The average American carries $35,359 in student loan debt—and the number is only rising. Even if the number is different for you, you’re probably not a stranger to the crippling feeling of significant debt.

Fortunately, a few expert strategies can help you create a plan to take control of your finances once and for all. Check out our expert guide on managing student loan debt with smart repayment practices.

1. Make the Most of Your Grace Period

Depending on the type of loan, your lender will grant you a grace period after graduation. During this time, you don’t need to make any payments on your loan.

Rather than ignoring your debt and hoping it goes away, take this time to make a plan and to research your next steps. Familiarize yourself with your loans, and understand your options for repayment. You may even want to extend this period by applying for a temporary deferment if you qualify.

If possible, start paying the loan anyway. This is the best way to manage student loan debt, as it will help you avoid interest and pay less over the life of the loan.

2. Choose a Payment Plan

Create a debt management plan for student loans based on your needs. Depending on your financial situation, you may want to opt for income-based repayment or a pay-as-you-earn system.

It might also be a good idea to consider debt consolidation for more manageable student loan debt. Companies like Debthunch can help you roll multiple loans into a single, lower payment to save you time and money overall. Learn more about Debthunch, and decide if this kind of financial reorganization is right for you.

3. Make More Money

This one’s a no-brainer, but it can also be a challenge for college students just setting out on their career path. The more money you make, the easier it is to put a dent in those loans.

Consider opting for overtime and extra shifts at your current job, keep applying for jobs with higher salaries or get a part-time or freelance job if possible.

You may also want to consider jobs that either offer student loan forgiveness or pay off some of your debt. Careers in public service, teaching, medicine, and many others allow forgiveness, and some companies pay off employee loans.

4. Stick to Your Budget

It can be tempting to start spending more once you’ve landed a “real job” out of college, but resist the urge. Sticking to a budget that trims away nonessentials can help you put your extra money toward your debt repayment plan.

5. Opt for Automatic Payments

With some lenders, setting up automatic payments can lower your interest rate by a small percentage. This may seem insignificant, but it can really add up over the life of your loan.

If you have a regular income, this option can also help you avoid the possibility of missed payments and late fees.

6. Deduct Your Loan Interest

During tax season, you can deduct your student loan interest by up to $2,500 per year. Claim this as an income adjustment to save a little extra money—which you can then put right back toward your loans.

Managing Student Loan Debt

Debt from your college days can feel overwhelming, even years later. But managing student loan debt with a few simple strategies is critical to your financial health, so it’s important to get things under control.

Follow the expert tips above to start making a dent in your loans, and to put a little more money back into your own pockets.

For more of the personal finance tips you need most, check out our other blog posts.

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