We know how hard it can be for military spouses to find work at all – much less work in their area of expertise that can even come close to helping paying well. But when you add student loans to the mix, you can feel like you’re on the brink of disaster. No job means no way to pay those bad boys off. So what should you do?
We asked our pal J.J. Montanaro, a CPA over at USAA, for his advice. He admitted that this isn’t the cheeriest of subjects – debt is such a hard thing and can feel so heavy. But the situation is not hopeless, he said, and there are things you can do to help yourself. Here are his four tips for what to do while you search for the perfect job to help you pay off that debt.
1. Don’t give up. It’s really important that, no matter what, you keep paying your student loans, he said. And while that may mean giving up some other things, keeping up with your loans will help you avoid even bigger trouble. Especially with federal loan debt, he said, allowing your payments to lapse will not only hurt your credit, but can leave with garnished wages.
2. Make a budget. It may sound overly simplistic, but when you’re facing a hill of debt and no way to repay, spelling out where you do spend your money now can help you figure out how to control it – and where you need to cut back in order to make those loan repayments happen. “The first place to start that you can control is your own spending -- take a closer look at that,” Montanaro said.
3. Know your repayment options. Especially when it comes to federal loans, he said, people have a variety of options for how to pay them back. Reading through the federal student loan website can help you understand your options. “There are ways to extend or mitigate what chunk of money is taken out of your cash flow,” he said. “Obviously we all want to get out of debt as soon as possible, but in circumstances like this we can say we are going to do the minimum we have to do.”
4. Be creative. Sure, you don’t want to take a job at Starbucks if you have masters in sociology. But if a seemingly insignificant part time job can help you pay your loans while you look for better full time work, it may just be worth it. If childcare is your problem, think of doing a babysitting swap with another neighborhood family, he said. If your spouse has predictable hours, consider working a night shift while you sort through your other options. None of these are the ideal solution – but they are creative, interim solutions.
Above all, Montanaro said, you should remember that this isn’t a lost cause. “You have something you can count on, you have an income you can plan around, you have resources on the installation where if you’re having trouble making these numbers add up you can call on a third party,” Montanaro said. “Is it a great deal? Heck no. Is it hopeless? No.”
What creative ways have you found for dealing with student debt?