Today, it is imperative for students to graduate college with the least amount of student loan debt as possible. Most students are unaware of simple ways that they can start saving money immediately.
Whether you are in your senior year or about to start your freshman year, these 10 steps will help you avoid student loan debt.
1. Use a Budget System
Using a budget system will help you save and designate money for all of your financial needs and wants.
There are many different budget systems, but I prefer the idea of the jar system. Designate categories for the different areas of your life that require money—for example, “necessities” (rent, toiletries, gas, and so on) or “play” (movies, dining out). After labeling your system, separate the money that you have designated to for each category, and stick to your budget for each account. If you run out of money in a particular account, you must stick it out until your next monthly cycle.
For a more thorough example of the jar budget system, and its potential categories, click here.
2. Paper Not Plastic
Using cash instead of a credit or debit card makes you immediately aware of how your spending habits influence your cash flow. When using a debit or credit card, you don’t see the immediate impact of your purchases, unless you check your bank statements regularly or use an app. Credit cards also leave the possibility of paying interest for something that you may or may not be able to truly afford. Simply put, using cash saves you money with no interest rates and helps you avoid student loans.
3. Debit Over Credit
In the digital age, most of us prefer to use plastic over cash. If you must take this route, use a debit card over a credit card. Debit cards deduct money straight from your bank account, which allows you to only spend the money that you have. Credit cards can lead to more expensive purchases, due to obligatory interest and annual fees.
4. Save Your Change
As kids, a lot of us had piggy banks. We loved to fill them up, shake them, and never wanted to break them. As we get older, change can become annoying, because no one wants to count it. However, the truth is all money adds up. If you can manage to put your loose change in a jar or bottle, you can cash it in at a machine at your local grocery store. The machines also give you vouchers to your favorite retailers, in order to avoid the fee of getting cash back.
5. Use On-Campus Entertainment to the Fullest
You have access to your college campus, so use its free perks. A lot of campus entertainment only requires you to show your student ID, or it is offered at a discount cheaper than off-campus entertainment. One advantage is that you get to know your peers on campus better and learn of other entertainment opportunities. Do it—watch movies, play games, participate in programs, and go to parties on campus.
6. Always Ask for a Student Discount
7. Buy as a Team
When trying to buy groceries for yourself, instead of buying one or two things, team up with friends and go in together on bulk items from warehouse stores like Costco, BJ’s, or Sam’s Choice. You all can also go in on the membership, or get permission from a friend’s parents to use their preexisting membership. Team buying saves a lot of money on essentials, such as laundry detergent, soap, napkins, tissue, and so forth.
8. Get a Roommate
If you have an extra room or a big space, find a roommate or an Airbnb to cut back on rent expenses. Then, put the extra cash in your pockets. Check with your landlord or apartment manager to make sure you are not violating the terms of your lease, and be sure to do research on renter and roommate laws in your state.
9. Pack Your Own Lunch
The longer you are in classes throughout the day, the more your appetite is likely to increase, especially if you see others eating or smell their dishes. In order to save your funds, pack your lunch and include lots of snacks to last you throughout the day. If you bring a lunch from home, you can still gain access to a microwave, oven, or hot water with a simple request.
10. Ask Strategically
Ask family and friends for things that are a bit expensive to pay for on your birthday or holidays, instead of paying for them yourself. Another key to this strategy is to ask for things as infrequently as possible and only when necessary. That way, when you do actually want or need something, it’s not a big deal to whoever you have to ask for financial assistance.
Everyone wants to support a starving college student looking to avoid student loans.
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