College can be fun, especially if you’ve got money to burn. But you have to be wise about how you spend money in college if you want to survive and graduate with less debt than when you went in.
To help with this, we’ve put together a simple guide on how to minimize college debt and enjoy your college experience while keeping your expenses to a minimum.
College Debt and How to Avoid it
College debt is a problem that keeps getting more significant in the US. The problem is being fueled by not just rising tuition fees, but also student loans. Students sometimes sign up for loans without knowing what they are getting into.
If you want to avoid college debt, the first thing you need is to avoid student loans. They may seem like a solution when you can’t afford the fees of your preferred school, but it’s a solution that comes with a heavy price that many college graduates are still struggling to pay years after graduating.
Whether you opt for a subsidized or unsubsidized student loan, it’s still going to cost you, especially if you don’t end up in a high-paying job within a year of graduation. So, how do you avoid the student loan trap?
You could work before applying to college, save up so that you can pay for your tuition fully or partly out of pocket. If this isn’t feasible for you, then consider attending a state or public institution. This might not tally with your dream of going to Harvard or some other top-tier university, but it’ll save you the burden of shouldering a considerable student loan debt for the rest of your life.
Also, don’t be shy about applying for as many scholarships as you can, especially if you’ve got the grades or other specified requirements.
Flee from Credit Cards
Credit cards are another college debt trap you need to avoid at all costs. It might seem like you are being offered a great deal with low-interest rates and an opportunity to build your credit, but don’t fall for it.
Credit card debt accrues interest, which means it’s going to keep multiplying until you settle it. Since you won’t be able to start settling this debt until you graduate and are employed, won’t it be better to save credit card problems for later in life when you are more financially stable?
Prioritize, Plan and Prepare
The number one strategy for avoiding debt in college and surviving is avoiding spending money you don’t have. Accomplishing this can be achieved in three simple steps – prioritizing, planning and preparing.
This simple but vital step involves making a list that identifies and ranks what is necessary and what isn’t. Necessary expenses get to be at the top of the list, while the partially unnecessary get to be at the bottom of the list. The completely unnecessary have no place on the list unless you have some extra cash for it.
For example, buying a PlayStation while in college sounds like fun, but it isn’t essential. Food, books, and utilities are high priorities.
Now that you have your priorities straight, the next step is identifying and planning how to pay for them. With your prioritized list, you can stagger your purchases by buying the most essential items first and saving the rest for when you can afford them.
Planning also involves knowing where you can buy stuff at the best prices. For example, by knowing GA natural gas rates and the gas companies in Georgia that offer the best prices, you can register with the natural gas provider whose services save you the most money.
Prepare yourself to stick to your financial plan by avoiding unnecessary spending. We aren’t saying you shouldn’t have fun in college, but splurge selectively and only when you have the extra cash for it. Splitting bills with friends or roommates will also help take some of the load off.
Most important, don’t be shy about negotiating for a better price on any service or asking about discounts. You’ll be surprised how many businesses are willing to drop prices.
Frugal Hacks and Tips
Here are some other tips to help you save money and survive college with your financial sanity:
- Avoid eating out. Going to Starbucks or a restaurant might be tempting but preparing your meals is way cheaper, especially if you buy stuff to cook in bulk.
- Forget about subscribing for cable unless you’ve got the extra cash. Even then, saving that extra cash for a rainy day may be a smarter option.
- Take advantage of student discounts whenever and wherever you can.
- Buy second-hand. Second-hand books, furniture, and other essentials cost less, leaving you with more money to spend on other stuff.
- Have a high interest yielding savings account.
- Be smart when it comes to utilities. Get the best deal on necessities by discovering which gas companies in Georgia offer the best natural gas rates. The same thing applies to electricity and water bills. If you have a roommate, be sure to split the bills.
- Get a source of income. You can save as much as you want, but it’s eventually going to run out. But with a reliable source of income, you have more to spend and can afford to be less frugal.
That’s everything you need to know about surviving college on a budget!