While many of us hope to get through college with scholarships and grants, there is a good chance that you may need to apply for at least a few student loans to pay for the quality education that you deserve.
If you do need to take out loans, then you will want to have a plan in place for how you’ll pay off those debts, so they don’t get out of control down the line. Luckily, there are many ways that you can be proactive in this regard.
Whether you are currently in college or you are a few years away, there are many strategies that you can implement to keep your debt under control. To get started, let’s talk a bit about student loans and how you can save money to pay them back.
The Story About Student Loans
The fact of the matter is that student loans are the reason why some people can attend college in the first place. At least 79 million Americans have taken out student loans at some point in their life, and many of them are still paying them back.
That doesn’t mean that you should avoid them at all costs. It just means that you need to have a plan for how you can manage that debt, so it doesn’t control your life.
It can be tempting for many students to go overboard with how much they borrow since it seems like a lifetime before they have to pay their loans back, but borrowing too much could put you in serious jeopardy.
Once you have decided on a school, take some time to figure out how much money you will realistically need to attend classes, put a roof over your head, buy books and supplies, and get from one place to another. Then, see what grants or scholarships you can get that you won’t have to pay back. Now, you can fill the gaps with student loans.
It is important to realize that you don’t have to wait until you graduate to start thinking about how you will repay your loans.
In fact, it is in your best interest to avoid excessive debt later in life because if you get behind on your finances, it will not only negatively impact your credit score but drowning in debt can also affect your mental health.
When we find ourselves in the red financially, it can be draining to our ego, and many people experience feelings of depression when they can’t get out of their hole. While this won’t happen to everyone, it is still a good idea to have a plan in place for handling your student loans sooner than later.
Be Smart About Money While You’re in College
Once you start taking college classes, you can immediately create a plan for keeping your student loans under control while paying what you can.
The first step is to create a budget. Look at how much money you have coming in and account for every expense you pay on a monthly budget, including your school costs, books and supplies, how much you spend on food, and the cost of going out with your friends.
If there is a big gap between earnings and expenses, then you may have to cut something out. For instance:
- Do you need that streaming service at home if you are out at the library all of the time?
- How about your daily Starbucks run?
- Can you cut that off and get the dollar coffee at the cafeteria instead?
- You can save the money that you have left over and put it towards making early payments on your loans.
Although college is a busy time, you can also earn extra money for your student loans by finding a part-time job.
Even working 10 hours a week can give you some breathing room, and you can do any number of side gigs, from delivering food for a local restaurant to freelance writing, or you could tutor your fellow students online.
If you can direct all of this extra money towards paying back your loans, then you will make a big dent. A freelance job is a good idea because you can make your own hours, so if you have a big test coming up, then you can choose to work less so you can focus on your studies.
Saving for College in the Future
Although many of us don’t put a lot of thought into our financial future when we are teenagers, if you are a youngster who plans to go to college, then it is a good idea to start saving now so you can be ahead of the game.
First, you’ll need a job. If you are looking for ideas, many teens often take summer jobs, with some of the more common gigs including working as a babysitter, dog walker, or tutor.
While these jobs may not make you rich, they will allow you to put some money in your pocket, which you can reserve for the eventual repayment of student loans.
You can also earn money for your future college career by selling items that you don’t use anymore, such as old clothes, toys, video games, or records. You can sell many of these items on websites such as eBay and Facebook Marketplace.
To keep your money secure, you will want to place it into a savings account. If you want to earn a few extra bucks per month, then consider a high-interest savings account that rewards you just for being smart about your money.
You can save more cash by watching what you spend. Take advantage of the fact that you likely live with your parents and opt for free entertainment at home and home-cooked meals instead of spending money at restaurants.
Finally, remember that it is not a requirement that you go to college immediately after graduating high school. If you are not yet ready mentally or physically, consider taking a year off so you can save money and put yourself in the right mindset for success.
As you can see, you don’t have to become a slave to student loans. Consider the advice and tactics described above and find yourself in a much better place once college comes to an end.
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.