Most everyone I talk to about debt mentions their student loans and you can tell that talking about those loans leaves a bad taste in their mouth. I would dare to say that people hate their student loans more than they do credit card debt or any other type of loan. There seem to be so many negative feelings surrounding the money that people use to pay for a valuable education, and while getting a degree is important to me, it's been just as important for me to be able to go through college without student loans or debt. Knowing that I am getting my education without adding money to a large number that is constantly looming over my head, waiting to be paid off, is rewarding on its own. In our household, only one of us is going to college, and I'm sure that plays a huge role in the fact that we've been able to remain debt free, but I hope that these ideas will help you minimize the amount of debt that you're going to have to start paying off after you graduate or maybe you'll be able to find ways to avoid that kind of stress.
Pay for College without Student Loans
I usually have my class schedule put together a few semesters in advance. It takes a little bit of digging around the school's website, but it has been fairly simple to figure out which classes are offered when and which ones my job will be flexible with. By knowing what I will be taking in the coming semesters, I can estimate how much my tuition will cost. We budget and set money aside each month so that when that semester's tuition is due, I can pay the full amount and it's not too painful because it doesn't eat away at our regular savings.
Every once and a while there is a semester, like this current one, when our budget doesn't allow us to pay for tuition in one lump sum. My university offers payment plans that allow you to pay off the current semester's tuition in three or four payments, once a month. They don't charge interest, only a small fee to set up your payment plan each time you enroll. It's not our favorite option because it still feels a little bit like debt, but it has been really helpful for times when we used all of our excess money to finally be debt free or are working on a new budget and replenishing our savings after buying a house.
Working full time makes it a little difficult to take more than nine to twelve credits a semester and remain sane. My tuition costs stay on the low end because I've decided to finish school slow and steady. By the time I graduate, I will have been in college for about six years, but I love I am still able to work full time, make decent money, go to school and not acquire student loans.
This semester I looked at my list of required books and cringed because buying them all brand new would cost me over $300. Before spending that much money, I compared a few other websites and looked at prices for new, used and rental books. One book was newly published so I was forced to buy that one at full cost, but because I was able to rent a couple, my book total ended up being $150, half of what it would have normally been. I've been surprised by how many people in my different classes don't know that there are cheaper options available for purchasing their textbooks. Taking a little bit of time to research at the beginning of every semester has saved me so much money.
I was only lucky enough to get financial aid for one year of school, but it still made a huge difference! Without it, we probably wouldn't have been able to meet our goal for paying off debt as soon as we did. It only takes a few minutes to apply through FAFSA and any little bit of grant money that you get offered helps, even if it doesn't seem like very much.
How do you save money on school expenses?