If you are a college student or the mother of one, the coronavirus pandemic has likely changed your life dramatically and forced you to rethink your financial decisions and how you manage your money. Despite classes shifting to remote study, tuition costs continue to be high, student loan debt feels more terrifying than ever, and many Americans are drowning in debt.
But by making thoughtful decisions and paying close attention, it is possible to graduate without the student loan debt. I know what you’re thinking and no, none of this advice has to do with scholarships, grants, being a tech startup wonder-kid, or any of that one-in-a-million advice.
These are tips that literally anyone can do to get out of school with little to no student debt.
Sell your textbooks:
Done with last semester’s textbooks? Don’t let them gather dust, put them on sites like eBay and Amazon immediately and recover some — if not all — of the money you spent when you bought them. Also, consider not buying books from bookstores at your college. You often can find the textbook on eBay or Amazon at a significant saving; just search for the book you need by the ISBN.
Use a budget:
Whether you are a working student, live off your student loans, or anywhere in between, you need a budget. Managing your money well should always be a priority, but even more so if you live off of your student loans. You will need to pay back every dollar borrowed later, plus interest. So, find a budgeting app or tool that you like and build the habit of managing your money now. This will help control spending and find opportunities to save, limiting your student loan burden.
Budget for a full semester at a time:
As a student, you should budget for a full semester at a time. Even if you aren’t sure exactly how much money you will make because of hourly work or fluctuating student loan disbursements, knowing how much money you need is crucial. Calculate all of your expenses and make sure you will be able to cover the costs. If not, find ways to make up the difference, ideally without debt.
Between Starbucks, Target, and Uber Eats, it is easy to have the “I’ll only go to college once” mentality. However, it all adds up and causes a lot more stress than joy more than often. So, try living simply and spending less than what you can technically afford right now without debt.
Teach yourself how to cook:
Although eating out is more difficult during the pandemic, restaurants and take-out are among the largest discretionary expenses for students and is an absolute budget killer. As a student, odds are you might have enough time to cook for yourself. Save some money and teach yourself a functional, delicious life skill!
Find free ways to have fun:
No matter where you live, there are tons of ways to spend time with friends and spend little to no money. Free online events, getting outdoors, movie nights at your place… you get the idea. Talk with your friends who share your goal of being financially savvy and come up with fun ways to spend time together safely this fall!
Pick up a side hustle and/or extra shifts:
If you can limit your student loan burden by working extra here and there, future you will thank you. I have never met a single person/client that has said “I wish I had worked less and took on more student loans in college.” NO ONE would wish that! So, if you have down time, get some extra work and make that money!