School is now in full swing for many college students and it's going to be a great year; everyone's moved in, classes have started, and the fun has begun!
The Student Loan Ranger has put together some steps you can take to manage your educational funds while in school. So, before making plans for tomorrow night, take a little time to make sure you're starting out on the right foot and making choices that will ensure your debt is manageable after you graduate.
Plan a personal budget: This is one we're sure you're hearing often, and there's a reason. Planning how and when you should spend your money is a great way to be proactive about your finances. Think about your needs versus your wants. Budget for regular expenses, emergencies (like your laptop crashing) and fun (plan how you'll pay for the club on Thursday).
Also, plan how to allocate your different sources of income. Think about using student loans only for academic expenses such as tuition, textbooks, and housing. After all, this is why you took out those loans in the first place. If you have income from another source, for example family, think about using this for your additional bills, emergency fund, and to help you have a little fun.
Track your spending: After you plan your budget, make sure you are sticking to it. This can be done on a simple spreadsheet or chart. Set aside some time every other week to make sure you're spending the right kind of money on the right kinds of things. If you've overspent, plan and try hard to spend less next time.
Consider a part-time job: You are in college and you'll probably never again have the same combination of time and opportunities. A part-time job will give you practical work experience and put debt-free money in your pocket so you can enjoy those opportunities without using student loan money. It can be hard to remember when depositing that large check into your account, but student loans are debt that will be repaid with interest. A $50 night out can end up costing three times as much when it is repaid over 30 years!
[Consider these decent paying jobs for students.]
Avoid non-academic debt: Your part-time job can help with this. Avoid credit card use for non-essential expenses. Use cash (but not cash from student loans) to pay for impulse buys. If you do use a credit card, do so only for amounts you'll be able to pay off each month. While building credit can be beneficial, spiraling debt never is.
Emergencies happen and you should save your credit card for those instances (this should all be considered when planning your budget). Practice saving cash from your part-time job to pay for your wants. If you want a new pair of jeans, save your cash and then buy them. By the time you've saved enough, maybe you won't even want them anymore. By controlling your impulses, you'll minimize your debt.
[Get tips for how to pay for college.]
Look for deals: Deals abound for students. Look for ways to save on everything you do. Buy used textbooks, share an apartment or house off campus with roommates, and share services like cable and internet. Use your student ID. You can save on things like gym memberships, movies, transportation, and food. When you graduate you'll wish you had these deals!
Taking these steps can really help manage your funds—and debt—while in school. Minimizing and managing your educational debt can ease the burden when it's time to start repaying these loans.
Learn more about taking the right steps now to ease the burden of your educational debt by visiting our website and registering for a free informational webinar. You can follow the latest in educational debt relief news by following us on Facebook and Twitter. We post weekly tips and updates under the hash tag #studentdebthelp.
Think about your future and take the right steps now; you can still have fun while managing your debt!
Radhika Singh Miller is a program manager for Educational Debt Relief and Outreach at Equal Justice Works. In 2008, she served on the Student Loans Team in the Negotiated Rulemaking for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA) and has extensive knowledge of this landmark legislation. She conducts educational webinars and presentations; advises schools and organizations; and advocates for legislation and policy. Prior to joining Equal Justice Works, Miller was a staff attorney at the Partnership for Civil Justice in Washington. She received her J.D. from Loyola Law School Los Angeles.