THE BLOG
01/08/2014 06:26 pm ET | Updated Mar 10, 2014

Student Loans Got You Down? 5 Tips to Make Them More Affordable

Dealing with students loans can be stressful -- even overwhelming. Here are a few tips to minimizing how much you pay and keeping your debt manageable.

If you're still taking out loans:

1. Max out federal loans before using any private loans.

Federal loans offer significantly more consumer-friendly terms than private loans, not to mention better protections in repayment. Always max out your federal loan options before dipping into private loans. Check out your federal loan options here.

If you're paying off your loans:

2. Pay down your principle.

Much of your monthly payment will go to paying off the interest on your loan. You can actually reduce the amount of interest you pay over the life of the loan (and save money) by paying down the principal of the loan. If you can pay more than your monthly payment, pay down principal by adding a written note with your payment specifying that the surplus should be applied to your principal. Check out more information on paying more than your monthly requirement here.

3. Check out programs like public service loan forgiveness to see if you're eligible.

There are eight different federal loan forgiveness programs. Recently, the CFPB found that 33 million Americans may be eligible for public service loan forgiveness, which offers forgiveness of federal loans for anyone employed in a public service job for at least 10 years. Loan forgiveness can help lift your debt burden down the road, but you should consider applying as soon as possible. You can read more about loan forgiveness on my blog here.

If you're struggling to repay:

4. Enroll in income-based repayment (IBR) if your payments are too high to manage.

Federal student loan borrowers who are struggling to make their loan payments are eligible to enroll in an income-based repayment plan. Through this plan, your monthly payments are capped at 15 percent of your income. Generally, it will take longer to pay your loans off, but your month-to-month bill won't break the bank or leave you on the street. Other similar programs are available that can lower your payment further. IBR is an important safety net -- you can read more about it and programs like it here.

5. If you're already in default, you can get yourself out through loan rehabilitation.

Default isn't the end. The good news is that rehabilitating your federal loans will remove any default notation on your credit report. Successfully bringing a loan out of default requires a phone call and (typically) nine consecutive payments. The payments have to be reasonable -- generally based on your financial situation. The rehabilitation process will remove any default notation on your credit report. You can read more about rehabilitation here.

Check out www.uspirg.org for more info.

Content concerning financial matters is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in making financial decisions.