My Student Loan Debt Felt Desperate Until I Made 4 Shocking Changes

  • I owe $94,482 in student loans. My monthly payments are $637.
  • I felt hopeless, but steps like talking about it with other people helped me change my mind.
  • I also used an app that transfers loose change from my bank account to my student loan account.
  • Read more Personal Finance Insider stories.

I owe $94,482 in student loan debt. My monthly private student loan payments alone are $637, and I have no idea how I will handle repayment of the monthly federal loan payments.

I used to feel desperate and embarrassed about my debt, especially since, in addition to the money I took out in my name, my mom obtained additional Parent PLUS loans in your name. Once I started sharing my story more openlyI realized that I am not the only one dealing with this same problem.

No matter how many slices of avocado toast I skip or how many times I cancel my


Netflix

subscription, I still feel that I cannot meet the monthly payments. I check daily for updates student loan forgivenessBut it doesn’t look like large-scale student loan forgiveness is coming any time soon.

To try to change my mindset about how to deal with my student loan debt, I tried to focus on making simple changes that made a big difference.

1. I started talking to more people about my debt

I started bringing it up while out for lunch or coffee with my friends. I started talking to my mom about how I felt about our student loans. I even say the exact numbers out loud, though it feels awkward at first.

Every time I talk about my debt, I expect people to embarrass me and give me unsolicited advice. Instead, I meet a lot of kindness from people who can relate to my story.

Talking about my debt more openly makes me feel like I don’t have to deal with this problem in secret and that I can always ask for help when I need it.

2. I hired a financial planner

I started working with the financial planner Cait Howerton, MBA, AFC, CFPspecializing in LGBTQ+ wealth, in facet wealth. She helped me come up with a debt settlement game plan that works with my lifestyle.

My student loans used to keep me up at night. I once heard a story about a man who lived out of a van for a year just to pay off his student loans quickly. I’m happy for him, but I have zero desire to live in a van.

Fortunately, Howerton kept me grounded. Instead of Googling vans on Craigslist, Howerton asked me what small changes I can make in my everyday life to save $75 a month to channel student loan payments. He suggested having one less snack or drink while I’m out to eat with friends, or pulling a few things out of my shopping cart while I’m shopping.

3. I started putting my spare change on my student loans

I downloaded a free app called Cheerful that allows you to deposit spare change each day directly into your student loan accounts.

Chipper also allows you to view all of your student loans in one place, making it much easier to see what kind of impact you’re making over time as you make payments. Chipper also makes it easy to understand what payment and forgiveness plans are available to you. I can honestly say that I never opened a student loan platform and thought, “Oh, this sounds easy,” so using Chipper was a whole new experience.

To me, it seems like the app was created with the intention of supporting people in the long game of paying off student loans rather than finding some kind of cheat code to make them disappear. That mindset is really refreshing when I hear so many stories about people stressing out to pay off their debt.

I know that putting a few cents into my student loans won’t magically make them go away, but it gives me great peace of mind to feel like I’m taking small steps to become debt free.

4. I notified my student loan provider of my legal name change

As a transgender person, I have to navigate so many bureaucratic hoops that cisgender people don’t have to go through. It’s really time consuming and frustrating, but I keep going because I need to.

My financial planner encouraged me to start changing my legal name on my old accounts. I’m berating myself for not doing this sooner, because it really makes it a lot easier to look at the account now that it has my correct name.

When it comes to my student loans, I’m learning to focus on little things that could improve my experience instead of trying to solve the whole problem all at once. Changing my mindset around my student loans reminds me that my debt doesn’t define me. I can still live a full and happy life even if I have student loans.

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