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How You Can Graduate Debt Free

The following is a guest post from Hannah at Preciously Preserved.  She is a southern gal living in San Diego and blogs about all sorts of subjects including dating, fashion, and even politics.  Thanks Hannah!

The decisions one makes is so crucial–especially in this dwindling economy.  Decisions become weightier, money becomes tighter and life becomes a bit more challenging.  I know this.  I grew up in a frugal home – a home where money was tight and we didn’t have extra to throw around.  Decisions were weighed carefully; decisions such as if we could go out to eat, or should we make that extra drive because of gas prices.  Trust me, I understand frugality.

I also understand frugality when it comes to talking about college education.  I am a college graduate.  I have a degree in English and a minor Sociology.  It, however, was not without sacrifice and diligence.   I could not sit back on my laurels, party every night, and bask in my parents glorious $100 bills.  I had to work hard for it.  My parents were eager to help and did in many ways, but make no mistake, if I didn’t work hard neither my scholarships nor my parents help would have come through.

Tips to Graduate Debt Free

So, let’s talk about how YOU too can graduate debt free and possibly even with a surplus!  I did!  I will give you 5 tips to chew on and perhaps help you transform your life and your loans.

  1. Live at home if you are able!  I was.  My parents allowed me to stay and so I graciously took them up on it.  I wanted to move out a couple times just to be around friends, but I chose the financially smart way.  I did not have a job that would have sustained me and also paid for school.  However, if in fact you do, by all means—live elsewhere.  My brother-in-law is in school and renting a room with several other guys.  He pays hardly any rent and still gets to be around his friends and nearby campus.  I encourage it if it is frugally smart.  If not, stay put and be like a squirrel–keep stashing away for those cold months!
  2. Go to a community college first!  No, it doesn’t have the parties, the community or probably the professors you just adore.  However, would you rather sacrifice the temporary to gain financial freedom for the long term?  I hope your answer is yes.  This is another great trick I instituted and it worked out fantastic.  What 17-18 year old college student knows their major?  I know I didn’t.  So, I took my gen-eds at a drastically reduced price and waited a bit till I moved on to a University.  Don’t be ashamed!  Be proud you’re not a sheep and following the herd of the indebted.
  3. DON’T take out a loan.  Just don’t!  It’s not smart.  It took many frustrating hours researching scholarships, but I did.  I found a couple and received them each semester.  I was a student ambassador each semester and because of my great grades I also received a few hundred for academics.  I also wrote essays periodically which would win money toward tuition.  Do whatever you can!  I promise– it pays off!   My parents always made a deal with us kiddos that if we made A’s they would pay for our education in full, B’s were partial payment, C’s even less, and D’s nothing.  But because of my grades my parents helped me tremendously and because I stayed at home they were able to.  They wouldn’t have been able to fork over $15,000 a semester.  I had to make the grades, earn scholarships, live at home and go to a local campus.  Sacrifices were made on both parts.
  4. Get a job!  I had a job all throughout college.  I was a nanny most of the time and I even tried being a student worker.  Do whatever you can!  Get a job.  Mine was part time, but if you can swing full time employment go ahead!  I just couldn’t be a full time student and work full time. I was able to save my own money for my future wedding and pay my bills (cell phone, car insurance, gas, etc.)  I love looking back and having that feeling of accomplishment!  I can also say I definitely couldn’t have done it without the Lord or my parents.  I went through a lot of health issues during college and praise the Lord He was with me every step of the way.
  5. Finally, DON’T rack up bills on a credit card.  I know, it is tempting, but DON’T do it.  Sure, get a card to build your credit and get cash back through a great rewards program, but do not spend beyond your means.  Debt is what is disintegrating this country.  Don’t join the masses.  If you have to, don’t go out to eat as much.  BE frugal!  It’s only for four/five years of your life.  And think about the future generations…..or even your future spouse.  Do you really want to make him shoulder YOUR debt?  Not too fair, huh?  Think about others and the consequences before you swipe your card.

Savings Takes Sacrifice

All of these tips don’t sound too fun, huh?  I know.  They took a lot of sacrifice and sometimes it was quite painful.  However, hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I have no regrets.  I am so grateful I leaned on my parents and had their full support.  I am also grateful that I decided to stick to it and remain faithful to my goal.  My now husband is grateful I didn’t come into marriage with a bunch of loans and I too am grateful he didn’t either.  We both graduated debt free and we both sacrificed to do so.

I promise, if you’re diligent and if you can sacrifice temporarily for the future, you can graduate debt free too!  It just takes self-discipline and perseverance.

Hope you guys have a blessed day!

