9 Things No One Told You About Adulting with Student Loan Debt

By Katie Taylor Updated on May 13, 2019

You knew exactly what life was going to look like when you graduated. You’d get a sweet job, a sick apartment, and a regular spot at a trendy bar where you’d debrief with your quirky coworkers. You’d spend your weekends brunching and staying out late watching your favorite bands perform.

But then reality hit.


Maybe that sweet job is actually an internship with a minimal stipend. Maybe your apartment is the size of a large closet, or you’re sleeping on a mattress on the floor, and the balance in your bank account is looking … well, small.

All that cash you thought you’d have is going to rent, groceries, and health insurance—and a hefty student loan payment.

Turns out adulting is hard. And adulting with student loans is even harder. But you have to admit, whether you like it or not, you’re learning lessons that’ll probably serve you for years to come.

1. You have to budget

With more than a few bills to cover and a salary that doesn’t leave much leeway, the days of just winging it with your finances are over.

The consequences of getting to the end of the month and not having enough in your bank account are simply too dire. That doesn’t mean you never get to splurge—you just need to do so carefully.

2. You can’t quit your job just because you want to

No matter how many fantasies you have about storming out of the office after your boss takes credit for your hard work yet again, you know your loan payments won’t stop just because your paycheck does.

The good news? You’re cultivating a skill—sticking with the hard things—that you’ll use for the rest of your life.

3. You actually like generic better than name brands

Perhaps it’s knowing that with each mouthful of Fruity O’s, you’re saving a few dollars, but you’re finding yourself drawn to those store brands you gave the cold shoulder just a few years ago.

Saving money never tasted so delicious.

4. You won’t be having nightly cocktails out with your pals

The 20-somethings on TV are always sharing their troubles over a beer at their favorite local bar. But you never hear them talking about student loans, do you?

After a few nights out on the town, your bank account probably shows some signs of fatigue. Inviting folks over for make-your-own margaritas is a much less expensive way to bond.

New call-to-action5. You’re really good at finding free activities

Back in school, there was always a free speaker series or concert, along with plenty of spaces to hang out where you didn’t have to buy anything.

Being a non-student can seem unbearably expensive, but if you keep an eye out you can find plenty of free activities—community yoga classes, donation-only concerts, and interesting talks at your local library.

Be sure to ask about under-35 discounts at theaters and galleries too.

6. Your treadmill days are over—for now

You didn’t realize what a great deal you were getting on that gym membership with your tuition. Now you have to pay $100 a month to sweat your guts out the one time a week you actually make it there. Twenty-five bucks a session? No thank you.

Maybe you’ve been looking for an inexpensive way to catch up with your friends. A weekly running date outside kills two birds with one stone.

7. You might want to hold off on that new pet

All those fantasies about a puppy greeting you at the door when you get home from the office? Adorable … but probably more expensive that you think.

Even if you cut costs by getting an animal from a shelter, regular vet visits—and the inevitable middle-of-the-night trip to the emergency vet—don’t come cheap.

Stick with cute cat videos. Or better yet, get your fix while you make a little extra money pet sitting.

8. You’re an expert at finding things on Craigslist—or the side of the road

Furnishing a new apartment is expensive—even at Ikea prices. But you’ll save some cash once you realize everything you need is just a Craigslist search away.

And there’s no shame in grabbing that bookcase with a “Free” sign you passed on your way to work. In fact, every time you look at it, you’ll glow with pride remembering how you got it without spending a cent.

9. You’ll make it through

Managing your student debt can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying life.

In fact, some studies show that dealing with adversity may make you more creative. So you might even have some new skills—or a new way of looking at the world—to show for it.

If you feel like you’re buckling under the weight of your student loans, learn how to lower your payments.

