Being in college while on a budget can be challenging, but it’s more doable than most consider it to be. It takes careful planning and lots of determination, but the satisfaction of graduating college with the least possible amount of debt to pay off makes budgeting while in school well worth the effort.

College is quite expensive, relatively speaking. Schooling can cost upwards of $100,000, and students often enter college without any sort of side hustle to speak of. 39% of graduates who left school with debts amounting to tens of thousands of dollars say, looking back, that they should’ve done things differently. Some admit they should’ve spent less, several regret attending a college with exorbitantly high tuition rates, and many offer other ideas they should have implemented to reduce the now overwhelming debt they are mired in. Here are the most important solutions that will go a long way in preventing and reducing student debt.

Paying for CollegePaying for College

The very first thing to do before even stepping into college (and perhaps even before applying, if possible) is to figure out how much schooling will cost, and who will be paying for what. Will your family sponsor college for you? Are you eligible for financial aid? Will you be required to pay for college entirely on your own?

Talk it out, discuss it with the people it pertains to, such as your parents or a partner, and figure out what you’ll be required to finance on your own.

Knowing your Expenses

Tuition won’t pay for a Starbucks or sheet protectors. When it comes to buying textbooks, dry goods, clothing, and other essentials, you’re on your own. What is a viable solution for you to pay for these expenses without accruing additional debt?

FIrst, put together a list of all your regular expenses, which you are currently paying for each month, that will continue even when you’re in college. Aside from these, entering college means additional fees and costs that will need to be paid, such as the following:

Course supplies

Textbooks, a laptop, and other supplies required for college typically cost about $1,500. This doesn’t include supplies specific to your degree, such as a stethoscope or nursing scrubs if you’re studying for a medical degree. One thing to keep in mind is that college is not the time to spend money on brand names. Grey’s Anatomy Scrubs or an Apple laptop is a great choice for when you’re rolling in the dough, but shouldn’t be purchased by someone who is currently in debt. There are many cheaper options out there that can do the job just as well.

Apparel

No question about it; clothing is a necessity, but brand name apparel is decidedly not. When you’ve been working for a couple of years and are fully debt-free, you can splurge on a Burberry scarf or the perfect Michele watch, but not now. Now is the time to spend the least possible, so that when you graduate, you’ll have an easier time paying off any remaining debts. Try to purchase your clothing at sales, or during holiday season when things are on sale.

Living Arrangements

There are two main options: Living on campus, or renting your own place. The fee colleges charge for living on campus often includes meals; contrast that with renting an apartment, where you’ll be required to buy your own foods. Analyze which will cost you more by weighing the price of rent you’ll pay for a cheap apartment plus food expenses against the cost of room and board at your college.

Transportation

Based on whether you choose to rent your own place or live in the dorm, you will need to decide which mode of transportation to utilize. Biking is definitely the most cost-effective mode of transportation, but it may not be practical if your college is located in a place with extreme temperatures. Bussing is a good idea if you live relatively close to college, and you don’t do much traveling. If you feel a car is something you cannot do without, bear in mind that you will need to pay gas, insurance, and sometimes mechanic fees.
Covering Costs

Covering Costs

Once you’ve gone over all your expected expenses and confirmed that they’re all non-negotiable necessities, you know you have a budget plan that will keep you most healthy financially.

Now you’re aware of approximately how much you’ll need to spend per month. But does your income cover your expenses? Is the money you’re getting from your parents covering the aforementioned costs? If it doesn’t, then either you can start a side hustle, or you can spend less, or both.

Side hustles include night jobs, dog walking, delivering newspapers, or driving for Uber. These side hustles can cover your expenses, and even help you pay back your student loan debt!

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