Aspiration & Struggle

Unemployed, but Burdened With Student Loan Repayment: Now What?

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You’ve graduated from college and still can’t seem to find a job. And now, that grace period for your student loan repayments are about to expire. What should you do? This is the question running through the minds of many recent grads. About 4.6 million Millennials were unemployed in 2014, according to MarketWatch. Many of these Gen Yers finished a four-year degree or graduate school, only to come up empty-handed in their job search.

If you’re in this category, how can you begin student loan repayment while you’re unemployed? Here are are four tips to help dig you out of debt.

1: Think Holistically

Don’t single out your student loans as a target. You have a wide variety of inescapable bills, from insurance to utilities. Student loans are one slice of the pie, and depending on your monthly payment, they may not even be the largest slice. If your loan payments add up to $300 per month, for example, but your rent, utilities, groceries, gas, and insurance premiums total $1,800 per month, you clearly have a good amount of budgeting and tough cost-cutting decisions to make. Look at the bigger picture and separate your monthly bills accordingly.

2: Chop Your Rent

Rent is the single biggest expense that you’ll incur at this point in your life (barring exceptions, such as medical costs). Chop your rent to the smallest number possible. At one extreme, this could involve moving back to your parents’ house where you’ll enjoy free or cheap rent (and perhaps free utilities and groceries) while you’re saving money to launch your adult life. In many countries across the globe, living with your parents as an adult is a common practice, so don’t be afraid or ashamed to explore this option.

If that’s not feasible, consider bringing in a few roommates to split your housing costs. The cost per bedroom on a four-bedroom unit, split four ways, is often drastically cheaper than the cost of a one-bedroom unit. That’s usually because the overhead (living room, kitchen, and other common quarters) is split among multiple people. Furthermore, four people don’t use 400 percent more electricity than one person—the additional cost is marginal—meaning that living with roommates should also drastically drop your utilities bills.

3: Get a Stopgap Job

You might be holding out for your dream job, a professional role within your field of study that commands a salary, benefits, and a retirement package. That ambition is great. But until you’re able to land one of those coveted jobs, swallow your pride and make a practical decision: Get a temporary stopgap job. Tutor or babysit children, serve tables, bartend, lifeguard, mow lawns, shovel snow, fold clothes, ring a cash register, or drive cars for Uber or Lyft.

You won’t need to list this work on your resume. It’s simply there to help you earn some extra pocket money that can help you cover fixed bills.

4: Trim Other Bills

Look for bills that you can cut. Do you really need cable TV, or can you live with a Netflix subscription? Do you still need those magazine subscriptions? What about your gym membership? Trimming your bills may also mean riding the bus or cutting down on your cell phone minutes each month.

Once you get creative with your bills and secure a temporary job to cover them, you’ll start finding ways to save hundreds each month—and you won’t have to worry so much about student loan repayment.

Paula Pant is the founder of award-winning website AffordAnything.com and a journalist and blogger specializing in personal finance, real estate and lifestyle design. She has been featured more than three dozen publications, including Forbes, DailyFinance, Marketplace Money, Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, and many more.