Such a great time in life, but so. freaking. expensive. The fact that I would go to University was a foregone conclusion when I was growing up. My parents were convinced that it was the surest path to a prosperous career. They encouraged me to go to the best school I could and pick a degree program that would lead to a viable career afterwards.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t offer the financial assistance that typically accompanies that kind of advice. So, I went to the best school within 500km, I got the fancy business degree, and I wound up with a whack of student debt to go with it.
I wasn’t very savvy about money when I started taking out student loans. Everyone I knew fell into one of two camps:
- Option A: they had their degrees paid for by Mom and Dad, or
- Option B: they were up to their eyeballs in student loan debt.
Student loans were also a foregone conclusion. I didn’t give much thought about all of the debt I was accumulating, I was more concerned about getting good grades or acing a presentation. Looking back, I wish I’d spent more time figuring out how to spend less money while in school. Here are six things I wish I’d done to in university to save money, and end up with a smaller student loan.
Looked at Different Schools
I went to one of the best known schools in my area, which just so happens to boast the highest tuition in the country ($6,990 per year, if you were wondering). To be honest, I had my heart set on this school, and I didn’t even look at other schools that might have been more cost effective. I should have at least looked, and maybe even switched.
Online schools are another option that I didn’t think to consider at the time, but they can save you a serious sum of money. Not only do you pay nothing in terms of commuting or room and board, but you can study on your own time. This means that you could easily hold down a job while pursuing your degree. Whether you’re looking to earn an undergraduate degree, your masters, or a certificate, there is surely an online program for you. Just taking a few minutes to look into these schools could wind up landing you an excellent career while saving money.
Applied for Scholarships
I was under the impression that scholarships were for people who had stellar grades or crazy circumstances. As it turns out, this isn’t the case, and there was lots of scholarship money to be had if I’d bothered to take the time to fill out the applications and write the essays.
Learned to Freelance Write
I worked full time at above minimum wage jobs during every semester I had off, but I didn’t work during the semesters that I was in class full-time. I always felt so stretched for time, I couldn’t fathom how I could possibly fit in 10 hours of work per week, and the minimum wage return never felt “worth it”. Little did I know that there was this whole world of making money on the internet that I could’ve tapped into. I could’ve made my own hours and set my own rates. It could’ve been great!
I did NOT budget while I was in school, unless you count taking my student loan money for the semester, and dividing it by four. I know without a doubt that I let borrowed money slip through my fingers because I wasn’t tracking my spending or sticking to a budget.
Been Less of a Snob
I went through a bit of a food renaissance during my third year of school, and spend the last two years of student loan living eating mostly local, organic food from the farmer’s market, and tipping back bottle after bottle of craft brewed beer. I still love that stuff today, but my husband and I were literally spending $800 per month on food and alcohol while I was in school. That’s just ridiculous. If I’d just done a bit of budgeting and been a little more thrifty, I could’ve easily cut my spending back to the very reasonable $400/month I spend now.
While I was in school, I made some serious mistakes in the money department. I spent too much and I didn’t hustle enough. So if you’re in school or considering going back, for the love of god don’t make the mistakes I did!
If you could go back and change your money habits while you were in school, would you? What would you change?