Graduating from college is a major milestone that calls for big celebration, like taking a trip around the world before diving into your internship after graduation. But one part of becoming an adult that you won’t celebrate? Starting to pay back your dreaded student loan debt. To help make sense of money matters, we talked to Holly Perez, a money expert at Intuit who’s also the spokesperson for Mint, a management tool that helps people understand how to use their money to achieve their dreams. Read on for Holly’s expert advice to get your finances in order right off the bat.

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1. Do your research on rates. Holly says the process for consolidating payments always begins with research (we love the Mint blog and SoFi), and that you should aim to figure out what works best for your specific situation. “Read the fine print and shop around so you can make sure you’re getting a low rate. Know exactly what you’re signing up for,” Holly advises.

Holly also told us that you should check out the interest rates for each of your current loans, so you can evaluate how consolidating them will benefit you. “There’s no guarantee, but you can check with lenders about consolidating your existing loans for a lower interest rate,” Holly says. “This could not only simplify your debt, but might also save you money if you can snag lower interest.”

Know that the loans you consolidate are inseparable. While you can’t pay off your higher interest loans first within a new consolidated loan, you CAN leave a higher interest loan out of those you’re consolidating to pay it off separately (and more quickly). Holly reminds us that that any loans you choose to leave out of consolidation will still be under a 10-year repayment policy, according to the Department of Education.

2. Choose the right repayment strategy. Now that you’ve done your research, Holly stresses the importance of choosing a debt repayment strategy that works for you. Instead of struggling each month to pay high-interest credit card balances, loans, a car payment and more, you might want to consider a single, lower-interest loan. According to Holly, opting for a solution like this will help you “breathe easier knowing you’ve got just one (more affordable) payment to budget for each month.”

However, if you already have credit card debt across multiple cards, it may make sense to consolidate that debt with a personal loan. Holly also says that when it comes to credit cards, you’ll be smart to consider balance transfer options across cards that offer “no or low interest rates for a specific time period, which is often a year.” Doing this can help you get the balance down without accruing even more debt. Hallelujah!

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3. Know about and avoid financial red flags. Holly tells us that you should always avoid taking out another personal loan to help cover the costs of your original student loan debt. She also says to be super cautious about fees, telling us “A new loan may come with a lower interest rate, but the loan origination fees may mean it’s actually a wash when it comes to saving money.”

Instead, look for the major benefits of consolidating your payments. For student loans and credit card debt, Holly says these include a single payment with one lower interest rate, a manageable monthly payment, and one due date to remember. She suggests tracking your spending too, since watching your cash is a surefire way to decrease your debt and keep you motivated. You got this!

Are you trying to save money after graduating from school? Tweet us the deets about how you’re doing it @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)