How I’ve Minimized My Need for Student Loans
This should come as no surprise, but… COLLEGE IS SUPER EXPENSIVE. Yeah, no joke. Sometimes it does seem like a cruel joke that we go from the bliss of high school into this amazing crazy experience where all of a sudden there’s all of these things that cost so much money. Tuition, textbooks, rent, groceries, gas, you name it, you pay for it. Student loans are a fantastic resource- but they should be used wisely. Here are some ways that I have minimized my need for student loans:
Take only what you need.
First things first, keep a long-term perspective when it comes to taking out loans. Sure, it’d be nice to take all the financial aid available, but only take out what you absolutely need, not just what they’re offering. Pay close attention to the types of loans you are being offered as well (subsidized, unsubsidized, both?).
You need a budget.
Next, budget! This is a personal thing - budgeting looks different for everyone. But basically you need to have a clear understanding of how much money you make, how much you spend and what you’re spending it on. Find places in your life where you can cut some spending. Eating out is a huge thing I have noticed in college students. Cooking your own food may take more time, but the benefits far outweigh the time sacrifice- it will be more cost-effective, probably healthier, and last longer (leftovers).
Third, keep yourself busy. One thing I have found is that during the semester when I’m so focused on school I don’t have time to waste my money, therefore I am able to save up for the next semester and minimize my need for loans.
Summer time! Use it. During summer break (or whenever you are in-between semesters) work your butt off. Some jobs will be more for the experience and resume building rather than for the money. However, if you’re not sure what you want to study or just really need to save up money for school, find a good paying job (or multiple). Keep in mind that it may not be pleasant work- one summer I worked a retail job and a food service job. It was emotionally and physically taxing, but at the end of the summer I was able to pay for most of my tuition and all of my books!
Apply for scholarships.
Scholarships! I had a professor share a very meaningful philosophy when it comes to scholarships: It may take several hours to apply for a scholarship; let’s say it takes you 5 hours to finish an application for a $1000 scholarship. If you receive the scholarship, that’s $200 per hour- something you won’t be making at a job anytime soon.
Live within your means.
My last piece of advice is simple: live within your means. College probably isn’t when you will build up your life savings, but it shouldn’t be a time for impulsive and reckless spending either. Do your future self a favor and minimize your need for loans. Take out enough loans to ensure you can pay for school as well as basic living expenses, and know the difference between a want and a need.