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10 Ways to Reduce College Debt

10 Ways to Reduce College Debt

More than two-thirds of college graduates have student loan debt, and the average amount is a staggering $30,100. When you add interest to this, it can take people decades to pay off their debt. Fortunately, whether you are in your freshman year or have already graduated, there are some things that you can do to reduce your total student loan debt. In fact, with a little ingenuity, you may even be able to avoid taking out loans at all. Utilizing the following tips may not cover all of your expenses, but it will definitely give you a good head start.

1. Volunteer to Work off Student Loans

Are you a college graduate and having a difficult time paying your loans? You can get some financial relief while doing something good for the world. There are programs that enable you to set a funding goal, which you then pay off by donating an appropriate amount of time to a charity. This volunteer opportunity is currently only open to college graduates, but it couldn’t hurt to start making plans to utilize it before you finish earning your degree.

2. Seek Out Unusual Scholarships

Scholarships are always a great way to reduce your expenses, but the most well-known options are also highly competitive and may seem out of reach. Fortunately, there are numerous smaller scholarships available that you may be eligible for. A prime example is the $3,000 Tobi Cares Scholarship for women. There are also a wide variety of small scholarships you can apply for based on your race, abilities or even your medical history. Ultimately, the sky is the limit when it comes to the funding that’s available, but you will need to be willing to put in a lot of work tracking these options down and applying for them.

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3. Consider Off-Campus Housing

There are many misconceptions about the cost of off-campus living, but the reality is that it is typically a better option. However, you will need to have roommates, and you will also need to do a solid comparison of expenses to make sure you get the best possible deal. Some very expensive major cities are actually more cost-prohibitive than living on campus, so make sure you take that into account. In the long run, your best bet is to choose housing close by to avoid parking fees and other additional expenses. If this is available cheaper off-campus, then go for it. If not, living on campus makes the most sense.

4. Go to School Part-Time

It’s understandable to want to graduate as quickly as possible. There are several advantages to taking your time, though. A major perk of going to school part-time is that you can also work to help pay for your tuition. Even if you are still going to need to take out loans, you’ll also have more time until you are required to start paying them back. Remember: student loans do not become collectible until after you graduate. Choosing a longer path to graduation may be exactly what you need to avoid a mountain of post-school debt.

5. Buy and Sell Used Textbooks

Do you have an extra $1,200 to shell out per year for textbooks? This is what most students pay annually, and the price continues to rise. After a four year undergraduate degree, you could spend almost $5,000 on your textbooks alone. The good news is that you can drastically cut this fee by buying your textbooks used and selling them after you’re finished with each applicable class. If you prefer, you could even rent a textbook instead or look for a less expensive Kindle version. No matter which route you choose, you should be able to save at least 50 percent on your textbooks.

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6. Avoid Restaurants

Eating out may be a common experience for college students, but you don’t have to fall into this lifestyle. Not only is it much more expensive than buying your own groceries but it can also lead to the so-called freshman 15. If you are living on campus, be sure to eat as many meals as possible from the cafeteria. After all, you’ve already paid for this food with your lodging expenses, so why let that go to waste by effectively paying twice for a meal? Those who live off-campus can save a lot of money by cooking their own meals. In fact, it’s estimated that eating out three nights a week costs $3,900 per year more than making food at home.

7. Steer Clear of Credit Cards

It is way too easy to utilize the convenience of a credit card instead of actually being accountable for every single purchase you make. Sadly, this ease of use often leads to additional debt. Instead of making it even harder for you to pay your bills, operate on a cash only basis. This will make you much more aware of what you’re spending, and it will also make it impossible to overspend on frivolous items.

8. Cut the Cable Cord

Entertainment can be an essential part of unwinding, and it is necessary for college students to destress whenever possible. However, paying for cable or regularly going out to the movies is not a good idea. The average American spends $123 a month for cable, but you can drastically reduce this expense by opting out of cable in favor of Netflix or Hulu. There are also services such as Slingshot TV that enable you to select the cable channels that are most important to you. It’s also possible to remain entertained for free by taking advantage of your local public library. Most libraries have DVDs and video games that they rent for free to members.