About the Author
Katie Taylor

Katie Taylor is a content writer and editor with expertise in law and policy, finance, and entrepreneurship. She writes for startups and small businesses about everything from bookkeeping to telecom. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post and SheKnows.com. She is continuing to pay off law school loans and lives in Richmond, Vermont with her wife, son, and an unruly dog. Read more by Katie Taylor

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#1 - Nitro Recommended View More Details

Special offers for medical resident and fellow refinance products

  • Fixed rates: 2.30% - 6.25% APR
  • Variable rates: 1.74% - 6.15% APR
  • Minimum credit: 650
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Visit Splash View Loan Disclosure

Splash Financial is a leader in student loan refinancing with new rates as low as 2.30% fixed APR which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Splash Financial is in all 50 states and is intensely focused on customer service. Splash Financial is also one of the few companies that offers a great medical resident and fellow refinance product. You can check your rate with Splash in just minutes.

  • Low interest rates – especially for graduate students
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  • Specialty product for doctors in training with low monthly payment

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#2 View More Details

Customers have saved an average of $2,664* a year from switching their loan to Citizens.

  • Fixed rates: 2.44% - 7.83% APR1
  • Variable rates: 1.99% - 7.58% APR1
  • Average Monthly Savings: $222
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Citizens is honored to be named a Best Student Loan Refinance Company 2021-2022 by U.S. News & World Report.

  • Additional Discounts: Reduce your interest rate up to 0.50 percentage points when you refinance or consolidate your student loans with a Loyalty* and Automatic Payment Discount.*
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  • Cosigner release: After 24 to 36 months
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Ability to apply for cosigner release after 24 consecutive payments. 

View More Details
Visit NelNetBank View Loan Disclosure

Give Your Life’s Journey a Jump-Start.

If you’re ready to put student loans in your rearview mirror, Nelnet Bank student loan refinancing offers low rates and flexible terms to help you start getting ahead.

  • VARIABLE RATES: 1.87% - 6.52% APR See Disclaimer
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See How Much You Can Save: Estimate your savings with a student loan refinance from Nelnet Bank.

#4 View More Details

For every loan they fund, they contribute to the education of a child in need

  • Fixed rates: 2.83% - 6.74% APR
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  • Minimum credit: 660
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Visit CommonBond View Loan Disclosure

CommonBond was founded in 2011 by three MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who wanted to help their peers escape from high-interest student loan debt. Its original focus was on grad students, but it has since expanded to cover undergrads as well.

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  • Unemployment protections - If you lose your job or decide to go back to school, you can delay your payments for up to 24 months.
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SoFi is the leading student loan refinancing provider. 

  • Fixed rates: 2.49% - 6.94% APR
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  • Minimum credit: 650
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$30 billion+ in refinanced student loans. SoFi has some of the lowest interest rates and, unlike the other lenders we reviewed, there's no maximum on the amount you can finance. Some state restrictions may apply.

  • Serious savings: Save thousands of dollars thanks to flexible terms and low fixed or variable rates.
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Save thousands on your student loans and pay off your loans sooner. Find your rate.

#6 View More Details

Works with 300+ community lenders for higher approval chances

  • Fixed rates: 2.49% - 7.75% APR
  • Variable rates: 1.90% - 5.25% APR
  • Minimum credit: 660
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Visit LendKey View Loan Disclosure

Connecting student borrowers to a network of over 300 community lenders with low interest rates. By partnering with these lenders, LendKey is able to give consumers direct access to the best rates available from the most borrower friendly institutions. As the servicer of all loans obtained through its platform, you can rest easy knowing your personal information will be safe and that the best customer service team will be ready to answer your questions from application until your final payment.

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Best for borrowers who want to customize their repayment schedule to pay off debt fast.

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Visit Earnest View Loan Disclosure

Using technology, data, and design to build affordable products, Earnest's lending products are built for a new generation seeking to reach life's milestones. The company understands every applicant's unique financial story to offer the lowest possible rates and radically flexible loan options for living life.

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11 different loan term options – more flexibility to pay down your loan faster

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College Ave Student Loans offers major help and minor stress. We’ll help guide you through the process to find the right loan term and interest rate for you and the family budget.

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I reduced my student loan payment by $152 per month, by refinancing thru Nitro:

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