How To Avoid (So Much) Student Debt

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.



  1. My younger sister who is a second year nursing school this year, after she graduated from high school, she applied for a scholarship. She was a scholar during her first year of college and she was taking Journalism but our aunt told us that she should shift to nursing course and she promised us that she would pay her tuition in Nursing. But unfortunately last month she told us that she was sick and she can’t afford to pay my sister’s tuition anymore. So now, I’m trying my very best to help her financially since she has a very high grade and getting a student loan is not easy here in our country
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  2. I think it is SO important to focus on using student loans just for school and keep your living costs low. It all adds up and where you don’t have control over the cost of tuition, you absolutely have control of your living costs.
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  3. ‘”more affordable than ever to carry student loan balances”’ – Wow, just wow! I get that rates might be lower, but does that really make it more affordable…I think not! I was so guilty of taking as much as I could and just living off the extra which was unfortunately way too much. This is so much of why I think it’s so important to help young adults make informed decisions when it comes to college so they can set themselves up for success as opposed to a mountain of debt that’ll likely take them years to repay.
    John @ Sprout Wealth recently posted..When You Stop Learning, You Stop Earning!My Profile

  4. I did a pretty good job of keeping my living costs low, until my personal crisis (divorce). After that, all reason went out the window. These are some good tips, I wish my younger brother would listen to these, I’ve tried to tell him to slow down on spending money…
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  5. Its difficult to make the right financial decision when you were in college or high school because financial education was not taught in school. Now we can reminisce about what we could have done. Thanks to personal finance blogs like these that give up financial awareness and understanding about money. These are good tips you mentioned for college students to minimize their student loans and not get burdened to still pay for it in their 30’s or 40’s.
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  6. One of my proudest accomplishments as a parent was to fund my son’s college and graduate school education with zero student loan debt. I started saving as soon as we found out I was pregnant and never missed a month of adding to his college fund. Oh, there were times that I could only afford to add 20-25 dollars but I never missed, and over the years I could contribute more, and compounding kicked in. For his part, my son worked summer and after school jobs in high school. He took advance placement courses and tested out of 3 classes which translates into almost one semester that he didn’t have to pay for (other than the cost of the test itself). He took a couple of ridiculous required courses at the local junior college and transferred the credits to university. Summer school at JUCO is much less expensive than the cost per credit hour at university. And perhaps most importantly, he didn’t change majors midstream, thereby not extending his time to earn bachelor’s degree to five years instead of four. And he received a scholarship that paid most of his tuition each year as an undergraduate. One of my proudest accomplishments as a parent was raising a great kid!

  7. All really great points. I’m currently paying off my student debt and only used my student loans for pay for tuition. I worked all throughout my education and am so thankful that I did.
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  8. Oh that article was soooo ridiculous – I read it too. I don’t even know how she got her facts to make sense. Yes I understand she was speaking in averages,… but it doesn’t work like that!
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  9. I wish I would have come across a post like this when I was studying. I could have a lot less debt right now if I did. I’ll be passing this post onto my younger cousins.
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  10. Don’t you wish you could go back and talk some sense into your younger self?
    I agree with what others are saying in the comments – this is the kind of thing that needs to be taught to everyone at a younger age. I thought I was pretty good with money back as a student, but I was also guilty of not having any “concept of thinking beyond today” and abusing my student loan money. I didn’t go on any spring break vacations, but I did have an extravagant social life. I knew I would have to pay these loans back, but I never considered things like interest charges or how much of my monthly income each loan payment would be.
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  11. I read quite few blogs this past week where people kept on talking about student debt. I am not going to play my old tune as I did for them. I will rather give you some advice albeit, crazy and probably not very practical.

    1. If any of your parents were born in a European country, you may be entitled to a passport of that country. You can then get the passport for that particular country and go study there or in other European countries that offer free study for European nationals (passport holders).

    2. Marry a European national and study for free .

    3.Be really smart all of a sudden and get a scholarship.

    The last 2 probably is a bit far fetched, but the first point I made could really work if one of your parents were/are from a country that is part of the European Union. I myself am only resident in Scotland and can study fro free at any of the universities and I know a lot of European nationals studying here and in Ireland for free.

    Sorry for mentioning European so many times.
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  12. Using student loans only for classes is huge. I made the mistake of getting more loans than my classes cost one semester and kept all of the money for “living expenses”. Needless to say, the money wasn’t used for rent or anything. I can’t even remember what I used it for. But my student loan balance jumped (almost doubled) after that. I look back at how much sooner I could have been out of debt and kick myself.
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  13. I know people that pretty much live on student loans. I always ask, “What are you going to do when it’s time to pay all that back?” There’s never really a clear answer. I think concentrating on spending your student loan money on school is the best tip I’ve heard for keeping student loans manageable. Great post!

  14. I don’t see how it could be more affordable than ever to carry student loan debt when so many graduates are having trouble finding jobs due to the dreadful economy. That doesn’t compute.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted..A Student Debate: Are There Absolute Truths About Money and Personal Finance?My Profile

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