I recently read a downright ridiculous newspaper editorial in one of our national newspapers about how today’s graduates have it so much better because it’s ”more affordable than ever to carry student loan balances” and graduate debt free. In her eyes this is done very easily and basically called every graduate a whiner. I won’t call them out here but if you have read it, you know what I’m talking about. If you want to read it I’ll send it along.
The article was full of ridiculous claims and missed major points, like while graduating in the 70’s with student debt may have been more difficult in terms of both repayment, scholarship and savings options, having any degree in the 70’s was a huge asset and almost guaranteed you a job. Now even MBA grads are having trouble getting work. It costs significantly more time, money and education to get a degree-entry job (I suggest everyone go into trades, seriously).
The point of this post is not my personal options on her editorial, or my rants about it, but I thought, given I am someone who has graduated with a lot of student debt, would touch on ways you can avoid a debt-load of my size.
Save: Every Penny Counts!
Start saving your money as early as possible! Even a few dollars per month will help, the beauty of compound interest might blow your mind. I remember being in the mentality that ”I only had enough money saved for books” so I wouldn’t bother using said cash that I had (lazily) saved since ”that was what student loans were for” (and God only knows what I actually did with money). I had no idea what $500-$1000 per semester would actually end up costing me over six years of post secondary education. I had no concept of thinking beyond today. Even if I had saved $500 per semester to use instead of loans, that’s $6,000 (plus interest) that I wouldn’t be repaying right now! So if you think only being able to save $500 isn’t worth using, and opt to use student loans instead, think again!
Use Student Loans Only For School & Live on a Budget!
Without a doubt I would use every penny student loans gave me even if I didn’t need it for school. I didn’t need the extra money since I maintained a part-time job until my last year of school but since it was offered to me, I used it all up. There is SO much abuse of student loan money, trips down south for break, nights on the town, living extravagantly. I had more disposable ”income” during university than I did as a full-time working career woman, what does that tell you?
The truth is that I could’ve saved thousands of dollars by simply being a little smarter with my cash. I could’ve looked for more financial aid options, applied for grants and scholarships, or even taken online classes. Though I may not have thought so at the time, online classes are an excellent option that all college students should consider. They have great financial aid programs, and they even provide credits that are transferable to other online schools or brick and mortar universities. It’s worth looking into, as it is one of many ways you can lessen the inevitably massive financial burden you’re going to face.
Only use the loan money for school or school expenses. If you don’t need every penny, don’t spend it. Learn to live on a budget now and it will save your ass later.
Study Hard, Work Hard
Working hard in school may pay you in ways you never knew. My option is that if a child isn’t able to maintain a certain average in highschool, they shouldn’t be allowed to have a part-time job until their grades are better. Succeeding in highschool can lead to better scholarship opportunities (again, every penny counts!) and better post secondary options. It’s all about balance though, have fun, maintain friendships and participate in activities that are important to you.
If you’re able to maintain a job, never discredit what the job is teaching you. While I hated my first job working long hours in a busy pizza shop, I learned a lot about pace and multitasking early on. A skill I applied to my academics and other jobs. Skills I still maintain today.
Going to school today isn’t cheap. School is more expensive than ever with tuition only increasing but if you’re smart about how you approach your post secondary goals there is always a way to save money.