Crystal’s Comments:  Every decision to save money comes with a give and take.  I knew from others that college debt could be the difference between starting my adult life with a financial bang or spending years to pay off one decision before I could move on to others.  For me, I opted to sacrifice the “normal college experience” for the opportunity to just jump into the rest of my life with no lingering monthly payments.  So yes, working your way through college and applying for every scholarship or grant that you can think of may not be any fun at all, but I do think that no college debt was worth it for us.  It was the only reason we could buy our first house when I was 23.  Do I wish I could have gone to more social stuff or had more free time for those 4 years?  Did working 40-60 hour weeks on top of 12-18 hour semesters suck?  Totally.  But if I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t do it any differently.

FYI:  I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 per year.  I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $70,000-$90,000 through blogging, professional pet sitting, hubby's reffing, and our rental home.  If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you, PLUS a free custom header banner from me!).  Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!
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12 thoughts on “How You Can Graduate Debt Free

  1. I really like your thinking. The biggest are staying at home, community college and working. I spoke with my wife and we have decided that the kids are going to community college first and staying at home. At least then they will have a degree and if the would like to further education its on them. Don’t take loans if you can get by without them.

  2. I think a hard and fast rule should be that if you do take any loans, they are only for your classes. No loans to cover the expenses associated with room, board, and entertainment. If you limit your loans to those associated with actually taking classes, you won’t have the freedom of no loans, but it is likely going to be a lot more manageable than those who have funded every expense of their college experience with loans.

  3. I graduated college debt free as well. I am lucky my parents helped me by paying half and then I worked hard to get a bunch of scholarships. I also worked a couple semesters too. It is possible, and I even went to a 4 year college. If my parents didn’t help I probably would have applied for more scholarships and worked more.

  4. If you can take more classes. At my school any classes above 15 hours did not increase tuition. Most of my semesters consisted of 21 hours (7 classes).
    Scholarships are also great. Do not make the mistake of thinking you can’t get any more scholarships after high school. I applied to a lot of scholarships in high school, but did not apply for any during my freshman year. Let’s just say I was pretty broke my sophomore year. I applied to more scholarships my sophomore, junior, and senior year. 🙂 My bank account was very happy!

  5. If you can handle the extra workload SavvyFinancial has some great advice. I, like Crystal sacrificed a lot of social opportunities to graduate debt free. I also had enough left to do quite a bit of travelling. Sure i didn’t hit the mall, or the bar with my friends, but I think I came out ahead.

  6. Although I like your direction and love what you are trying to promote I have to disagree with your solution to the third point: receiving scholarships in lieu of student loans.

    Don’t get me wrong, I can’t stand my student loans. They are annoying, frustrating and everything else awful on that list. However, suggesting that receiving financial aid and scholarships will alleviate any need for loans is rather naive.

    Finding scholarships can be a daunting task, I don’t disagree with you there. They also take many hours of research and paperwork to properly apply for. However the reality is a vast majority of students (mainly of middle class families) are not eligible for scholarships. All arguments of fairness or what is right aside, the multitude of scholarships out there are exclusive, rather than inclusive, catering to specific religions, races, ethnic backgrounds, etc. Remember too that many are contests between other students and not everyone will win.

    A lot of parents cannot afford to pay their students for working hard and receiving grades either. Although I believe it is a wonderful tool for instilling in them a passion and sense of accomplishment it is not so realistic today.

    How one goes about student loans is far more important than not getting them at all. They can be a wonderful tool provided that they are used in moderation and only when necessary. For example, it would be who of one if they could take out federal loans with lower interest rates and deferred interest, instead of going to a bank.

    Working during school was an essential part of my education and financing my basic living expenses, such as food and shelter. I was surprised at how many of my peers were not. However I later discovered the mountains of student debt they had as a result.

    The most important take away here for me, which I feel many bloggers leave out is this: regardless of expense or debt, the education has to be fundamentally worthwhile in a career or job sense. Students can have an experience anywhere. I don’t want to pay or be in debt $50,000 for some fun social gatherings and parties. Parents, educators and the general media need to do a far better job of educating our youth that many degrees and programs do not necessarily translate into jobs, regardless of the market. Instead they need to focus on educating our youth on the importance of having a fundamental, marketable and concrete skill.

    That’s my little rant coming from my years of experience at university and that of my peers.

  7. There is a lot free money out there, scholarships! Students are just too lazy and prefer to skip the application process. Take advantage of their laziness and claim free money.

  8. Congratulations, you have your degree!

    So how does a recent grad get a well paying job when so many others are competing for the same position?

    It begins by targeting the right companies, locating the hiring manager, and effectively contacting them to land that all-important interview. You also have to develop your own personal marketing campaign to stand out from the crowd.

    The secret to getting a good job is finding your target companies problems and using
    your experience to help solve them. And yes, even though you may not have a lot
    of practical experience you can still help companies solve real problems.

    Perseverance is paramount. Never give up!

    Bob Prosen

    CEO -The Prosen Center

    P.S. Three Ohio State University seniors are using this process to get a great
    job upon graduation. A good job is the best antidote for student loan debt.

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