The conversation I have about debt, specifically student loans, becomes a serious concern amoung young individuals who want to start saving whether that be for their first house, car, cottage, or even retirement.

"How much should I save if I'm still paying off my student loan? Should I pay a large portion of my student debt now if I have the money? Should I be saving at all if I haven't paid off my student loan?"

All fair questions, but to answer all of these in two words; it depends.

A recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 50% of recent college graduate have student loans, with an average student loan debt of $10,000. The average cost of college increases at twice the rate of inflation. With the rising costs of post-secondary, it is difficult for aspiring college students to get enough scholarships and grants to pay for tuition and basic necessities. More and more college students are forced to use credit cards to pay for basic essentials such as books and school supplies. According to the United Marketing Service (UCMS), the average number of credit cards per student is 2.8.

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Here are 7 helpful tips that could help you pay off student loan debt: 

1. Develop a plan.

Develop a plan to pay off your student loan debt before you graduate. If you have already graduated and do not have a plan, this becomes especially important now that you are paying back the loan since there are many ways that you could help yourself by saving money on interest. Do yourself a favour and develop a plan or reach out to a financial advisor to help you make one customized to your situation.

2. Save your money.

Each summer throughout your college education, get a job or internship. Save half the money in a savings account. After a few months, consult a financial advisor to earn the highest possible return on your money. After college, you can use the money saved during all 4 years to pay down your college debt.

3. Use caution with consolidation.

Consolidating student loans combines your loans into one payment but may or may not provide you with a lower interest rate. Do extensive research before consolidating your student loans. In addition, you may not be eligible for various student loan forgiveness programs if you consolidate your student loans.

4. Get a work-study job.

To help pay for the costs of college get a work-study job on campus to help defray the cost of college. Go to your campus employee office to ask about their work-study program. Work study jobs pay at least the minimum wage, but they could offer discounts that you can use.

5. Apply for lots of scholarships.

In recent years, money has been reduced from the budget for college scholarships so it is harder to get funding. You can increase your chances of getting a scholarship by completing as many applications as you can. If you complete at least 50 you should receive at least 5 scholarships. If you are currently enrolled in post-secondary, go to your campus financial aid office and ask about financial aid programs that the schools provide to students. Become friendly with the financial aid office employees who will alert you to financial aid programs when they become available. You can also search the internet for scholarships as there are many websites that will provide you with lists of available

6. Apply for grants.

Apply for as many grants and scholarships as possible. You can also apply for government grants that can help bring down your federal or provincial student debt balance.

7. Protect your credit.

Try to avoid making late payments on your student loans. If you do, the late payment will be reported on your credit report and can remain for up to seven years. If you are having financial hardship call the student loan company and inform them of your situation, ask for a hardship or loan deferment to ensure your credit is not damaged until you are able to start making payments again.