Student Loan Consolidation – 3 Ways You Can Save Money by Consolidating Your Debt

Are you struggling to make your monthly payments on a mountain of student loans?

Maybe you’re not struggling to make ends meet, but you just know you’re wasting money on the loans you currently have.

Either way, student loan consolidation is one of the best ways that you can work towards financial security, independence and freedom.

By the time you’ve finished reading this article you’ll know:

How You can Save Money By Consolidating Your Loans
What Type of Loan Will Save You the Most Money
How to Find the Best Deal on a New Loan

Sounds pretty good, right?

“What is Student Loan Consolidation? That Sounds Like Foreign Gibberish to Me!”

Basically, any loan consolidation is defined as using a single big loan to pay off multiple smaller loans. The benefits of loan consolidation are many, but here are a couple of the most notable ones:

Save money with a Lower Interest Rate loan
Save money with a Longer Repayment Period loan
Save yourself a headache by consolidating your monthly paperwork

Obviously, you can see that in the right circumstances consolidating your loans is probably the very best thing that you can do for your finances. Below I’ll tell you what type of loan is best for your situation.

“How Can I Save the Most Money with Student Loan Consolidation?”

What loan is best for you?

Most fresh college grads have absolutely terrible credit. It’s just a fact of life that in college you’re poor and bad at handling money. But you don’t worry about it! Because soon you find a good job and start to rebuild your credit.

– Private Loans –

If you’re already graduated and you have a solid income and you’re NOT living paycheck to paycheck, then you should consider Private Student Loan Consolidation.

Basically, this is where you take out a loan with a private lender to pay off all of your federal loans. The benefits of a private loan are numerous, but really it just comes down to what kind of deal you can find. Many private lenders will even work with you to build a custom loan to meet your needs!

However, there is a downside: A private lender won’t touch you with a 10 ft. pole unless you have good credit.

– Fixed Rate Loans –

If you’re having trouble paying off your debt due to an extremely high interest rate on at least 1 or 2 of your current loans, then consolidating to a Fixed Rate loan can totally fix your problems.

With a fixed interest rate you don’t have to worry about your monthly payments sky rocketing in the future…You pick an amount that you can handle paying on a monthly basis, and find a Fixed rate loan to meet your needs.

Note: In order to do this you’ll have to figure out the weighted average interest rate of all of your loans. Basically this will let you see what your average interest rate is currently, so that you can find a better deal elsewhere.

– Talk To Your Current Lenders –

If you’re really hankering to get out of debt and consolidate your loans, you shouldn’t just rush off to find a brand new lender right away.

Many times if you contact your lenders you can get a better interest rate or restructure your loans. This is especially true if you’ve strengthened your credit substantially since taking out the education loan.

Who knows, you might even be able to consolidate all of your loans into one of your current lenders…Wouldn’t that save you a lot of time!

It’s Okay to Still Have Questions…

As you can see, student loan consolidation is one of the best ways to get out of debt and ensure your financial security for the remainder of your repayment period, however, you do have to kind of know what you’re doing.

The Pros and Cons of Private Student Loans

College students are often cautioned to avoid private loans unless absolutely necessary, urged instead to take advantage of all other financial aid options first.

The advice is sound. Generally speaking, private student loans, which are offered by banks, credit unions, and other private lenders, don’t offer the same level of borrower protections and benefits that government college loans do.

As a student, you should seek out grants and scholarships first — money for college that you won’t have to repay — before taking on college loan debt. Then, if you’re still going to need college loans, you should, in general, make sure you’ve maximized all your available government loans before you consider taking out a private student loan.

Interest Rates & Repayment Options

Federal education loans have fixed interest rates and more flexible repayment terms than private loans. The Department of Education offers income-based repayment options that keep your monthly payments at a figure you can afford, repayment extensions to give you more time to repay, and loan deferments and forbearances that can temporarily postpone your college loan payments if you’re facing financial hardship.

If you go to work in the public sector, you may also be eligible for the discharge of some or all of your government loan debts.

With private student loans, on the other hand, your interest rate is almost always variable, and private lenders aren’t required to provide the kind of repayment flexibility that comes standard on federal college loans.

The current foreclosure crisis that began mushrooming, in part, because of adjustable-rate mortgages should be enough to make anyone leery of adjustable-rate loans on anything.

But it’s worth keeping in mind that when interest rates are low, as they are now, adjustable-rate private student loans can have a lower interest rate than their fixed-rate federal counterparts.

If you have excellent credit, or if you have a parent or co-signer with excellent credit, you may qualify for the lowest-rate private college loans, which currently carry interest rates that are as much as 3-percent to 6-percent lower than the rates on federal student and parent loans.

Interest rates are destined to rise as the economy continues to recover from the recession, so private loan rates won’t always be this low, but if you or your parents are in a position to pay that private student loan off relatively quickly, you may be able to save money over a government-issued college loan.

Covering Your College Costs

So why take out a private student loan at all?

Private student loans are meant to “fill the gap” in college funding that may be left after you reach your federal student borrowing limits. In many cases, families find that scholarships and federal financial aid simply aren’t enough to cover the rising cost of college.

Without private student loans, you may not be able to pay for college or continue your studies.

Statistically, college graduates have a better chance of being gainfully employed than non-graduates do, and college graduates, on average, earn more money in their jobs than workers who don’t have a college degree. For you as a college student, better job and salary prospects may make the burden of a reasonable amount of private student loans easier to bear.

Working With Private Student Loan Lenders

College loan companies aren’t deaf to the economic realities that college graduates are facing. Recently, some of the largest private student loan lenders have instituted new guidelines for the repayment and forgiveness of college loan debt.

Wells Fargo and Sallie Mae, for example, both announced this year that they would begin discharging private student loans upon the death of the borrower. Beforehand, that debt was being left to the co-signer to repay.

And as the recession and large swaths of unemployment among recent college graduates has led to higher rates of delinquency and default on college loans, some private lenders have shown a slight uptick in their willingness to work out modified repayment plans with troubled borrowers who are unable to repay their private student loans.

Being a Smart Student Borrower

For students who must turn to private education loans, it pays to shop around. Interest rates are always important, but they aren’t the only factor worth considering. Repayment policies, payment deferral options, default and late-payments penalties, interest-rate caps, and other terms may give some private student loan programs a clear advantage over others.

Always be mindful of the total amount of your debt from all sources, school loans and otherwise, and aim to limit your reliance on college loans, both federal and private.