cash and budget for resumed student loan payments.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon Associate, I earn a small amount from qualifying purchases. I appreciate your support.

Making It Work On $1,200 Per Month

Bringing in $1,200 monthly means tight margins. Student loan payments can really squeeze your budget. To make it work, ruthlessly cut expenses and hunt for extra income.

Lower Bills By Reducing Energy Use

  • Unplug electronics and lights when not in use, or use a smart plug or power strip and schedule it to turn off during downtimes (trust me, these are a godsend).
  • Wash clothes in cold water and air dry when possible.
  • Lower your thermostat and use blankets to stay warm. Something like this oversized wearable blanket hoodie, which I bought for my mother, would also come in handy.
  • Install a programmable or smart thermostat to save on heating and cooling. Your utility company might even offer a rebate for purchasing one of these, which is even better!
Kasa Smart Power Strip
Source: Amazon

Evaluate Your Insurance

  • Shop around to see if you can get a better rate.
  • Consider raising deductibles to lower premiums.
  • Ask about discounts for bundling policies.

Cut Monthly Expenses

  • Call internet and TV providers to negotiate a lower rate or "cut the cord" altogether.
  • Downgrade cell phone plans and cut unused features.
  • Cancel unused subscriptions and memberships (I'm sure there's at least one that you've forgotten all about).
  • Stop going out to eat and minimize food deliveries and takeout (delete those tempting apps).
  • Plan inexpensive meals like pasta, rice and beans, soups, salads, and eggs.
  • Buy generic brands at the grocery store (they're not always as good, but they're pretty doable).
  • Use coupons, shop sales (Keepa is a lifesaver for Amazon shoppers), and buy in bulk.
Keepa Price Tracker for Amazon

Bring In Extra Money

  • Sell unused items online using apps like Mercari or at a yard sale.
  • Pick up a weekend side gig like rideshare driving, delivery, or odd jobs.
  • Sign up for sites like TaskRabbit to find one-time paid tasks.
  • Donate plasma for cash.

Make Minimum Payments

If needed, request to lower student loan payment amounts and switch to income-driven repayment plans. This will free up cash quickly. You can pay more later when finances improve.

Balancing Payments On $1,800 Per Month

Bringing in $1,800 per month allows a little more breathing room. However, student loans will still require careful budgeting. Use these tips to free up cash and meet monthly payments.

Reduce Food Costs

  • Plan weekly menus based on grocery store sales.
  • Cook at home and bring lunch to work.
  • Stock up on staples when they are discounted.
  • Buy generic brands.
  • Limit eating at restaurants to special occasions.
Carrots and broccoli in pan image by RitaE
Source: Pixabay

Lower Transportation Expenses

  • Consolidate errands to reduce driving, and pay your bills online whenever possible.
  • Consider downsizing to one car if possible. Sell the extra vehicle.
  • Use public transportation or carpool when available.
  • Regularly maintain your vehicle to maximize gas mileage.
  • Add air to low tires for better fuel economy.

Cut Housing Costs

  • Refinance your mortgage to lower interest rates.
  • Negotiate lower rent when your lease is up.
  • Get a roommate to split the costs.
  • Move to a less expensive area if possible.

Earn More Money

  • Ask for a raise at your primary job based on your contributions.
  • Freelance in your spare time using skills like writing, web design, online tutoring, etc.
  • Turn hobbies like crafts into an Etsy shop for extra cash.
  • Rent out unused space with Airbnb or a sublease.
Airbnb image by InstagramFOTOGRAFIN
Source: Pixabay

Save On Monthly Bills

  • Call service providers to negotiate better rates.
  • Compare costs between providers—cable, cell phone, insurance.
  • Turn down the heat and AC. Install a smart thermostat.
  • Unplug devices, use smart plugs and power strips, and switch to LED lights to save on utilities.

Making $2,500 Per Month Work

With a $2,500 monthly income, student loans remain a challenge, but there's more flexibility. Use these tips to keep costs low while paying off your loans responsibly.

Trim Groceries And Dining Out

  • Plan weekly meals and cook at home. Eat leftovers for lunch.
  • Stock up when staples go on sale. Buy generics.
  • Limit restaurant meals to special occasions.
  • Invite friends over for potlucks instead of going out.
  • Pack your lunch and make coffee at home instead of buying. I know it's not as good (why is that?), but the money you'll save will make it worth it.
Coffee mug with french press image by fancycrave1
Source: Pixabay

Use Apps And Alerts To Find Savings

  • Apps like GasBuddy, RetailMeNot, and Groupon can help you save on gas, groceries, dining out, and more.
  • Set price drop alerts for items you want to buy later at a lower cost.
  • Use browser extensions to automatically find and apply coupon codes at checkout.

Negotiate Better Rates

  • Call service providers to ask about promotional rates for long-time customers.
  • Renegotiate cable, cell phone plans, insurance policies, gym memberships.
  • Shop around and compare costs on plans and policies when contracts are up.

Find A Cheaper Living Situation

  • Downsize to a smaller home or apartment.
  • Move farther from the city center for lower rents.
  • Take on a roommate to split costs.
  • Rent out extra space in your home.
Small wooden house image by ArmbrustAnna
Source: Pixabay

Freelance For Extra Cash

  • Do freelance gigs in your spare time using skills like writing, design, web development, and bookkeeping.
  • Sell handmade creations on Etsy.
  • Become a rideshare driver for a flexible side job.
  • Sign up on TaskRabbit to get paid for handyman jobs, cleaning, and errands.

Comfortably Affording Loans On $3,500+ Per Month

An income over $3,500 monthly provides more chances to pay down debt aggressively. Make the most of your higher earnings with these tips.

Invest To Grow Your Money

  • Contribute to a 401(k), especially if your employer offers matching funds. This grows your nest egg.
  • Open a high-yield online savings account or a rewards checking account. Let your cash earn interest while you keep saving.
  • Consider low-cost index funds for long-term growth that outpaces inflation.
Analytics, chart, business image by Tumisu
Source: Pixabay

Automate Savings

  • Set up automatic transfers from each paycheck into savings and investment accounts.
  • Automate extra student loan payments so they happen in the background.
  • Build emergency fund savings you can use instead of taking on new debt.

Take Advantage Of Benefits

  • Max out employer retirement account contributions.
  • Use pre-tax commuter and healthcare spending accounts to lower your taxable income.
  • Ask about tuition reimbursement benefits.

Negotiate A Raise Or New Job

  • Research typical pay at other companies to know your market value. Highlight achievements and make the case for a raise with your boss.
  • Polish your resume and interview skills, and consider job hunting for a higher salary.
Dream job image by geralt
Source: Pixabay

Develop High-Income Skills

  • Take professional development courses and certifications to boost specialized skills.
  • Learn high-demand skills like software development, nursing, and accounting.
  • Start a lucrative side business that taps your talents.

You've got this!

The bottom line? It is possible to manage student loan payments, even on a tight budget. Reduce expenses, look for extra income, and take advantage of repayment programs. With some planning, you can get your loans under control and still have a little money left over!


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