Is Debt-Free College Possible?
College Isn’t Cheap, But It Doesn’t Have to Put You in Debt Forever
Is it possible to go to college and be debt-free? College doesn’t have to be an obstacle to financial freedom. You don’t have to pursue a doctorate degree at an Ivy League university for college expenses to add up quickly. Even if you opt for a bachelor’s at your community college, debt is often part of the process. But, it doesn’t have to cripple your future finances. Here are some tips from Lauren’s Financial Freedom Journey to help you make an informed decision about the next big chapter of your life.
The first step toward any savings plan is to do your research. College is no different. You have to decide how far you’re willing to travel; do you want to relocate to a completely different state or save money by staying in your own state? Do you want a traditional brick-and-mortar education or are you open to online classes? You also need to decide on a major — and that’s a lot easier if you already know what field you want to get into. For instance, if you want to teach, the best way to boost your career is to go for a degree in education.
Offset Your Expenses
No matter which type of college you choose, there are always expenses. Even if your tuition is covered by your parents, you’ll probably have to pay for food, clothing, and entertainment. Take stock now of your existing skills. If you’re a great writer, for example, you can work as a freelancer writing blog posts for businesses. You might also consider using a naturally muscular physique to move furniture or capitalize on your love of the outdoors as a part-time lawn maintenance technician. If you’ve yet to start college, go ahead and put on your side-hustle hat. Having a bit of money put aside now will give you a bit of a cushion during your early college years.
Take Advantage of Freebies
Your student ID can do more than get you into class. It’s also a passport for some amazing discounts and freebies. A few examples of ways your education can pay you back now include free museum admissions, free checking, discounts for movies and food, 10% or more off of your favorite clothing brands, and even discounted cell phone service through AT&T, Verizon, and other major carriers. You also want to look at whether or not community colleges are free in your state. The College Post explains that it is in 19 states.
Choose Your Living Arrangement Carefully
Is it cheaper to live on- or off-campus? The answer won’t be the same for everyone. Your accommodation costs will depend on whether or not it was included in your scholarships, if there is affordable housing near your campus, and whether or not you can find a place with multiple roommates. While living off-campus may be less expensive month-to-month, keep in mind that you may be required to sign a 12-month lease, so you’ll be stuck paying the bill even if you choose to go home for the summer. There are also options for free housing perks with some leadership roles.
Pay Back As You Go
When you’ve taken out loans, you’re going to pay interest. Fortunately, most student loans (both new and refinanced) have low-interest rates. But, interest still compounds over time. When possible, make a payment now and then before graduation. Even if you are not required to pay until your diploma is in hand, the more you can lower your debt now, the less interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.
It’s unavoidable to not spend money to go to school. Even if you have a full ride, there are still going to be times when you have to pull out your wallet. However, college debt doesn’t have to cripple your finances into your 30s and beyond. The tips above can help you borrow less, earn now, and enjoy your college days without breaking the bank.
Lauren’s Financial Freedom Journey shares tools to create more financial freedom, time freedom, and peace of mind in your life.
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