Guest blog post by Grace Frenson
In today’s world, student loans are almost a fact of life. While it’s become common for students to take on an average of $37,000 in loans, there are better ways to fund your child’s education. If you’re wondering how to make it to graduation without burying yourself in debt, check out this money-saving guide.
Tip #1: Look for Free Money
While nothing in life is completely “free”, there are ways to fund your child’s education without putting you (or them) into debt for the rest of your life.
Grants, Scholarships, and Awards
Before you take on your next student loan, be sure to search for grants, scholarships, and awards. Depending on your track, you’ll be able to apply for hundreds to thousands of dollars that will go towards getting you through school. In most cases, these scholarships and awards won’t require any reimbursement later on.
Additionally, students often turn to the military for opportunities to receive a free education. As a part of the military, students can use tuition assistance of $4,500 a year in addition to the GI Bill which credits soldiers or their family members 36 months of free education for every 90 days served.
Crowdfunding is used to fund almost anything, why not use it to get through school? By starting a campaign to pay for school, friends and family can provide financial assistance. As more people donate, the funds will add up and can be a great resource for a struggling student.
Many employers offer their employees a form of tuition reimbursement. Moreover, some companies are offering to take on their employees’ student loans. Check with your employer to see if they can assist you with your current financial situation. If you are looking to go back to school, be sure to talk with them first, as it is very common for businesses to pay for employees that hope to further their degrees.
Tip #2: Make More Money
Working through college can be incredibly stressful, especially if you have more than one job. If you’re hunting for a job that won’t get in the way of you passing your classes, be sure to look for one that won’t keep you out late, is flexible, offers more than minimum wage, and one that can provide you with experience in your preferred field.
It may be hard to find the traditional type of job as a student, so consider other alternatives to money making. Many students make a decent amount of money by driving for Lyft or Uber, tutoring other students, selling their notes, working at a paid internship, hosting their apartment with Airbnb, freelancing for clients online, dog-walking, babysitting, and anything else that makes them the odd dollar without robbing them of too much time and effort.
Tip #3: Look for Schools with Lower Tuition
Instead of going to your dream school that has an impossibly high tuition, opt for your local college that will ultimately lower your costs. Similarly, you can try to get some of your coursework out of the way during high school with dual enrollment and AP or IB classes. When you are in college, consider taking CLEP (College Level Examination Program) exams to test out of any class you can. Additionally, you can take the general education classes at a community college at a cheaper rate.
Tip #4: Reduce Your Expenses
By reducing your daily expenses, you will be able to save more money, whether you are in college or are just trying to pay back your student loans. These thrifty options include choosing an affordable apartment rather than a pricier one, living with roommates, keeping lights off and taking shorter showers, eating at home rather than eating at restaurants, meal prepping instead of making food daily, buying older books or renting them, as well as re-selling textbooks and any gently used items at the end of a semester.
Tip #5: Think Twice About Loans
A lot of times, students spend their loans on things that are unrelated to getting their education. While it may seem like a fair idea at the time, it is going to run up your debt down the road. When your student loan payment comes in, make a plan for spending. Find out how much you actually need by comparing personal loans with the cost of tuition and living expenses. Instead of blowing any extra cash you have on things you don’t need, save it–you’ll be able to pay back your loans that much faster.
While student loans can be helpful at the time, it’s best to find money in other ways.
With the help of these five tips, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of debt you take on, making it less challenging for you to build a future once you receive your degree. Even if you do have some loans to repay, they’ll be easier to handle if they are a few hundred dollars rather than a few thousand.