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9. Ride a Bike

The expense of an automobile can be very high. After all, you not only have to pay for the car but you also need to take care of insurance, gasoline, oil changes, and other types of maintenance. Not to mention parking fees and a long list of other hidden costs. By not taking a car to college, you can simplify your life and save a lot of money. Riding a bicycle is one of the easiest alternatives, and it has the added bonus of being eco-friendly. If necessary, you can also still save lots of money while using public transportation.

10. Head to Europe for Free College

If you could eliminate tuition altogether, you could definitely stay out of debt, right? Well, pack your bags and head to Europe! There are 44 schools in 8 European countries that allow Americans to get a free college education. You will have to take care of your housing, food, textbooks and testing fees, but you won’t get stuck with tuition costs. This can save you tens of thousands of dollars each year.

There are countless other ways that you can reduce your expenses, including stretching your wardrobe budget by taking advantage of sales and closeout prices. Although you may not enjoy scrimping and saving right now, being responsible while you’re in college and during the first few years after graduation can help you save a ton of money on student loan interest fees.

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Featured photo credit: 0TheFool via pixabay.com

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Published on November 8, 2018

How to Answer the Tough Question: What are Your Salary Requirements?

How to Answer the Tough Question: What are Your Salary Requirements?

After a few months of hard work and dozens of phone calls later, you finally land a job opportunity.

But then, you’re asked about your salary requirements and your mind goes blank. So, you offer a lower salary believing this will increase your odds at getting hired.

Unfortunately, this is the wrong approach.

Your salary requirements can make or break your odds at getting hired. But only if you’re not prepared.

Ask for a salary too high with no room for negotiation and your potential employer will not be able to afford you. Aim too low and employers will perceive as you offering low value. The trick is to aim as high as possible while keeping both parties feel happy.

Of course, you can’t command a high price without bringing value.

The good news is that learning how to be a high-value employee is possible. You have to work on the right tasks to grow in the right areas. Here are a few tactics to negotiate your salary requirements with confidence.

1. Hack time to accomplish more than most

Do you want to get paid well for your hard work? Of course you do. I hate to break it to you, but so do most people.

With so much competition, this won’t be an easy task to achieve. That’s why you need to become a pro at time management.

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Do you know how much free time you have? Not the free time during your lunch break or after you’ve finished working at your day job. Rather, the free time when you’re looking at your phone or watching your favorite TV show.

Data from 2017 shows that Americans spend roughly 3 hours watching TV. This is time poorly spent if you’re not happy with your current lifestyle. Instead, focus on working on your goals whenever you have free time.

For example, if your commute to/from work is 1 hour, listen to an educational Podcast. If your lunch break is 30 minutes, read for 10 to 15 minutes. And if you have a busy life with only 30–60 minutes to spare after work, use this time to work on your personal goals.

Create a morning routine that will set you up for success every day. Start waking up 1 to 2 hours earlier to have more time to work on your most important tasks. Use tools like ATracker to break down which activities you’re spending the most time in.

It won’t be easy to analyze your entire day, so set boundaries. For example, if you have 4 hours of free time each day, spend at least 2 of these hours working on important tasks.

2. Set your own boundaries

Having a successful career isn’t always about the money. According to Gallup, about 70% of employees aren’t satisfied with their current jobs.[1]

Earning more money isn’t a bad thing, but choosing a higher salary over the traits that are the most important to you is. For example, if you enjoy spending time with your family, reject job offers requiring a lot of travel.

Here are some important traits to consider:

  • Work and life balance – The last thing you’d want is a job that forces you to work 60+ hours each week. Unless this is the type of environment you’d want. Understand how your potential employer emphasizes work/life balance.
  • Self-development opportunities – Having the option to grow within your company is important. Once you learn how to do your tasks well, you’ll start becoming less engaged. Choose a company that encourages employee growth.
  • Company culture – The stereotypical cubicle job where one feels miserable doesn’t have to be your fate. Not all companies are equal in culture. Take, for example, Google, who invests heavily in keeping their employees happy.[2]

These are some of the most important traits to look for in a company, but there are others. Make it your mission to rank which traits are important to you. This way you’ll stop applying to the wrong companies and stay focused on what matters to you more.

