According to Student Loan Hero, the national student loan debt increases every year. If you're a parent of a college-age child or a college student dealing with the financial hardships and pressures of paying off these loans, you know the payments and interest rates are astronomical. Tuitions can be ridiculous and other school-related costs are no drop in the bucket. Higher education is a major expense and we're paying the price for it. As per Student Loan Hero, "the average college graduate had over $37,000 of student loan debt in 2016." And the price is going up.

But did you know that students can (and do) use their student loan money on more than their tuition and classroom needs like books? It may seem a little fishy, but it's not illegal, as per Student Loan Hero. And it's been revealed as per the results of a 2016 Student Loan Hero survey that "students in 2017 are 2X as likely to spend student loan money on non-educational expenses than the class of 2016."

With so much being borrowed, one would think this dough should be going straight for what it is intended – higher education. But students are using this loot for their other expenses, some of which are totally unnecessary. Using student loan money towards non-school expenses is actually costing these students more than if they paid for these things normally, due to the interest rate. It's digging them into an even deeper financial hole.

41.3% of these students are spending their loan money on their monthly bills such as their rent and cell phones, 14.9% are using it for clothing and accessories, 12.8% for food, and 2.5% for drugs and alcohol. Perhaps the first three can be justified, but the drugs and alcohol!? Those are the students who could use their next four years of schooling the most!

The issue may be that these students can be clueless or not entirely well-informed about school-related finances. As per Student Loan Hero, 7% don't even know their yearly costs for school and a whopping 59% don't have a clue when their loans will be paid off. And while most federal loan borrowers are on a 10-year repayment plan, the average amount of time people take to pay off their student loans is an astounding 21 years.

While this news may be hard to swallow, there are ways to handle student loans with planning and commitment. Take a cue from these 5 simple steps to paying off your student loans and be debt-free in the near future.

If you're a recent college grad, take note of some important investment and financial strategies that will help you make wise money-related decisions. If you made it through those brain-bending final exams, you can ace your student loans payoff regime too.

For more detail regarding the Student Loan Hero's findings, you'll find their infographic quite revealing. As a student or a parent of one, this information can help you take the right steps towards a solid student loan plan that makes sense and saves "cents" with every smart move.

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As the years go by, you'll likely need to make some large purchases here and there. Plan for these major life purchases by identifying them and saving early.

While it's possible to be frugal with many aspects of your lifestyle, there are certain events and possessions that will require you to spend a substantial amount of money. Thus, a wise course of action is to begin saving well ahead of time while thinking about your goals for the future. This way, you'll be able to maintain a stable financial state even when faced with those large expenses. The following are a few major life purchases that you should plan for.

A Wedding

Marriage is a joyous occasion that many people look forward to. However, a wedding can be quite expensive, often costing thousands of dollars. Your family and your future spouse's family will often contribute to covering this, but you should still prepare to spend a good deal of your own money on the ceremony. If you're in a serious relationship and are considering marriage, you should plan where the funds for the wedding will come from and take the necessary actions to accumulate them. It's also crucial to discuss financial matters with your partner, since your property will merge once you get married.

A New Car

Automobiles remain one of the top modes of transportation. As a result, you may want to purchase a new car at some point in your life. Although you may be fine with an old or used vehicle at present, you may one day be motivated by a desire to acquire something nice for yourself or by the practical needs that arise as you raise children. Whatever the case, obtaining a new car is a major life purchase that you should plan for.

In addition to setting aside funds to eventually put towards a vehicle, you should also aim to build you credit score. This is because your credit score will determine your available car loan options. The higher your credit score, the more you may be able to lower your interest rates on your car.

A House

Owning your own residential property is a worthy objective that you may hope to make a reality one day. Ideally, you should save about 20 percent of the total cost of a house before you buy it. This will allow you to make a larger down payment and thereafter face less interest on your mortgage.

As with acquiring a car, the mortgage options that you'll have can change based on how strong your credit score is. You'll want to increase your score as much as possible in the years leading up to buying a house so that you can get more favorable interest rates. In addition to contemplating down payments and mortgages, you must also remember that you'll need to deal with property taxes, insurance, maintenance and repair fees, and sometimes homeowners' association charges.

It's also necessary to hire a real estate agent to help you with the buying process. There are different types of real estate professionals. You should know how to distinguish between buyer's agents and seller's agents so that you can obtain favorable prices on homes as well.

