If you have student loan debt, you may have benefited in the past couple of years from the federal government’s forbearance program, which temporarily paused payments and stopped interest from accruing as a way to give Americans some financial relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. That program officially ended September 1, 2023. That means interest is accruing again and payments will be due starting October 1, 2023.

However, don’t panic. With your student loans resuming, you may have to make some changes to your lifestyle, but you don’t have to give up on your other financial dreams such as homeownership.

Adjust your budget to include those student loan payments

If you know your student loan payments are beginning to resume, make sure you readjust your budget to account for the change. The last thing you want is to run out of money at the end of the month or miss a payment. By ensuring that your bills are paid on time you protect your credit so you’re better positioned to qualify for a mortgage loan and other financial products in the future.

But let’s be real. You may need to make some lifestyle adjustments if your student loan payments are picking back up. Try not to reduce the amount of money you save each month.

Instead look for ways to cut costs on items and services that you don’t need such as eating out and entertainment.

Automate your debt payments

We all have plenty of things to do every day between working and managing our personal lives. One thing you don’t have to do is worry about paying your bills – if you automate them. Don’t take the chance of forgetting to pay your student loans or any other debts you have. Instead, have the money deducted automatically from your checking account so you can rest easy knowing that the bills have been paid.

Be creative about cutting costs

Just because your student loan payments are beginning again, that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself. You can save money while also enjoying things you like to do. It just might take a little bit of creativity. For example, instead of eating out invite some close friends over for a potluck dinner or game night. Instead of paying a monthly fee for the gym, start a walking club. Instead of spending a lot of money at a nightclub plan a visit to a free museum. There are plenty of ways that you can entertain yourself at a minimum cost. If you truly want to make your money go further use your imagination.

Seek financial education

Once your budget is straight, you can start thinking about your financial future. Buying a house doesn’t have to wait until you’ve paid off all of your student loans. Many people buy houses while they are still making student loan payments; why can’t you be one of them?

To start the process, it’s helpful to get as much information as you can. Reach out to a nonprofit homeownership organization such as HomeFree-USA to receive personalized guidance that’s relevant to your situation. A Homeownership Advisor can help you to structure your budget so that you can make your student loan payments and afford to buy a house.

Look for free money

If you’re paying down student loans, you have less money to work with than someone whose education is already paid off. But that doesn’t have to stop you. In fact, there is plenty of free money available for first-time homebuyers – you might be able to get money toward your downpayment or your closing costs.

The best way to find out about free money for buying a house is to, again, work with nonprofit homeownership organizations because they already know about programs and can help you find one that you might qualify for. You may have to take a first-time homebuying class; some programs require you to do so in order to qualify for free money. However, it’s well worth the effort since you’ll be able to keep more of your money in your pocket or pay down your student loans even faster.

Continue to pay your debts responsibly

Once you get into your house, continue to exercise good financial judgment. Sure, you may have reached your goal of buying a home, but you’ll have other financial goals in the future. Continue to pay down your student loans, as well as other debts. Also, make sure you continue to make your mortgage payments on time. If you experience an emergency or have a financial setback, let your lenders know you’re having trouble; they may be willing to work with you and pause payments to help you get back on your feet. You can also reach back out to a homeownership organization like HomeFree-USA to help you overcome your challenges.

Both education and homeownership can take you far and help you to generate wealth. There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy both as you move further along the journey to financial prosperity.