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What Should You Do If You Can’t Afford Your Student Loan Payments?

can't afford your student loan payment“Go to college” they said. “Get a degree in something” they said. “Then you’ll find a great job and prosper. Unfortunately, they said nothing about how much is too much when it comes to student loan borrowing. Oh, and they failed to mention the highly competitive job market….So now you’re stuck with a mediocre job and can’t afford your student loan payments…

You’re in a mess, but you don’t want to do something stupid that puts you in an even bigger hole. So what are your options? What should you do if you can’t afford your student loan payments?

What Should You Do If You Can’t Afford Your Student Loan Payments?

First of all, you’re not alone in this. Out of 5 million student loan borrowers that entered the workforce in 2014, nearly 600,000 of them have already defaulted on their loans – that’s over 11%!

The key here isn’t to scuff your feet and wallow in your own self-pity. Instead, how about we come up with a fantastic, feasible solution that will help get you back on your feet and eventually, completely out of debt!!

1) Contact Your Lender

Remember when you were a kid and you did something bad (ie. broken a window, punched the neighbor kid, stole something…)? What did you do? You hid it from your parents of course!!

I feel like, even as adults, we still hide our shortcomings.

When we discover that we can’t pay our bills, our natural reaction is to ignore it and hope the problem will just go away, but of course that’s not going to help the situation! That’s only going to make your lenders mad, they’ll contact you more frequently, and then they’ll stick you with additional charges.

Instead of ignoring your lenders, what would happen if you’d call them instead?

Believe it or not, they often understand your situation and try to work with you. Sometimes they even find programs that will help you reduce the balance of your loan!

2) Cut Your Lifestyle

It should really go without saying, but when you can’t pay your bills you should probably try to live on less… But how can you do that when you already feel like you have no fun and never buy anything outrageously expensive?

Ever hear the phrase, “Death by a thousand cuts?” This is what most people do to their own finances without ever even realizing it.

They get McDonald’s once in a while, they buy the occasional lottery ticket, they find some little things that they “need” from the Dollar Tree. I mean, it’s only $5 here and there…but it all adds up. At the end of the month, that’s $200 that could have gone to your student loan payments.

Related: How Much Should You Spend on That?

The above related link will help you get your budget categories in line, but if you’re absolutely sick of your student loans and want to get rid of them yesterday, then it’s time to get a bit more extreme. Here’s the article you really want to read — 10 Extreme Tips to Cut Your Spending in Half

3) Get Another Job

If you can’t afford your student loan payments, cutting your spending might not be enough. It might be time for you to start looking for a second job!

*Gasp* “A second job?? Really, Derek? I wouldn’t want to become a workaholic…and, I really like hanging out with my friends. Do you think I really need to work another job?”

Well…if you can’t afford your student loan payments, and you’re working less than 50 hours a week at your current job…then yes, I think you should tackle another job.

Think about it. How much does your student loan cost you each month? $300? $500? If your second job was able to cover that payment, everything else you could save during the month would come directly off the principle that you owe on the loan! This would really get your debt snowball moving!!

can't afford your student loan payments - work4) Start Your Own Business

If you really want to tackle your student loan payments, but you can’t find a second job that’s worth your time or efforts, you might want to consider starting your own side hustle!

You could:

  • mow lawns
  • clean houses
  • babysit/nanny
  • walk dogs/pet sit
  • paint
  • cut hair…

…the possibilities are endless!! So get started with something on the cheap and turn it into something HUGE!

Related: 50+ High-Paying Side Hustles for Single Moms (or anyone for that matter!)


Did you notice that my first four recommendations pretty much had nothing to do with altering your student loans in any way? There’s a reason for that.

I’m a big believer in taking control of your own destiny, and not sitting back while muttering, “This government just isn’t taking care of me.” Because you know what? It wasn’t the government that got you deeply into debt. That was you, Mr. I’m-Going-to-Major-In-Psychology-and-Make-Millions-Someday. It was your decisions that got you into this mess, so you’re the absolute best method to get yourself out.

This is why I first recommend cutting your lifestyle and working yourself to the bone before hopping on the phone, talking to one representative and feel like you did something…

Alright…I think I got that out of my system, so let’s move on to some additional options that you may have when it comes to your student loans.

