Healthcare Education

How To Manage Your Student Loan Debt: A Step-By-Step Guide to Tackling Your Student Loan Payments

In an ideal world, the best way to manage your student loan debt would be to not have any in the first place. But, we live in reality. Nursing school programs can be very expensive, and student loans are sometimes the most effective way to leverage debt for a big income earning potential. 

It’s understood that that student loans are a lot to think about, and there’s a lot to consider before signing on the dotted line. But how can you best manage your debt once your loans have already been disbursed? 

Bri Love FNP-BC, a travel nurse passionate about financial literacy, encourages her followers and fellow nurses to learn more about their own student loans. She recommends that nurses know exactly how much they are paying in interest every month. It’s not enough to just know what the interest rate is, but to specifically know the dollar amount. Love says, “It’s important to know how much interest you are accruing every month and how much of your payment is actually going towards your debt.” 

In partnership with Love, we laid out some easy steps to help you tackle your student loan debt

Know your student loan debt stats

  • You can’t tackle your student loan debt if you don’t know exactly what you owe. Make a list of all your loans (federal and private). Include:
  • Total loan amount
  • Interest rate
  • Fixed or variable
  • Monthly payment and term (when is your last payment if you pay the minimum)

Love suggests listing these by how much interest you pay in dollars–rather than percentages. You can also make the largest overall payment or the smallest to biggest balance. It depends on how you want to prioritize your payoff. 

Make it automatic

When managing your federal loans, there are lots of repayment options. You need to research which fits your specific situation best. The Department of Education is a great resource with tools available to help you review all your options and choose what makes sense for you. There is also a debt simulator to model different repayment plans. Set up autopay once you decide on a student loan repayment plan and have your payment debited monthly. 

There is often an interest rate discount for setting up automatic payments for private loans and for making a certain number of payments on time. Set up your online access, and make your payments automatic, so you never miss one and you can capitalize on those discounts. 

Go the extra mile 

Even a few extra dollars a month towards the principal (the amount you initially borrowed) can make a huge difference in the end. You could pay off your loans years early if you pay even as little as $25 extra every month. 

Beware of loan servicers and banks that try to force you to pay next month’s interest before you can pay down principal. You’re basically paying the bank in advance before lowering your loan balance. You should always have the option to pay additional money towards your principal balance. This is the only way to pay off your debt early. 

Explore your options 

Debt forgiveness programs are notoriously difficult to qualify for and often are extremely rigid in their terms, but you should really take advantage if you can. Read all the fine print and do all your research. Loan forgiveness should be used in a work situation that already aligns with your goals, not you changing your goals for the potential of loan forgiveness. 

Consider taking on a side hustle to pay down your loans faster. Or take Love’s advice and look for higher-paying jobs that have better pay and financial benefits (such as 401ks or tuition reimbursement) to help you achieve your goals. 

Consolidate – conservatively! Love cautions against consolidating all your federal loans into one large private loan. Once all your loans are private, you lose the ability to qualify for any federal programs, like the current pause on minimum payments and interest for federally held loans.

Strategy. Strategy. Strategy.

According to Love, a final piece of advice is “you need to have a strategy. Always have a strategy.” Even if your strategy is to pay the minimum, on time, for each loan, you are taking positive steps towards managing and paying off your student loans. Stay on top of your repayment, and you’ll be debt-free before you know it.

Alison Shely, DNP, FNP-C

Alison Shely, DNP, FNP-C is a nurse practitioner, nurse coach, yoga teacher and nurse writer. She’s been a nurse since 2014, working as an RN and FNP in intensive care, women’s health and primary care. She also serves as a mental health coach to other nurses and healthcare workers concerning healthy lifestyles and mental health.

Comments (2)

Awesome. I would love to see if I qualify for for Loan forgiveness. So I will try to look into that. I am doing travel nursing right now and hopefully that does not disqualify me. Also, I am taking advantage of the student loan pause and currently making my payment which is going towards principal and have been since the pause started. I will also check my balance. Thanks


Wanna be free of student loans


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