Saving money consistently is important, because if you don't have funds socked away in a savings account, you'll be likely to accrue debt the next time a major unplanned expense lands in your lap. It doesn't matter whether that expense relates to your home, your car, or your health -- if you don't have savings, you may have no choice but to whip out a credit card to cover it, thereby kickstarting an unhealthy cycle.

Unfortunately, a large number of people aren't saving money on a regular basis, and the reason boils down to a problem faced by nearly 45 million Americans: ongoing student loan payments. In a recent TD Bank survey of adults aged 18 to 39, 20% say they aren't saving any money each month because of their student debt. 

A young man sitting on a couch with his dog and a laptop.

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Given that the average monthly debt payment among those surveyed is a whopping $579, that's not surprising. And for context, the average monthly take-home pay among those surveyed is $2,689, which means student debt eats up over 20% of these workers’ paychecks. Still, if you've been neglecting your savings because of your student loans, it's imperative that you find a way to boost your personal cash reserves -- before the next financial emergency strikes.

Eking out savings

Let's be clear: Saving any amount of money when you're grappling with student loan payments is tough. But if you don't make that effort, you'll risk racking up an even worse kind of debt -- credit card debt. And if you think you're paying a lot of interest on your student loans, you should see what some credit card issuers charge for the privilege of borrowing. 

To start making headway on your savings efforts, map out a detailed budget so you can review your monthly spending and find ways to free up even a small amount of money for savings. Socking away $40 or $50 a month is better than saving nothing at all, and cutting back on a few smaller luxuries, like rideshares or streaming services you can do without, could make that happen. 

You might also consider getting yourself a side job on top of your main one. You can then use the earnings from it to build savings, all the while using your main paycheck to cover your student loan payments. 

At the same time, look into options for making your loan payments more affordable. If you took out federal loans, see about getting on an income-driven repayment plan, at which point your monthly payments will be recalculated as a percentage of your income and, ideally, lowered in the process. 

If you took out private loans, these repayment plans don't exist in an official capacity, but that doesn't mean your lender won't agree to a customized version of one, so reach out and see what you can negotiate. And if that doesn't work, try to refinance your private student debt to a new loan with a lower interest rate, as that will reduce your monthly payments too. 

Difficult as it may be to build savings when you're stuck paying back student loans, you should make that effort to ensure that you're not forced into debt when financial emergencies strike. After all, if you're already struggling with debt, the last thing you need is even more debt hanging over your head and monopolizing even more your income for the long haul.