Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have my financial awakening until after I was done University. I went through school, borrowing as much as I possibly could, because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. I was living in an expensive city, going to an expensive school, I didn’t think I had much choice – especially whenever I checked my bank balance and saw a very small sum staring back at me
University was a great time of my life. I had a lot of fun. I worked hard during my semesters off at above minimum wage jobs, and I managed to save a fair portion of that money. Still, I didn’t give much thought to what would happen after school, or how I would pay all of that money back. I didn’t even know my interest rate! I made a lot of money mistakes in school that I really regret, here are a few of them:
Not Having a Part Time Job
Although I worked full time during every semester off, and over Christmas, I didn’t have a part-time job while in school. I couldn’t imagine working while also going to school full time, I was super busy without adding a part-time job to the mix! I also felt that the payoff wasn’t enough to justify the hours. Now that I’m paying off my student loans, I realize that even a part time job working 10 hours per week would’ve made a significant dent in how much I owed at the end of school.
A really great opportunity that I missed out on during college was employer tuition reimbursement. Essentially this is a system in which your employer helps pay for your tuition. Keep in mind that, in order for this to work, your job needs to be related to the subject you are studying. Your boss will benefit from this as they know they won’t need to spend time training someone who is actively studying the trade. They also set you up with classes through an online school like American University, allowing you to easily balance school with work.
Not Applying for More Scholarships and Bursaries
I made the mistake of thinking that the only people that got scholarships were people with amazing grades or exceptional personal circumstances. I now realize that’s not true, and that there were tons of options out there if I’d just taken the time to apply!
Not Knowing the Facts About My Loan
As I mentioned above, I had no idea what I was getting into when I applied for student loans. I knew I needed them in order to go to school, and that basically everyone I knew in high school was also applying for them. That’s pretty much all I knew until I graduated. I didn’t know what the interest rate on my loans was, I didn’t know what the repayment terms were, and I had no clue what kind of payments I was looking at until I’d already graduated.
Looking back, this is absolutely ridiculous. Even though my loan information wasn’t readily provided to me, I should’ve gone looking for it, not just blindly trusted that I would be able to afford all of the debt I was taking on.
While I didn’t rack up any credit card debt or spend beyond my means, I definitely spent everything I had. Most of that was because I went to school in such an expensive city, but I definitely didn’t scrimp and save and deny myself things like I do now. It resulted in a lot of fun nights, but it also meant a big student loan bill at the end of those four years.
Going to University these days is expensive. I ended up with around $40k in student loans because of my education, and my story isn’t uncommon. I can’t help but thinking that if I hadn’t made a few of these money mistakes, I wouldn’t have left school with so much owing. Fortunately I got a second bite at the apple and was able to get my loans reduced down to $26,720, so my mistakes didn’t stick with me for long.
So, if anyone reading this is in school, or about to go to school, heed my words! Don’t make the same mistakes I did! There are tons of ways to minimize student loans while you’re in school, and a few things you can do after the fact.
What were your big money mistakes in school? I want to know!