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When you are newly hitched and learning how to combine your essential legal and financial information as well as your accounts, it can be confusing.

Many people live together before getting married and have begun the process of combining accounts and sharing responsibilities. However, some people wait to do this only after marriage, and others wait until they're married to live together. Whichever path you've chosen, it's still crucial to know a few tips to manage money together as newlyweds to determine where you should begin and how you can remain on the same page.

Discussing Money Motivations

As we begin to share money with our significant other, we soon find out what one person may rank as a priority regarding money and the other may not. As such, sitting down and discussing money motivations is important. Two people who cannot agree on how to handle money may cause serious issues. This should include:

  • How to deal with money following payday. Is a percentage put into savings? Is that the day to splurge on dinner, drinks, and more?
  • The frequency and size of payments made to debts. Some people like to pay minimums, whereas others pay in full or make double payments.
  • What do you each consider money well spent? Is it a new 70" 4K television? Is it an investment? Is it paying as much debt off as possible?
  • How do you go about consulting each other before making purchases over a certain amount?

Establishing Financial Goals

After you evaluate the motivations behind your money and how it should be spent, you'll need to spend time together hashing out financial goals. As newlyweds, there are certain things on your list that you're going to want to save for. How do you go about that? How much of each paycheck will you dedicate to a particular fund?

Some things in the future worth making a financial plan for include savings and paying down debts. This is the time to be honest about your current financial standing. If you're looking to buy a home, you'll want to assemble a first-time homeowner financial checklist to begin to develop topics of conversation. Some of the things to consider setting goals for are:

  • Student loans
  • Car loans
  • Future children
  • A house
  • Medical bills
  • Delinquencies on credit reports
  • Vacation and rainy-day funds
  • Emergency funds

Budgeting Together

The more honest and open you can be with each other about the money you have and now the debts you share, the better. Implementing plans for the best ways to have the things that you both desire while still taking care of existing demands is important. These can be uncomfortable things to talk about; however, these conversations are necessary.

Following these tips to manage money together as newlyweds will allow you to have a starting point for conversations that can be tough to start. The sooner you and your partner get on the same page with finances and the responsibilities that come with them, the easier the transition will be and the sooner you'll find success.

It's the dream: money you can count on to keep rolling in, even while you sleep.

Passive income isn't entirely passive, of course. You'll put in work up-front to get the profits rolling, so don't relax in your recliner just yet. But with so many potential sources of passive income available to you, picking one or several will mean that the day you can finally kick back will draw steadily closer.

Rental Properties

Real estate is a tried-and-true wealth builder for a simple reason: people will always need somewhere to live. Research the market in a growing community until you know a good deal when you see it. You can maximize rent by fixing up a deteriorating property or upgrading a mediocre one. The key is to hire a property manager to do all the day-to-day landlord duties for you—and you'll need a good one. Smart investors put their profits in another property and repeat the process until they have a diverse portfolio.

A YouTube Channel

You can start a blog if you're more comfortable hiding behind a computer, but consumers are more likely to prefer video content. Post a series of “how-to" videos to answer questions about whatever you're an expert in.

You can put up any content you want, but if you don't want to commit to regularly updating it, focus on “evergreen" topics that will draw clicks for eternity. Ads will create your income, especially if your channel grows in popularity. Better yet, sign up for affiliate marketing. If you recommend a product and provide a link to buy it, you'll get a small percentage of those transactions.

Auto Advertising

If you don't mind vinyl-wrapping your car with an ad for a company, you can get cash just driving around and running your errands. Make sure you contact a reputable company that doesn't ask for any money from you; if they're the real deal, they'll evaluate your car, your driving habits, your area, and more. Bonus: the brighter the ad, the easier it'll be to find your vehicle in the parking lot.

Digital Products

What's something that people will pay for but doesn't require shipping on your part? Finding that item is what can supplement your income indefinitely. Write an e-book, charge for your cross-stitching patterns, design prints that people can digitally download, invent an app, record a “masterclass," or whatever else you want. Every time someone new discovers it, the cash register rings. With a little more effort, this is a potential source of passive income for you that can continue to grow. Once you build up a customer base, they might want more products. The good part is that it's up to you whether you wish to give it to them.