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3. Continuously invest in yourself

Investing in yourself is the best investment you can make. Cliche I know, but true nonetheless.

You’ll grow as a person and gain confidence with the value you’ll be able to bring to others. Investing in yourself doesn’t have to be expensive. For example, you can read books to expand your knowledge in different fields.

Don’t get stuck into the habit of reading without a purpose. Instead, choose books that will help you expand in a field you’re looking to grow. At the same time, don’t limit yourself to reading books in one subject–create a healthy balance.

Podcasts are also a great medium to learn new subjects from experts in different fields. The best part is they’re free and you can consume them on your commute to/from work.

Paid education makes sense if you have little to no debt. If you decide to go back to school, be sure to apply for scholarships and grants to have the least amount of debt. Regardless of which route you take to make it a habit to grow every day.

It won’t be easy, but this will work to your advantage. Most people won’t spend most of their free time investing in themselves. This will allow you to grow faster than most, and stand out from your competition.

4. Document the value you bring

Resumes are a common way companies filter employees through the hiring process. Here’s the big secret: It’s not the only way you can showcase your skills.

To request for a higher salary than most, you have to do what most are unwilling to do. Since you’re already investing in yourself, make it a habit to showcase your skills online.

A great way to do this is to create your own website. Pick your first and last name as your domain name. If this domain is already taken, get creative and choose one that makes sense.

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Here are some ideas:

  • joesmith.com
  • joeasmith.com
  • joesmithprojects.com

Nowadays, building a website is easy. Once you have your website setup, begin producing content. For example, if you a developer you can post the applications you’re building.

During your interviews, you’ll have an online reference to showcase your accomplishments. You can use your accomplishments to justify your salary requirements. Since most people don’t do this, you’ll have a higher chance of employers accepting your offer

5. Hide your salary requirements

Avoid giving you salary requirements early in the interview process.

But if you get asked early, deflect this question in a non-defensive manner. Explain to the employer that you’d like to understand your role better first. They’ll most likely agree with you; but if they don’t, give them a range.

The truth is great employers are more concerned about your skills and the value you bring to the company. They understand that a great employee is an investment, able to earn them more than their salary.

Remember that a job interview isn’t only for the employer, it’s also for you. If the employer is more interested in your salary requirements, this may not be a good sign. Use this question to gauge if the company you’re interviewing is worth working for.

6. Do just enough research

Research average salary compensation in your industry, then wing it.

Use tools like Glassdoor to research the average salary compensation for your industry. Then leverage LinkedIn’s company data that’s provided with its Pro membership. You can view a company’s employee growth and the total number of job openings.

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Use this information to make informed decisions when deciding on your salary requirements. But don’t limit yourself to the average salary range. Companies will usually pay you more for the value you have.

Big companies will often pay more than smaller ones.[3] Whatever your desired salary amount is, always ask for a higher amount. Employers will often reject your initial offer. In fact, offer a salary range that’ll give you and your employer enough room to negotiate.

7. Get compensated by your value

Asking for the salary you deserve is an art. On one end, you have to constantly invest in yourself to offer massive value. But this isn’t enough. You also have to become a great negotiator.

Imagine requesting a high salary and because you bring a lot of value, employers are willing to pay you this. Wouldn’t this be amazing?

Most settle for average because they’re not confident with what they have to offer. Most don’t invest in themselves because they’re not dedicated enough. But not you.

You know you deserve to get paid well, and you’re willing to put in the work. Yet, you won’t sacrifice your most important values over a higher salary.

The bottom line

You’ve got what it takes to succeed in your career. Invest in yourself, learn how to negotiate, and do research. The next time you’re asked about your salary requirements, you won’t fumble.

You’ll showcase your skills with confidence and get the salary you deserve. What’s holding you back now?

Featured photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator via unsplash.com

Reference

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