Folks with kids aren't strangers to the notion of the holiday wish list, but it's not just littles who can dream about the different gifts they're hoping to receive. Many adults have their own list of fantasy gifts, from gadgets to food to travel. But if there's one thing millennials are hoping for this holiday season, it's none other than help with their student loan payments. In fact, 64% of young adults said that a contribution toward an outstanding loan balance would be the greatest gift they could get this year, according to data compiled by Laurel Road.
That sentiment isn't surprising given the number of millennials on the hook for outstanding student debt. Still, waiting for a generous holiday gift isn't the only way to get some student loan relief. Here are some other options to explore, too.
1. Get on an income-based repayment plan
If you financed your education with federal loans, you may have the option to lower them if your income isn't particularly high. You can apply for an income-based repayment plan, where instead of sticking to your existing repayment schedule, you'll make monthly payments that are based on what you earn.
The average young adult aged 20 to 30 is on the hook for a $351 debt payment each month, according to Student Loan Hero. If you're able to lower that amount, you'll have an easier time keeping up with your payments while making progress on some of the other financial goals you might have, like building your emergency fund or saving to buy a home.
2. Refinance your debt
You've probably heard of refinancing a mortgage. Well, the good news is that you can refinance your student debt as well. In doing so, you're essentially swapping your existing loan for a new one, albeit at a lower interest rate.
If you took out private loans for college, refinancing could be a particularly attractive option. With federal loans, interest rates are capped, but private lenders can effectively charge whatever interest they want, making those loans especially expensive to repay. By refinancing, you might lower your monthly payments substantially, especially if your credit is excellent.
3. Defer your loan payments
If lowering your monthly obligations by switching your payment plan or refinancing doesn't do the trick of making your student loans more manageable, you might try hitting pause on them instead. Deferment is an option that's available if you took out federal loans, and it might give you a break from those payments for six months to three years. Of course, the downside is that in deferring your loans, you'll continue to accrue interest on what you owe during the period in which you aren't paying, which might cost you more money down the line. But if money is tight now, it's a good option to look into.
The fact that millennials are wishing for student loan contributions this holiday season speaks to the glaring debt problem that's plaguing our nation as a whole. If you're struggling to keep up with your loans, know that help is available -- you may just need to go out and find it.