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.
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.
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.
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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