Student Loan Debt is Bah Humbug! 7 Ways to Save Money

Image of young man annoyed staring at his laptop

Student loan debt puts a crimp in the holidays for student loan borrowers.  People paying $200 to $500+ per month are probably spending less to nothing on holiday gifts and celebrations.   It’s tough to get nice holiday gifts for your family and friends when you have student loan debt.  It’s hard to celebrate the holidays with friends and family when you have student loan debt.  Your friends or colleagues are going out to have a fabulous steak dinner, but you’ll be home eating ramen. 

Carton of man with heavy bag of debt on his back

Credit Cards are Bah Humbug!

The worst thing to do is to charge gifts and celebrations on credit cards.  For example using the Bankrate calculator the student loan borrower charges $500 on a credit card with 18.9% interest and makes a $20 payment each month.  It’ll take this person 3 years and 7 months to pay off this balance. The total amount of interest paid is $186.59 bringing the total debt to $686.59 and not $500.  Hold on. Within that 3 years and 7 months, there are three holiday seasons.  So, this borrower charges $500 every year to enjoy the holidays.  That’s $1,500 more on the credit card balance.  The credit card debt snowballs and is out of control. This borrower will be in debt for many years.  Why would this borrower want to do this?  Oh, and remember the outstanding student loan debt?  What’s scary about this is that the borrower gets comfortable doing this so every holiday season more purchases are paid by the credit card. 

Skipping Loan Payments are Bah Humbug!

Some may skip a student loan payment to enjoy the holidays.  Late fees (around 5%) will be added to the bill for non-payment.  The lender or loan servicer will report the non-payment to the three credit bureaus and the credit will be affected.  By the way, interest is still accruing whether a payment is made or not.  If payments are skipped consecutively for 9 months, the borrower goes into default.  The paycheck and tax refund are garnished. This means that your pay and tax refund are withheld by the U.S. Department of Education to pay toward your student loan debt.  The borrower’s credit will be ruined.

Using Gift Money to Pay Down Loans is a Downer

Some borrowers would prefer a student loan payment than a Christmas gift.  Sad; but true.  Some borrowers use cash gifts to help make their monthly payments or to pay down their total student loan debt.  Some will sell their gifts for cash to pay down their student loans.  Yes, when you’re stressed, you become desperate, and you become creative; but not in a good way. 

The Bah Humbug Tribe

Do you want to be a part of the Bah Humbug tribe?  Do you want to suffer monthly due to student loan debt?  Do you want to get creative skipping a payment or racking up credit card debt?  Say, “NO WAY!”   Make a decision today that you will not use credit cards or a personal loan. Here’s how to avoid the Bah Humbug tribe.

  • Create a Money Plan

As I mentioned in my previous blog, create a money plan and use one of the apps I listed.  Am I beating a dead horse?  Saving money is alive and well my friend!  Discipline yourself to stick to your money plan.  Yes, I said discipline.  Unless, we have unlimited wealth, we must discipline ourselves.  I work full-time and still struggle with saving money, but I do.  I have to or face the consequence of taking out a loan to fix my car or replace the refrigerator.  I won’t do it.  I’m saving for these expenses. 

Yes, it can be tough, but it will be worth it when you see the thousands of dollars that you’ve saved. It’ll be worth it when you can pay cash for a new refrigerator when your old one breaks.  It’ll be worth it when you can pay for your child’s college expenses without student loans.  Set a money plan goal to reward yourself.  Maybe after increasing your savings by $1,000, reward yourself with a small treat.  Let’s not break the bank on the reward, OK?  Track your spending to see if you’re overspending in one area or buying things on temptation.  Discipline yourself to spend less.  Make saving a fun game.  Challenge your friends on who can save more in one year.

  • Prepare Meals at Home

Instead of spending $10-$15 for lunch every day, prepare your lunch at home.  There are so many places to get good recipes.  I’ve used Epicurious, Food Network, and the Pioneer Woman plus others for example.  Or, you can buy frozen meals at the market that are cheaper than dining out.  There are tasty and healthy options available. Buy when they go on sale, like BOGO (buy one get one free).   

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Also make your latte or coffee at home vs. paying $5 for a Starbucks Grande latte.  There are so many different appliances and great coffee brands available to make delicious coffee at home.  You can spend as little as $16 on a coffee maker depending on your preference.  I’ve used a French Press ($20), a Keurig, and a simple pour over coffee maker ($16). They all made great coffee and are easy to use.  Add one to your money plan.  I like organic creamers and I buy them when they go on sale. 

  • Plan Your Grocery Shopping

Create a grocery list so you’re not straying from the list and buying things you don’t need.  If you see an item and want it, but it’s not on your list, simply don’t buy it.  It takes discipline; but impulse buying is a money waster.  I’ve done it and occasionally, still do it.  Yes, it’s a struggle for me, too.  But I can’t afford to waste money on things I don’t need.  Plus, I can’t afford the extra calories buying treats on impulse.  Watch for deals and use coupons.

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  • Plan Gift Giving

Your money plan should include a plan for gifts, like birthday, anniversary, holiday gifts. Depending on the number of gifts that you plan on giving next year, decide on the amount you’d like to spend, or can spend, on each person and create a plan to save for these gifts.  Then, you won’t be pulling out that darn credit card and creating debt.  With a plan, you won’t be tempted to buy items on impulse or stroll the aisles putting items in your cart you probably can’t afford.  Take advantage of sales, coupons and deals.

  • Use Coupons and Buy Items on Sale

OK, how does a 50-cent coupon help?  Look at the big picture.  If you use ten 50-cent coupons, you’ve saved $5!  Use as many coupons as you can to save as much as you can.  Put those savings in your savings.  Watch for sales on your favorite items and buy them on sale. Never pay full price!  The item you need is always offered at discount somewhere.  Buy items in bulk.  I have membership at Costco, so I buy items, such as toilet paper, canned goods, and other shelf-stable items in bulk to save money.  There are some good price tracker/comparison apps out there, such as Honey and ShopSavvy.  Use an app to get good deals on items that you buy.

  • Save Money on Entertainment and Recreation

Plan to spend time in the city park instead of the amusement park.  You’ll get some great exercise and fresh air.  A stroll in the park can be rejuvenating.  Visit national parks and museums on free days.  If you want to see a movie at the theater, buy discount tickets or go to the movies at off-peak times.  For example, AMC Theaters offer $5Ticket Tuesdays.  Cut cable or satellite TV.  They overcharge; and you probably aren’t watching all the channels they offer in the package.  Try Hulu,  YouTube, Sling, Amazon Prime, or Netflix.  I cut cable a few years ago and got Sling TV.  Now I’m on Hulu TV.  Better than cable or satellite. I pay a lot less per month and still get the channels I enjoy.  My husband loves it because he gets ESPN and other sports channels. The best part is that the money I save is going into my savings.

  • Save for College

If you haven’t started yet. Start saving for college if you or your child will be enrolling.  Start with the minimum monthly contribution and slowly increase as you get a pay raise or contribute your child’s cash gifts into it.  Remember I mentioned using a 529 Savings Plan.  It’s the best way for most of us to save for college.  It grows tax-free and withdrawals are tax-free.  There are no penalties for withdrawals toward qualified educational expenses.  In a previous blog and on my Resources page,I included the College Savings Plans Network link.  Go to the My State’s 529 Plan page to see what your state offers.  What is a 529 Savings Plan?  Click on the link to learn more.

Create your money plan today and save, save, save money! 

Stay tuned for my next blog.  Please share my blog with your friends. 

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Gail Sasao