Student loans are a reality for many university and college students, as the cost of tuition and living expenses rise. However, the notion of carrying significant student debt can be extremely stressful for many students and new grads. There are some simple strategies you can implement to maintain control of your finances and not let student debt rule your life! Here’s how:
Don’t Deal with it Later
It can be easy to get into the mindset that you will deal with debt once you graduate. Even worse is the mentality that you are already racking up debt, so why not spend a little more? We’ve all been there. However, dealing with student debt now can make all the difference when it comes to your future repayment plan. Though keeping track of your monthly expenses and debt balance across time might seem contradictory to staying stress-free, it can actually help to avoid undue spending and stress at graduation.
Create a Realistic Budget
Make a list of all of your monthly expenses, including bills, transportation, groceries, personal items, and gifts. Free budgeting apps such as Dollarbird or Mint help to track daily purchases and automatically calculate monthly balances, so you can stay on top of your budget while on the go. These can be really eye-opening to where you are spending your money and help you cut back or shift finances as appropriate.
Don’t Deprive Yourself
Consider the things in your life that you absolutely can’t live without and other areas you can compromise on. Maybe you can start packing lunches and use the saved money to go out with friends. Finding room in your budget to continue to live a familiar lifestyle will ensure you still have fun and don’t feel deprived while sticking to your financial plan.
Maximize your credit cards
There are many student-friendly credit cards, with no annual fees and good reward programs. Cash-back reward cards are a great option to obtain a percentage back on all your purchases. For example, if you spend $1,000 per month on your credit card at two percent cash back, that’s $240 per year that you can apply directly to your loan.
Please note, this tip will not work if you cannot pay your credit card balance at the end of the month, as credit cards typically have interest rates averaging over 18 percent (far more than typical student loans).
Do your Research
Doing research can help you avoid common misconceptions about your student loan, such as the ‘grace period’ or interest rates. For example, depending on whether the loan is federal or locally sourced, interest may or may not begin from day one. In addition, many students don’t compare interest rates among bank lines of credit versus government appointed loans. On rare occasions, a student line of credit from a financial institution may offer a lower interest rate than your allocated student loan. It pays to do your research if it means it can save you money!
Try a part-time job
Many flexible part-time jobs exist for students, which can offset the burden of student loans and provide valuable transferable skill sets for your future career. Particularly, jobs that provide weekend shifts or positions based on campus can be great alternatives for scheduling hours around your academic commitments. How you use this extra income is up to you, but it will sure feel nice to have that extra financial freedom.
Carrying student debt can be stressful for everyone – but it doesn’t have to rule your life. There are simple lifestyle modifications which can prevent unnecessary debt while ensuring you still have fun now! The most important thing is to be realistic about your finances, in a way that works for you.
How do you manage your student loans?
Do you have any additional tips to not let student debt rule your life?
Let us know in the comments below.