Getting a job after college is hard enough – you don’t need the added pressure of a mountain of debt weighing you down when it’s time to embark on your career path. Credit Donkey offers six ways to get through college while minimizing the amount of debt you take on, starting with your freshman year:
1. Reduce your tuition: Your biggest expense in college will most certainly be the cost of your tuition, but fortunately, there are ways to reduce the amount you pay out of pocket. These options extend beyond traditional scholarships and financial aid, too. Be creative in how you look at college funding. Consider community colleges, international universities and accelerated degree programs, and watch the price of your degree go down.
2. Be smart about your finances: Learn the basics of finance in addition to the curriculum of your major. According to U.S. News & World Report, most students leave high school without a fundamental understanding of lending and borrowing. One of the most important concepts, especially with regard to debt and borrowing, is compound interest. If you don’t understand how the concept works, you could find yourself buried in debt.
3. Choose the right credit (or debit) card: Most college students probably don’t have much experience with credit or credit cards, but find them useful for managing their expenses. However, it’s vital that you do research to determine which student credit card is best for you. Secured, unsecured and prepaid debit are three types of cards to consider, and each one has unique advantages and disadvantages.
To avoid excessive debt, you may want a low credit limit, or you may want to skip credit altogether and go with a debit card that works more like a checking account. But before you get to the point of choosing a card, make sure you have a full understanding of common credit card terms like APR, grace period, and balance transfer.
4. Make the most of your summers: When classes let out in May or June, don’t head straight for the beach. Getting a job or a paid internship will not only increase your chances of securing employment once you graduate; it can also provide you with money to put toward tuition, textbooks, or supplies to limit (or eliminate) extra borrowing.
5. Always pay your bills on time: You probably have a lot more on your mind than your bills, but if you don’t stay on top of your due dates, you will pay in the long run. Missed credit card payments, for example, can stain your credit history, which future lenders could hold against you by charging you higher interest rates or not lending to you at all. Car lenders, landlords, and even employers may look at your credit score, so be sure you do your best to keep it clean. Set up a weekly or monthly budget so that you don’t overspend and can manage all your bills.
6. Shop smart: While college requires some essential purchases, you don’t need to go crazy. Purchase a refurbished laptop instead of a new one, shop around for the best deal on your textbooks (look outside the college bookstore and check out online sites that offer used books), and take advantage of student discounts.
Starting college doesn’t mean you need to start building a pile of debt. Follow the above tips and you’ll find yourself graduating with a degree in financial savvy – and you won’t have gone into debt to earn it.