Monday, May 23, 2011

How to survive with student loans

I graduated with $100,000 in student loan debt.
I have many peers who are in the same boat.
I still save money each month.
They do too.

It is possible to put money away on even an average income and even with monstrous monthly student loan payments.

The secret? Add your student loan payment into your “housing” or “fixed costs” budget. (Fixed costs not only include housing, but also a car payment, if applicable, as well as health insurance, your cell phone bill, and basic food staples – basically anything you wouldn’t be able to get away with foregoing for a month. Personal finance experts dictate all of your fixed costs together should total less than 50% of your take-home pay.)

If your take-home pay is $3,000, roughly $1,000 (one third) could be, according to personal finance rules, allocating to your rent.
If your student loans are $400, find an apartment that’s $600.
No one-bedrooms at that market rate? Probably not.
So then you find roommates.

When I first graduated, my student loans and rent combined did indeed tip the scale just a smidge beyond 1/3 of my modest "first-year-out-of-school" income. A year and a half later, though, the total for both is just under it. Because I budgeted rent against the student loans - and withheld from buying a car - writing the check for my student loans each month has never felt particularly painful.    

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