College is often times one of the most memorable experiences of your entire life! Within 4 or 5 years you learn how to survive on your own, discipline yourself to complete projects by pre-determined deadlines, and you learn how to handle your very own finances! All of this while being pressured into random trips, slip and slides, and other crazy adventures (don’t ask please).
Unfortunately, most of us are not adequately prepared for the financial obligations involved in schooling, and since we do not have the money to attend, what do we do? Get Student Loans! The government seems to be your best friend during those college years. They provide all the money you need (and sometimes more than we need…Spring Break Trip anyone??), and they charge what seems like a very low interest rate.
We go through our day to day lives and everything seems to be going wonderfully. Sure, we have some student loans, but so does everyone else, right? If everyone else is doing it, then it must be the right thing to do….
My wife and I both got caught in this trap. Between the two of us, we owed more than $18,000 in student loans. We weren’t irresponsible with our money; we simply didn’t make enough money to cover all of our college expenses.
And then it happens….
Yay! You’ve graduated! Your job search begins and you hope to make at least $70,000 per year. If you get that job, you promise yourself that you’ll pay down those student loans as fast as possible. But, that grandiose job never comes. You are stuck working as a temp for $16, which only equates to about $33,000 per year. You barely make enough to live on, let alone pay off your student loans. Regardless of your situation though, school is over and you MUST begin paying down those debts. This is why I urge everyone to avoid loans in your college years.
How to Avoid Those Student Loans
- Start working early in life – it doesn’t even matter what the job is, just start working one. When you have one, it’s much easier to find something else. Save that money up while you are living with your parents so that you can pay for at least some of your college expenses.
- Seek out Scholarships– there are so many scholarships being offered these days. In fact, there are thousands (if not millions) of scholarship dollars that go to waste each year because there is not one single application for them! If you applied for these, it would mean guaranteed money. Check online and talk with college counselors to seek out as many of these scholarships as possible.
- Work While in College – it’s not easy, but just by having a part-time job at night and on the weekends, one can pay for their college expenses. Also, don’t sluff off during the summers; browse all vacancies to get a full-time factory job and save up money for next year’s tuition.
- Develop a Side-gig – my wife and I both did this without even knowing it. She used to cut other students’ hair for $5 a person. It was quick cash for her (and she enjoyed it), plus it was a deal for other student’s as well. I bought some products in large amounts, and resold them for an overall profit.
- Eat Cheap Food– while it may not be the most nutritional, Ramon Noodles has gotten plenty of students through college with a low food bill. This will also allow you to treat yourself once in a while. Near our hometown, there are 1/2 off appetizers at some local restaurants on Tuesday nights. It’s a fun time, and it’s way cheaper than going out for a 3-course meal. This balance will save you a ton of money on food.
If, by doing all of these things, you still can’t afford to go to college without debt, perhaps it would be wise to take an alternate route. Do you ultimately want to become a doctor? It might be better to start with pharmacy technician training. If you’d like to become a lawyer, maybe you should first get a degree to become a legal secretary. You can always pursue more schooling while you work. Plus, this way you’ll be able to save up money for future classes.
Do you remember your college years? What did you do to save money? Do you regret any financial decisions that you made?