Each month I make 5 different loan payments - I've been hesitant to consolidate since some are very low interest rates (0.5%) while others are 6 and even 8% loans, and I've been trying to pay off the higher rate loans first while making smaller payments on the lower rate loans. However, keeping track of all the loans has gotten tedious, and I've been told I could save money in the long run if I consolidate. What are your thoughts?
Jillian, The first questions that comes to mind is "What is the purpose of consolidating?" As you mentioned you could save money over the term, your monthly payment may be lower. However additional information would prove to be useful...What type of student loans are these...are they Stafford Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans? Or is there a mix of Parent Plus, Grad Plus or Private Student Loans, as these generally carry a higher interest rate and will also be based on your credit worthiness, even in the case of consolidating them. My suggestion based on incomplete information and all the fact would be to consolidate your higher interest student loans into a possible lower interest rate. Do not include your low interest rate loan, most providers will allow you to select which loans will be part of the consolidation.
When it comes to tracking all your debt, I might offer a free solution to you. I would suggest that you utilize Mint (https://www.mint.com/) through this website you will be able to consolidate all your finances both assets and liabilities, it will help you track all of your balances, payments, and even provide you will special offers and some good financial advice and tools.
At the end of the day the 2 factors that will impact your loans is the interest rate and the term (or the rate in which you repay principal) I would suggest that you seek for the lowest combined effective interest rate for all your loans and then make as many principal payments as you can afford...now in saying this principal payments to your student loans and Mortgages, should come second to other debt payments as the interest paid is currently tax deductible. Make sure you are focusing on your other debts such as Credit Cards and other Personal secured and unsecured debt.
In addition to Jared's comments, you might also consider any loan forgiveness programs/repayment programs that may be available to you. This may make consolidating more or less practical.
Depending on your financial situation, occupation, and even employer, there are federal programs that could prove to be very advantageous (i.e. Forgiveness programs for Teachers, Volunteer Work, Health Professions, Government Employees, Military Service, etc.). Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, & Teacher Cancellation are a few that come to mind.
Each program has specific requirements, and you should have a good understanding of the requirements to qualify.
Hope this helps!
In addition to all the great information from above, I would suggest you take a look at this article from the WSJ that I have saved for my clients. http://blogs.wsj.com/totalreturn/2014/09/16/student-loan-borrowers-have-chance-to-refinance-at-lower-rates/?mod=WSJ_hps_sections_yourmoney
In a nutshell it gives some benefits to refinancing government loans with private ones. In the past this was not a good idea but with rates so low, it has become a viable option.