Countless students across the country can’t get too excited about the holidays this year, because it marks the end of their student loan grace period. If you graduated this past spring, your grace period – that magical time when you aren’t required to make any payments on your loans – should be ending right about now. That means it’s time to start making payments on your debt – which is an average of more than $35,000 for the class of 2015.

Beginning to make payments on such a huge amount of debt can feel incredibly overwhelming – especially when you’re already paying for holiday travel, gifts, and entertainment. But never fear, because our experts here at LendKey have you covered. Here are the four steps you need to take right away, now that your grace period is officially over:

1. Get organized!

If you’re like most new grads, your grace period ending has been the last thing on your mind lately – but that changes today. Get organized by gathering all of your important student loan details in an easy-to-access spreadsheet, keeping track of your interest rates, monthly payments, and login details. If you’ve recently moved, make sure your lenders have your new address so they can get in touch with you. Remember, even if you don’t receive the bill in the mail, you’re still responsible for the payment.

2. Create a smart budget that works for you.

Now that your grace period is over, you’ll need to adjust your budget to make room for your payments. To get started, assess your income, current expenses, and spending habits. Can your student loan payments fit into your current lifestyle? If not, cut back on some non-essentials, like eating out, clothing, and entertainment. Continue adjusting your budget until you’ve freed up enough money to cover your student loan payments each month.

3. Set up automatic payments.

The best way to stay on top of your student loan payments is to have them debited from your account automatically each month. Not only will this keep you on track and prevent you from defaulting, but it will even earn you an interest rate discount with some lenders!

4. Research ways to lower your payments.

If you’re still having trouble making your payments even after adjusting your budget, it may be time to consider different repayment options. For example, there are a wide range of programs available for federal student loans that give you the opportunity to pay less when your income is lower. And, in many cases, the remaining balance will be forgiven after 20 to 25 years of making payments.

If you’re having trouble covering your private student loan payments, reach out to your lender and let them know what’s going on. Depending on their policy, they may be able to adjust your loan so your payments are more manageable. If not, you can always make a plan to refinance your loans at a lower interest rate and a lower monthly rate, as long as you have a good credit score and a full-time job.

Please note that the information provided on this website is provided on a general basis and may not apply to your own specific individual needs, goals, financial position, experience, etc. LendKey does not guarantee that the information provided on any third-party website that LendKey offers a hyperlink to is up-to-date and accurate at the time you access it, and LendKey does not guarantee that information provided on such external websites (and this website) is best-suited for your particular circumstances. Therefore, you may want to consult with an expert (financial adviser, school financial aid office, etc.) before making financial decisions that may be discussed on this website.