It is not impossible to graduate from college debt free. I am a prime example of someone who was successful in accomplishing this unconventional goal. Granted, it was not the easiest task, but I had a plan and I stuck to it. College tuition is too expensive and in addition to that, the costs of school supplies are insanely high.
Every year college expenses increase and it looks like there is no end in sight. As reported by The College Board, “the average 2012-2013 tuition increase was 4.2 percent at private colleges and 4.8 percent at public universities”. This makes it imperative to do the best you can at managing your money throughout your college years.
When I started college I was a happy, young adult with no heavy financial burdens on my shoulders. I made it my main goal to leave college the same way I entered. Figuring out what you need to do to manage your money through college takes some specialized planning and determination. Generally, you can break it up into five different ways to wisely manage your college money. The first challenge in money management takes place before you even officially enter college. Figuring out what college you want to attend and where you plan to live is vitally important. It plays a huge factor into whether you’re starting off on the right track by carefully spending your money.
Take some time to think about whether you want to attend a community college or a university; be aware of the major differences in tuition costs. Look at the pros and cons. It might suit you best, if you attend a community college for two years and then transfer to university. According to the Huffington Post, “going to your state’s university runs at an average of $17,131 a year” and “the average two-year program costs just $2,713 a year”. Room and board is one of the highest expenses college students have to pay for. Depending on how much financial aid you receive, it may be beneficial for you to live at home while attending college. If that is not an option look into low rent apartments and sharing your space with roommates. Reviewing your options early on and making smart choices prior to entering college is the first step to great money management.
As soon as it’s time to pick your classes, you find out there is so much more extra stuff you have to purchase that never even crossed your mind. In order to maintain your goal at money management, you need to have some money! Financial aid, savings, and loans are never enough. Having a job is almost necessary for most students. Living the college life is so expensive; money comes and goes so fast. Nothing is cheap in college so having a steady income definitely comes in handy.
There are many options available, from full-time jobs, part-time or even summer jobs. It is difficult to juggle school and work but most students seem to balance them out successfully. Don’t over exert yourself, but it is good to do whatever you can to receive extra income. On campus jobs are also perfect if you need a more convenient or flexible schedule. You can save time, save money on transportation, and work your shift schedule around your classes. You want avoid being in debt as much as possible. The Huffington Post claims, “student loan debt has risen above $1 trillion and the average student’s debt at graduation now exceeds $25,000″.
Planning ahead and budgeting might be the two most important steps toward usefully managing your college money. Setting aside a savings account for emergencies is certainly an essential safety net because school and life can be so unpredictable. For example, car problems are not so cheap fixes and they can get in the way of you not making it to finals on time. Having that emergency fund can be the one thing that saves you from missing class.
Creating a budget for your college needs and wants can help you keep track of what you buy so there is no over spending. You don’t have to be cheap, but most definitely be frugal about your purchases. Pay close attention to your eating habits; don’t spend so much money on food. Avoid paying full price for your supplies and activities.
When buying books for class, try to find them for a cheaper price on an online bookstore or you can even borrow them from a friend. If you buy a book, at the end of the semester see if you can sell it back. Use any school discounts available to you. At some schools if you bring your ID you get discounts off public transportation, movie tickets, and concerts.
While I was in college I took advantage of the government aid and tax credits that are given to students. Filling out the FAFSA early every year assured my fanatical aid assistance and it paid for the majority of my college needs. However, it did not pay for all my expenses so I turned to other avenues that might help with my college funding. When I filed my taxes in the beginning of each year, my tax adviser informed me that there were credits and deductions that I could apply for. The tax benefits were a big help and I used that extra money to pay for the college expenses.
The IRS Publication 529 states that, “The American Opportunity Tax Credit can be claimed for expenses for the first four years of post-secondary education,” and that it provides “a tax credit of up to $2,500 of the cost of tuition, fees and course materials paid during the taxable year”. The IRS Publication also explains there are tuition and fee deductions available and a Lifetime Learning Credit. Managing your money in college has so many benefits. I graduated with a good credit score and not too many folks can say that. The stress of being in debt can take a toll on some people, so you want to refrain from going down that road. Don’t depend on credit cards and loans; make those your last resort.