Guest Post By: Jordan Mendys
Before I went to graduate school, I was told to remember this one phrase: “Live like a student now, so you won’t have to live like one when you get out.” What this meant was that while I had access to student loans, don’t try to live like a king. That money has to make it back to the lenders, and the lenders get to make a nice little chunk of change off of it. This tip is applicable for anyone that is currently having to take out student loans, and can save a lot of heartache and high bills in the future. While it seems like a very easy concept, the idea of student loans can sneak up on you, and for younger adults taking these out, there are steps you can take to make sure you make it out with the least amount of debt possible.
Get a Job
You’re in school to study, and that is all well and fine, but you will have some free time. It’s not recommended to try to fund your own education, but any little bit of money that you can make can go to supplement bills, unexpected costs, etc. What I have learned from taking on part time and odd jobs is another lesson. It is nice to be able to do nice things in school. I am not advocating for extravagant vacations or dinners, but it is nice to have a night out and not feel guilty that you are dipping into school money. You’ll provide yourself with a nice escape from the school work without the fear of running out. Also, the more you can make, the less you can borrow, and this is simple economics.
Use What You Need
When you’re in school, there are necessities that you need, and things you can do without. THis really is something that you will decide, you be aware of what costs you can do without. This mainly has to do with everyday bills. For some people, it is of no issue drop cable. Others have unique ways to cut down on heating and AC. Whatever it is, make sure it is a sacrifice that you can live without and not go mad. I have personal friends that just crumble without TV, so don’t do anything that might harm your studies. Luckily for some people, since they internet access is a need in internet, have found ways to cut down on entertainment costs by bundlingservices. This can help you get what you need and find loopholes to lower other costs.
You Don’t Have to Use it All
One thing that I quickly had to realize when taking out loan money was that you can give back what you don’t use. A lot of people think you get the check, and you spend it. Yes, this is in a way true, but when you don’t use all of a semesters allotment up, give it back. When you do, you are able to cut down your principal, lowering your costs for the future. For instance, if you get $30,000 a year, or $15,000 a semester, and after the Fall you’ve spent $12,000, give $3,000 back so you are back to only $27,000 to pay back. These are things that students aren’t always aware of, because this is how the companies really make money. Over your four years (or whatever the length of your program is, this can have great pay off, saving you thousands in repayment and interest.
So these steps are easy. It can be daunting to take out all of this money that goes directly to your school, but you should be relaxed and take control. Remember to always try to live within your means, which is something you’ll have to define, not just staying under the max loan amount. Make the tough decisions to cut back on your enjoyment now, so when you have a degree and job, you can enjoy the money you make rather than handing it all over. It takes restraint, but you can do it.
Jordan Mendys is a graduate student living in North Carolina. He finishes his Masters this Winter, and his wife is about to start her second year of law school.