Getting a medical degree can lead to a very rewarding career, but it can also leave you in debt that feels overwhelming to pay off. It is not uncommon to have thousands of dollars of debt by the time you graduate. The good news is there are ways of managing the debt so it feels less overwhelming. If your student loans are threatening to drown you, there are several ways you can make repayment easier.

Look to Refinancing

Interest rates on your debt can be a huge pain point, and these types of loans already tend to have higher interest rates than undergraduate ones do. Rising interest rates aren’t helping, especially if you have a variable interest loan. Because of the high-interest rates and balances, you can often save quite a bit by choosing to refinance. Choosing to refinance student loans with NaviRefi also ensures you have a payment plan in place, which can be valuable in itself.

Don’t Make Any Major Lifestyle Changes

Even if you land a high-paying job after graduation, one way to save money while studying medicine, and then practicing it, is don’t switch up your spending to match your new income. Continuing to live like you are poor will free up funds to make extra payments, allowing you to pay them off sooner. You will need to keep your spending and living expenses low, even if your salary increases. It is easier to continue to live as if you were a resident than to increase your spending and then have to cut back. Your expenses will be a much smaller portion of your income, which allows you to put more toward your student loans. This might take a few years, so have a budget so you can evaluate your spending each month. This prevents lifestyle creep as well.

Consider Taking Advantage of a Signing Bonus

Sometimes, signing bonuses are offered to bring new doctors into practice. They are relatively common, and you could receive thousands of dollars as your bonus. If you can land a position with one of these bonuses, it could help you get rid of a chunk of your student loans. Doing so can save you money on interest since the repayment period will be shorter. Even after getting a signing bonus, there could be additional income in the future as well. You might get tax refunds, raises, performance bonuses, or other surprise income, which can all be applied to what you owe. Employing this strategy on a consistent basis can help you eliminate your student loans.

Start Making Payments as a Resident

It is common for recent medical grads to defer their loans while they are a resident. This essentially pauses your repayments. However, that doesn’t mean interest won’t still accrue, and this can cause the total balance to increase. Once the period of deferment ends, you will have to pay even more. While you might not be as stressed about money if you choose to defer now, it could end up costing you later on. Choosing to defer now can negatively affect you later, even if your income increases. It is a good idea to avoid doing so.

Still, if you aren’t earning a lot of money while in residency, you may need to find some other way of making ends meet to cover living expenses. That way, you won’t default on your loans. If you absolutely must defer payments, consider taking care of at least some of the interest. This prevents the balance from going up so much until you are able to complete the residency. You might look for additional sources of income in the meantime, such as freelance work or reselling products online.

Consider Increasing the Number of Payments

If you have federal student loans, you might be enrolled in a 10-year plan. However, this can be a long time to be making payments, so you may want to get it taken care of as soon as possible. Even if you only put a few hundred dollars more toward it each month, you might be able to finish a few years ahead of time. You will want to research the potential impact to your credit score, however. Paying off debt faster could reduce the diverse kinds of debt in your mix of credit. Having more types of debt, such as auto loans, mortgages, or credit cards, can show your ability to handle the different kinds of debt. Still, there are other ways to increase your credit score, and the potential benefits of early repayments can outweigh the negative side of things.