I have 2 siblings in University right now. Not going to to college or university wasn’t an option in my family. My parents value education very much and gave us every opportunity to make sure that we were able to go. Having 4 children all destined for graduate school was not something they had anticipated, yet they were thrilled to be able to help out however they could. When you make the decision to enroll in college it can be an exciting time. One of the most common phrases you hear before you have even made the decision to enroll in college is that you must go to college in order to get a great job that pays very well. However, the most overlooked phrase that no one bothers to tell you is that while you will get a great education and a chance at getting an even better job, you will more than likely come out of college with a huge amount of debt racked up. Just ask me, or 80% of PF bloggers out there.
However with a few good tips you can be on your way to going into college debt free, and coming back out almost virtually debt free. The one thing you really cannot avoid too much is your student debt, but there are good tips to help you learn how to pay off student debt in a short amount of time. Its strange that learned most of these from my younger siblings.
Become friends with your High school counselor
One overlooked tip is to become good friends with your high school counselor and there is a really good reason to this. You counselor is the one person that can explain and help you choose different options that are available to you before going off to college. There are many different things to look at in order to prepare for college. Some of those include certain high school classes that should be taken to help prepare you, and what kinds of colleges you would like to go to. They will also be able to help you with the most important part of this with what scholarships or grants are available to you as well. Both grants and scholarships do not need to be paid back and that is one important step in leaving college virtually debt free.
Stay close to home
You may be thinking this is the time you can break away from the nest and get as far away from mom and dad as you can. However it’s always not the best choice when you are trying to avoid outrageous college debt. When you are closer to home, you can help to trim down costs by commuting right from home. This helps with transportation costs and room and board fees that rack up as the years go on.
Avoid all the college “perks”
Even when you are at school they still try to get you to rack up more money with special items that seem intriguing at the time. One of the most dangerous items that can cause you to leave college with a large amount of debt that you should avoid at all costs is
- Credit Cards: There will be many credit card representatives from all the major card companies waiting to give you a shiny new credit card. They usually come with a “free” gift in tow to get you interested in signing up.
One of the biggest expenses that you will encounter in college is your books. Campus books stores; although they do sell used books are still relatively pricey when compared to other places like Amazon.com. It’s always best to look online first to see if you can actually get your books much cheaper online before heading to the book store.
As you can see there are many different ways to save money while in college as well as avoid the normal debt that all college students usually fall victim to their freshman year in school. Once you start racking up the debt it can be difficult to try to pay off student debt. But as a good rule of thumb if you do start to encounter college debt before you leave school you should make consistent payments so you can come out of school with the least amount of debt possible.
I know it may be difficult to budget, but budgeting can save you a lot of hassle later. Not only does it teach basic financial skills that are valuable in the future, it also helps control spending on non-necessary things. For example. going is part of the university experience but a set amount of spending money put aside helps over-spending and running out of money for food.
When I started school 6 years ago, I moved out of my parents house the same year, which was a big mistake. I didn’t have a budget and spent most of my money on clothes, and then of course rent and groceries. I was dumb.
Then I smartened up, start paying my tuition every semester instead of taking out a loan, and budgeted. Oh, and now, I never ever buy books unless they are frequently used in class. Which is only like 20% of the time.
I definitely wish I would have paid off some of my loans in college, but live and learn, I guess. I just didn’t realize at the time what it would mean for the future.
A great tip that could help a college student qualify for more financial aide is to declare yourself as independent. This means that Mom & Dad can’t declare you as a tax deduction but in most cases this will increase the amount of financial aide you will qualify for.
I actually paid for college out of my pocket. It was a bitch and a half but I did it and owe nothing at all. In fact, aside from the house I am debt free.
Although can I say I am debt free with 2 kids? 🙂
I did the same thing, JA. I saved a ton by living at home, going to an in-state community college, and paying for it in cash with the money I saved from not having to pay rent. I’ve always been good at saving money and used tricks I’ve learned through experience and use a lot of tricks from sites like this to continue to save money. Cutting the cord is something a lot of people are doing to save money but I think keeping pay-TV in your home can actually be and investment. I have DISH and find that it makes staying home easier. Instead of going out for entertainment and paying inflated prices to go see a movie (about $10/ticket), I pay $10 a month for all the movies I want through Blockbuster @Home. It saves me on gas and from eating the expensive snacks sold in theaters. Since I work for DISH I know about all their great deals and take advantage of it. Being organized alone saves me a ton every day. Creating a grocery list and planning meals ahead of time makes a huge difference in time and cost. I also looked for my schoolbooks used online as soon as I could get the ISBN so I saved a ton and knew I’d have my book on time.
Scholarships, apply for them at first hearing about one. I know students from foreign countries pay nothing for their education here in US, just because they sniff at every opportunity of scholarships.
I think that people tend to assume that they “have” to get student loans without actually investigating the other options. I got out of undergrad debt free because I had a scholarship, and could have gotten out of graduate school debt free too because my employer was reimbursing my tuition & books. But I chose to quit work and take out a loan for the final year of grad school. It’s all about choices, and being willing to do what it takes to avoid debt.
I try to only buy books from used book stores and sites like Half.com. I love books! It is definitely a downfall. I have too many.
I totally agree with saving on books! That can be a huge expense, but somehow I managed to come in under budget for books every year. My school also started offering book rental, which was usually much cheaper and then I didn’t have to deal with selling back books or storing them forever!
One point on which we disagree is credit cards. Of course, it is very easy to rack up extra debt with a credit card, but there are many cases where having the card come in handy. I used mine for gas, groceries, and online purchases. I always made sure I paid it off in full each month and when I couldn’t quite make it, I asked my parents for a little help. I was able to build my credit, earn rewards (I redeemed some great gift certificates for fun, free shopping!), and it was nice to know that I always had it on hand in case of an emergency. In college, you can’t always tell where the night is going: you have car trouble and need to buy some gas, and just don’t have the cash on hand. If used responsibly, a credit card can be a great asset to have.
I still can not understand how students can get so much debt. It seems almost evil, but I guess if you want an education you have to pay for it.
I agree with previous posters – I don’t understand how anyone can graduate with so much debt. I went to a very expensive East Coast university where the cost of tuition/room/board was $45k a year. Yet, I graduated with less than $17k of debt (and no, my parents didn’t pay for it all). You’re right – a strong relationship with your high school counselor can not only help you evaluate your educational options, but can help you with scholarship apps as well as admissions apps.
Island life is so much different in comparison to the life you big country folks live. A lot of the tips are still viable but credit in any form is much harder to get for us. Up to know the bank still thinks I am a risk when it comes to credit cards. You have no choice but to live close to college or university either when you live on an island as small as my own.