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6 Things I Did to Graduate Without Debt

graduate without debt

Small things matter big time — especially if you want to graduate without debt.

When I look back at my life as a student, I realize the significance of this adage. And I was fortunate that I didn’t have to learn it in the hard way. Wait…was I fortunate, or smart? I don’t mean to humblebrag, but I think it was the latter.

6 Things I Did to Graduate Without Debt

This post was written by James from Basic Finance Care. 

During my college days, when fellow students were working their tail off to repay their loans, I was chilled and worry-free. I only made couple of small adjustments to my lifestyle and punched debt in the face.

Want to know what tricks I pulled to graduate without debt? If you’re a student and managing debt is one of your financial resolutions for 2018, then I suggest you keep reading and take notes.

1) Never max out cards

I had my name inscribed on not one or two, but three credit cards. Could’ve purchased everything that caught my fancy. But I didn’t. I purposefully remained frugal. There were times when I was mocked for spending wisely. People laughed at me and ridiculed me. But the effect of all the derision and scoffing on me was like water off a duck’s back.

Be like me. Which means if you have one or more credit cards to your name, don’t max them out. Never spend near the credit limit. Not only you will incur a healthy habit by acting frugally, but your credit report will reap the benefit too.

It may sound like a generic advice but it’s not. A credit report with high score favors students more than any other group. And, it opens the door for…

2) Loan consolidation

Please realize that college students are young people. They have plenty of time ahead in life. If they have decent credit early in their life, soon they can secure another loan. And then they can consolidate these loans into one.

This is what I did and it lowered my interest rates magically…yes, even before I was out of college…and it absolutely helped me graduate without debt.

Consolidation allows you to make one monthly payment instead of two or more. It also means weighted average of the rate of interest.

But beware. Simply being unsatisfied with the current interest rate is no reason to consolidate loans. Do it only if your credit score is impressive. If not, use your cards responsibly, pay all your bills on time and don’t borrow money in the interim. It takes a quarter for credit bureaus to update the score. So, wait for some time and then get a copy of your credit report.

If the score is above 600, opt for loan consolidation. If not, wait for another quarter. College life is unnecessarily long. It has its downsides but on the plus side, you have enough time to fix your low credit score to consolidate your debt and reduce the interest rate.

3) Pick a high-paying stream

Nobody will prevent you from studying liberal arts. But the job prospect for liberal arts graduates is grim. No matter how much I try, I can’t sugarcoat this. Facts are facts. Art history and religion may be fun to study. But majoring in these subjects won’t help you pay off those student loans.

Apply for a STEM degree. CNBC listed 10 highest paying majors. All are engineering jobs. Studying math gives you the ability to kickstart a career in any field that requires calculation. Accounting and finance should be your second option if your application for STEM gets rejected.

This may not be a “small” adjustment. But having the foresight to speculate your future and not get carried away by the urge to study literature can save your life. I had the foresight and so should you.

4) Turn passion into profession

The idea is to diversify your earning. Normally, professionals think this way. Not students, as they are expected to study, not to earn money. However, professionals remain so burdened in their lives that they hardly get time for things they are passionate about. So this leaves the door WIDE open for you, the money hungry, won’t-stop-for-anything-until-you-succeed college student! 😉

What are students typically fond of?

  • music
  • sports
  • photography
  • acting on stage etc. etc…

These are all passions. Turning any of these into a profession translates to making money from doing what they love doing the most – even before graduating from college..

How’s that relevant to paying off debt?

Well, when money comes from sources that are unanticipated and by doing something effortlessly, repaying the debt becomes unchallenging. 😉 And then, graduating without debt becomes unchallenging as well.

5) Working online and offline

“How can this be an advice when many are already doing it..?”

Isn’t this what you are thinking? I bet you are.

Well, as I wrote up top, small things matter. You may be working offline to arrange money. But if the workplace is away from where you live and you are spending too much time on your commute to work, online work opportunities are slipping from your hand.

Related: 3 of My Favorite Online Income Sources

Hence, make a small change in your lifestyle. Find a place to work that’s nearby. This way, you could switch between college, workplace and online work quickly. This agility will convert to extra earning.

You won’t see any difference in the short-term. But in the long-term, you will find your net income going up, acting as a leverage for you in your quest to graduate without debt!

6) Find inexpensive alternatives

Paying off debt becomes impossible when new debts are accrued. Students who party hard, indulge themselves in binge drinking and spend lavishly only to show off, forget that they have a loan to repay. They recklessly use credit cards and end up accumulating new debt.

Don’t be one of them. Nip the vicious cycle in the bud. Understand that everything outlandish has a cheaper alternative. Which may be plain but useful. Go for stuff that comes with an affordable price tag. Do this and I guarantee by the time you leave college, you’ll save a bucketload of money.

Summing up

Implement these tips and be patient. If, over the course of 3-4 years, you can slowly take down your debt while cash flowing the rest, you’ll likely get out of there debt free!

How do you plan to graduate without debt?? Share your advice below!

James been writing about money and frugally for the last 5 years and has contributed to a number of prominent finance and money management blogs. You can visit his finance blog to find more about his writings.

Battle of the Mind Money


My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

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