I have a lot of student loan debt, and I can’t afford the payments right now. Should I send them what I can, even if it’s not the minimum payment, or should I not send anything at all?
They’re not going to stop bothering you no matter which option you choose. The benefit of sending them $5, even if the minimum payment is $50, is that you’re forcing yourself to start living on a budget and do all you can to honor your commitment. That’s the moral, spiritual and legal thing to do in this situation.
Lots of times when people say they can’t afford something, what they really mean is they don’t want to give up other stuff in order to honor their obligations. If that’s the case, I’m not going to be on your team. You accepted this responsibility, and if that means you don’t eat out or go on vacation until the debt is paid off, then that’s the way it is. But if you’re already living on a beans-and-rice, scorched-earth budget and $5 is all you can squeeze out, then give them $5 and let them know with a clear conscience it’s all you can afford. All you can do is all you can do.
There’s a bright spot in all this though. If you’re scrimping and saving and paying all the money that you have first toward running your household, then secondly toward your creditors, you’ll start finding ways to stretch your dollars even further. Not only will that help you clean up your student loan mess, but it will enable you to have a little bit better life in the process!
* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He’s authored four New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 6 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.