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Spring break is a time that college students look forward to all winter. It’s your chance to escape the rigors of the classroom and relax on a warm beach or other exciting destination. Although spring break can be fun, the costs associated can add up quickly. With a little planning and preparation, you can enjoy a week away from studying without emptying your bank account. Use these five planning tips for a successful spring break.

1. Set Your Budget

The best thing you can do is plan your spring break trip a few months in advance. This will not only give you ample time to get everything organized, but you’ll have more time to save and plan for your trip. Determine what your budget is and let that guide you’re planning. Then, take the time to research destinations and estimate the costs for each option. Transportation and lodging will likely make up the bulk of your cost, but don’t underestimate your other expenses during your trip. You may find that some trips are just too expensive based on your resources and budget.

2. Split the Bill

If you’re driving to your destination, ride with friends and split the cost of fuel. Additionally, you may be able to save on hotel costs by sharing a room with friends. Those extra savings can go a long way and will give you more funds for other activities during your trip.

3. Borrow – Don’t Buy

Create a packing list and figure out if there are items you don’t have but know you will need. It’s a pretty safe bet that buying something will be more expensive at your destination. Try to borrow anything you might need from friends or family, especially if it’s an item you’re unlikely to use after the trip. Try your best to anticipate everything you’ll need during your trip and pack accordingly.

4. Find Fun Closer to Home

Although it sounds great to take a big trip somewhere far away, you can have just as much fun trying new things closer to home. Remember, the entire purpose of spring break is to take a break from studying, relax, and enjoy yourself. Sometimes, that might simply be going home to see family and friends. And the best part of that kind of spring break is you won’t have to spend much money at all! Check out tourist destinations in your current city to explore new activities. You’d be surprised at how many things are nearby that you may have overlooked previously. Get creative and enjoy yourself.

5. Pay as You Go

Ideally, you want to be able to pay for your spring break trip with savings and not use high interest rate credit cards or even student loans to fund your adventure. Again, try to set a budget for your trip and then keep your spending within your budget. Don’t be tempted into spending more than you have or feel pressured into trying to keep up with someone else’s crazy spending sprees. Spring break can create memories that last a lifetime, but you don’t want create a financial burden that lasts a lifetime either!

Enjoy your spring break and the time away from your classes. Remember to be safe and protect yourself and your belongings while traveling. A little planning and budgeting will help you have a great time and feel good about your finances when you return.

Considering paying off your student loan debt with your tax return or just a lump sum of money? There can be more to larger payments than meets the eye. Follow these steps to learn how to make the most of your lump sum payment.

1. Make a List

Knowing which loans you want to pay off first will help you get the most bang for your buck. Make a list of all of your federal and private student loans, the balances, and the interest rates. Then, based on your goals, weigh your options. You could put your lump sum payment toward your highest interest rate loans, or pay off your low-balance loans first. Paying off your highest interest rate loans reduces the amount of interest you pay. It also saves you money over the life of the loan. Paying off your lowest balance loans first could save you money on your monthly payment. Paying off your lower-balance loans allows you to put money saved from a lower payment toward your other student loans. This can help you to pay them off faster.

2. Talk to Your Loan Servicer

Check to make sure your loan servicer knows how you want your payments applied to your student loans. If you pay above the minimum payment and don’t specify how you want payments applied, your loan servicer decides for you.

Below is a sample letter put together by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that you can send to your loan servicer to ensure payments above your minimum monthly payment amount are being applied to the correct loan(s). For some loan servicers, this can be done online.

I am writing to provide you instructions on how to apply excess payments greater than the minimum amount due. Please apply payments as follows:

  1. After applying the minimum amount due for each loan, apply any additional amount to the loan accruing the highest interest rate.
  2. If there are multiple loans with the same interest rate, please apply the additional amount to the loan with the lowest outstanding principal balance.
  3. If any additional amount above the minimum amount due ends up paying off an individual loan, please then apply any remaining part of my payment to the loan with the next highest interest rate.

It is possible that I may find an option to refinance my loans to a lower rate with another lender. If this lender or any third party makes payments to my account on my behalf, use the instructions outlined above.

Retain these instructions. Please apply these instructions to all future overpayments. Please confirm these payments will be processed as specified. Otherwise, please provide an explanation as to why you are unable to follow these instructions.

3. Things to Keep In Mind

There are a few other things to be mindful of once you’ve decided where to apply your lump sum payment.

  1. Follow up with your loan servicer. Call or check your accounts online to make sure your payment was applied as specified.
  2. Making a payment larger than your minimum payment amount can sometimes advance your due date. This means another payment on your student loans won’t be due until your minimum payments catch up to your lump sum payment. While it can be nice to skip a few months of student loan payments, your loans still accrue interest and won’t save you any money. Even if your due date advances, continue to make your monthly payments to save yourself money in the long run.
  3. You can also save money on your student loans by refinancing. Refinancing allows you to combine both your federal and private student loans into a new loan with a new repayment term and interest rate, which can often save money over the life of the loan, or help lower your monthly payment.

Paying off your student loans is a great accomplishment. As you begin to make decisions around your personal finances, make sure to keep these tips in mind so that you can make the best choices for your financial future.