5) Set Up an Income Driven Repayment Plan

After you graduate from college, the first student loan repayment bill you receive is based on a 10-year repayment plan. If you took out quite a few loans in college (likely more than you thought you had), this number might look less like a student loan and more like a house payment!

If this is your situation and you’re having trouble footing the bill, you might want to alter that payment amount.

Believe it or not, this can be done pretty simply. Just call up your lender and ask about the IDR (Income Driven Repayment) plan.

  • The payment will be no more than 15% of your discretionary income
  • The terms will be reset to 25 years
  • And, if you still have a balance at that 25 year mark, your loan will be forgiven

If you took out loans after July, 2014, your loan payment will not exceed 10% of your income and your loan term will be just 20 years.

These are pretty cool programs, but make sure they don’t dictate your future earnings. In other words, don’t keep a small salary just so you can have small student loan payments. It’s better to earn $100,000 a year and pay $10,000 in student loans than earn $30,000 and pay $3,000. Instead, use these programs to get through your current situation, then start kicking butt on your income as soon as possible so that you can get rid of all your loans in just a couple of years instead of 20!

6) Deferment or Forbearance

I remember when we got our first student loan bill in the mail. It was just $75, but it absolutely freaked me out!


Because I had just recently discovered that we were going backwards financially… and this was obviously NOT helping that problem.

So, I immediately called the loan agency and asked them what I could do. They suggested that I put the loan on a 3-month deferment and that hopefully my wife would find a job during that time so that we could start making ends meet again.

Sure enough…

  • she found a job,
  • we started banking money again, and
  • we were able to start making those student loan payments without a problem.

If you find yourself in this type of situation where you just can’t seem to make the payment in the short-term, then a deferment or forbearance might be the right solution for you. Keep in mind though that even though you don’t owe any payments, your interest will still accrue and actually grow your student debt while you’re not paying. So, be sure to start making those payments again whenever possible!

7) Try Docupop

If you’re like most, you probably have about 16 different student loans. So not only is your total payment overwhelming you each month, so is the quantity of bills that you need to manage! Docupop is a pretty cool company that can help you with all that.

As they describe on their site,

“Docupop helps you review and apply for consolidation of your federal student loan debt. Our proven process guarantees document accuracy to find you the programs, benefits and forgiveness options you may qualify for. In just three easy steps, our verified algorithms analyze your data to match you with the right plan to fit your needs.”

Impressive, right?

There are a ton of programs out there, and they can be difficult to sort through a manage. Docupop makes it easy (case and point, check out the dashboard below).

can't make your student loan paymentsHere’s their 3-step process:

  1. Organize your student loan debt
  2. Qualify and pick your repayment plan
  3. And file!

That’s it.

8) Look Into Student Loan Bankruptcy Discharge

I’ve heard it all my life, “student loans aren’t bankruptable”. In other words, you can file for bankruptcy and get your personal loans, your car loans, and your credit cards forgiven…but your student loans will still remain.

Well…turns out this isn’t entirely true.

According to U.S. News, in times of extreme hardship, both federal and private student loans can be forgiven in bankruptcy.

To do so, you must prove three things:

  1. You can’t maintain a minimal standard of living for yourself and your dependents based on your current income and expenses.
  2. Your financial situation isn’t likely to change during your loan’s term.
  3. You’ve made good faith efforts to repay the loan.

It certainly isn’t easy to make student loans go away, so it’s best to try everything else under the sun to get them paid off. But, if you have absolutely nowhere else to turn, then this might be the option for you.

Can’t Afford Your Student Loan Payments? Do Something…Anything…

If you can’t afford your student loan payments….just do something. In fact, do anything! Pick one of the options above or go crazy and do them all, but you’ve got to do something to get out of your current situation.

So what are you going to do? What options sound the best to you? Be sure to comment below, both to commit to your choice and to inspire those that are going to read this after you! You absolutely CAN get out of student loan debt, and today is just day one of your future financial success story!

Can’t afford your student loan payments? It’s time to draw a line in the sand and make a change!

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My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

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