How to Minimizing College Debt
College is one of the most expensive things that most people end up saving throughout their lives. Right behind a mortgage and financing a wedding, college tuition can cost a pretty penny- but there’s no need to let the thoughts of college bills consume your every waking thought. If you can minimize the expenses of college, you’ll be left with less debt at the end of those four years.
Some useful tips to help you minimize College Debt
Take advantage of the aid
Students who will be applying for federal aid are required to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before every year of the school attended. Even if you’re not confident that you qualify for federal assistance, you should still fill out an application anyways, as many assets (including retirement savings and homes) do not factor into the aid calculation.
In addition to federal student aid, take advantage of the free money available around you by applying for local scholarships and grants that can assist you in paying for your studies- you might be surprised by how few students actually take the time to apply for what’s basically free tuition money!
Take it off-campus
With few exceptions, the majority of the things that students need in their day-to-day life will be drastically less expensive when purchased off-campus. College bookstores mark up everything from household supplies to pencils and pens for note-taking for the sake of convenience, so students can save massive amounts of cash by planning ahead and doing their shopping at local stationery and office supplies stores instead of on campus.
Students usually don’t save money by investing in on-campus dining options as well. Students who live off-campus are encouraged to calculate the average cost of one meal on their meal-plan before deciding to spend- these “meal packages” are usually extremely expensive for what they are. Instead of buying the meal plan, students can budget themselves a monthly allowance for food, and go shopping off-campus in order to cut costs.
Go green and choose used
You should go for used products whenever available not just to save money, but to recycle and reduce the impact on the environment as well. Instead of buying textbooks new in the school bookstore (which can cost over $300 for a single book that will likely only be used for one semester) search on Amazon.com and other online media outlets like Half.com for gently used copies of the same textbook that can be up to 70% off- just make sure you get the ISBN number of the book that you need in order to make sure that you’re getting the right edition.
Some college professors are required by the university to use the latest edition of a textbook but are willing to make exceptions for students who have older versions of the book. Before you buy, send an email to your upcoming professors asking if previous editions of the textbook may be substituted for the current version- the worst that they can say is “no,” and you can potentially save hundreds of dollars by using previous editions with the same information.
Avoid on-campus credit cards
Sometimes, universities will partner with a local bank or business and offer students partnership credit cards with small bonuses like discounts on school store purchases or local businesses. Students should avoid signing up for these credit cards, as they usually carry high-interest rates that end up making them more trouble than they’re worth. Instead, research student-aimed credit cards from companies like Discover in order to slowly build up credit over the course of college- just make sure to pay off the balance every month.
Saving during college can be a challenge, but it’s not an impossible task- by creating a budget, collecting aid, and living within your means, you’ll be off on your way to a debt-free degree in no time!