Are you a millennial who pays over $300 a month in student loans? Don't worry, you're not alone. In fact, you're about average. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Consumer Credit Panel data, in the second quarter of 2015, the average student loan payment for twenty- and thirtysomethings is$351.
Totaling up your loan tally is one thing. Maintaining the rigor and stamina necessary to pay down the total is another. Here are three tried-and-true strategies to re-frame your mindset on student debt.
1. Live like your debt is an emergency
Mr. Money Mustache runs a blog that is an excellent resource for those looking to live a debt-decreasing lifestyle. In one blog post, he writes "YOUR DEBT IS NOT SOMETHING YOU "WORK ON." IT IS A HUGE, FLAMING EMERGENCY!!!"
Treat debt like the emergency it is. What does this look like in real life? Whenever my husband or I want to make a purchase, we weigh it against the opportunity cost of paying down more debt. As a result, one of our cars has no air-conditioning or heat. It's a sacrifice we are willing to make.
Our family also avoids costly purchases. Our debt is the number one priority. My husband and I are hoping to fix our driveway in the near future, but our debt has to come first. Motivation to achieve this goal increases my motivation to pay down debt.
2. Check your amortization schedule every two months
It's not a sexy term: Amortization. But it is a word you should be familiar with. If you want to set a fire under your butt, it's important to routinely check in on how much debt you owe and how much interest you will pay. A quick look at a good amortization calendar should provide the motivation you need.
For example, $30,000 at 5.25% interest over 10 years is actually $38,000. That means $8,000 in interest accrues over 10 years. Set a calendar date every two months to remind yourself to check your amortization schedule – then recommit to paying off additional debt to reduce the interest.
3. Reconsider keeping up with the Jones's
If you live in a major metropolitan city, chances are you have friends that have more money than you, or use their money differently. In our area, many people have houses that are more than 3,000 square feet in living space. Our house is on the smaller side at 1,500 square feet.
One good rule of thumb is that your mortgage or rent shouldn't exceed 1/3 of your income. If you have student debt, you may want to be even more conservative. That way, you can apply any extra money to what you owe.
Your student debt is not your friend. Use a few simple strategies to change your mindset and you'll be able to commit to putting that extra money towards your debt. Achieving financial freedom is in reach – you just have to believe it's possible.