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Your Summer Financial To-Do List

summer college loan money to-do listInstead of taking a gas-guzzling road trip this summer, why not get on the road to getting out of debt? Higher education is a wise investment, but it can still be scary to face a mountain of student loans. That's why Sallie Mae -- a leading saving, planning, and paying-for-college company -- is offering a financial checklist to help you get on the right track. Check these items off your list this summer and you'll be well on your way to a debt-free destination.

Keep in touch.
If you want to stay in the know about what you owe, you need to find out whom to contact about your loans, and they need to know how to contact you. So whenever you change your address, phone number, or e-mail address, let your loan officer know. This is especially important to keep in mind in the post-college transition time when you may be moving from place to place.

Be proactive about payments.
If you're making your loan payments with ease, consider increasing the amount of your payments so you can lower the overall cost of your education and get out of debt quicker. Just check with your loan officer first to make sure you will not be penalized for early payment. On the flipside, if you're struggling to make your payments, call your loan officer right away, as other payment options may be available.

Mark the deadlines.
Many student loans provide a grace or separation period after which you must begin making payments. On Federal Stafford Loans, for example, the grace period ends six months after graduation. For some loans, like the Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan, you make interest payments while you're still in school, which helps you establish the habit of making monthly loan payments and enables you to graduate with lower debt than if interest had accrued while you were in school.

Research rewards.
Some student loans allow you to pay down debt through programs like Upromise, a national college savings service. Sallie Mae even offers a reward program for every on-time payment you make. Do a little research and take advantage of all the free money you can get. Even if the amount seems insignificant, it's that much less to pay out of your own pocket.

Make a budget.
Trust us - budgeting doesn't have to be a nightmare. Many sites, including Sallie Mae, provide free worksheets to get you started. And when you see your debt in black and white - student loans, car loans, credit card balances, etc. - you'll get a better idea of how much you can responsibly spend and how you can pay down your highest interest rate debt fastest.

Save your pennies.
Maybe it seems impossible when you have loans and other debt hanging over your head, but you can save a little money here and there. And when you put that money into a savings account, it will accrue interest, which is basically free money. Do some real-world homework to determine which banks offer the best interest rates. If it's too difficult to commit to saving after you've paid the bills, try setting up an automatic savings plan so the money is pulled directly into your account before you even see it.

With some smart strategizing, you can pay off your student loans and manage your money effectively. And who knows? Maybe you'll save enough to take that road trip after all.


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