Nomsa funded her studies and accommodation at the University of Pietermaritzburg with a combination of bursaries and a loan from the Tertiary Education Fund for South Africa (now National Student Fund Aid Scheme).
As soon a she graduated and found work, she started to pay back as much as she possibly could into her student loan to get rid of the debt as quickly as possible. By paying double the minimum repayment, she paid her loan off in less than two years.
Her cousin Bess, who also funded her studies with a combination of bursaries and a loan, paid back the minimum each month for three years. Then, when she received a bonus at work, she decided the best gift she could give herself would be to be debt free, so she paid off the remaining debt with the lump sum, and closed her loan account.
You too can be like Nomsa and Bess! Here are some strategies for not only paying back your student debt quickly but for learning to live debt free as an adult.
Understand exactly how much you owe
It can be easy to think of your debt only in terms of the monthly instalments you have to pay, without truly understanding how much you’ll pay in interest and how long it will take you to pay it back. Find or request all the paperwork relating to your study loan and do the maths – paying specific attention to how much the interest is costing you. If you aren’t sure, ask the credit provider to help you to understand.
Plan to pay back more than you owe
The secret to paying back debt faster is to pay back more than you owe. Remember that your monthly instalment is the minimum you can pay, but if you pay more, you will get out of debt faster and be charged significantly less interest.
This is a particularly valid important point to bear in mind just after you’ve had a raise. Don’t become a victim of so-called “lifestyle creep” – the incremental process of spending more as your income grows. Rather allocate any extra money to paying back your student loan.
Do a budget to help you control your spending
Work out your monthly income and calculate your expenses, including your minimum loan repayment. This will allow you to understand how much you spend each month, what costs you can reduce and how much extra you are able to pay into your student loan.
Learning to create an effective budget and sticking to it is a skill that will serve you well for the rest of your life, so now’s a great time to get into the habit.
Stay with your parents if you can
While living at home might not be practical for some, for many it’s an essential cost-saving solution. You might still pay rent to your parents or help out with the food bill, but you won’t have to furnish or maintain your own place, or take on all the other hidden costs of adulthood. Remember to use the money you are saving to pay back your student loan, not to buy a car or live the high life.
Don’t buy all the best things
Being a grownup with a job and a salary can go to your head. Instead of being sensible, it’s easy to blow your salary on clothes, accessories or appliances. Don’t get caught in the consumerist trap. Get out of debt first, and then buy all the stuff you want so badly. And use public transport instead of buying a car if you possibly can.
Don’t get into any other debt
As soon as you start earning a salary, your bank, loan companies and retailers will all start offering you money, with only one catch – you have to pay it back with interest. Don’t fall into this trap, or you will start a debt cycle that will last you the rest of your life. Pay back your student debt, then save, then spend – in that order.
Find extra work
If you really are struggling to make ends meet, find an after-hours job to fund your debt. Babysit, tutor or sell food at the office – even if you only earn yourself a couple of hundred rand more a month, that’s enough to make a huge difference to your student debt.
Be debt free
The greatest financial gift you can give yourself is to be debt free as soon as possible, and to avoid debt as much as you can for the rest of your life. The first step is getting rid of your student loan, and if you make that an unconditional priority from the moment you start work, you’ll soon see the benefits of living debt free.