Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and do something over again? I know I have felt that way PLENTY of times in my life. One of the things I wish I could do over again is that I would be more mindful with our student loans while we were still in school. There are definitely a few things that you can do while you are in school to keep your student loan balance in check, and I wish I would have done them! We lived frugally in school knowing that someday we would be paying off the balance of more than $600k in student loan debt, but we still could have done a few things differently. things to do to keep student loans in check

One of the most asked questions we receive is “what would you have done differently with your student loans if you could do school over?” We would have done our best to earn more money while we were still in school, we wouldn’t have mindlessly accepted the full amount of student loans available to us, we would have made student loan payments while we were still in school, and we would have done an even better job of living like students.

There are a number of reasons why you might have to take out student loans. But there are also a number of ways you can keep those student loans in check while you are in school. Being smart about how you live off of your student loans is crucial to paying back your student loan debt as painlessly as possible. Here are a few things you can do to keep your student loans in check while you are still in school.

      1. Earn money while you are in school.

        First, do what you can to earn money while you are still in school. This might mean getting a job in the evenings, weekends, and or holidays. Almost all schools have a break at some point. Even if it is only for two weeks– take a job and earn a little extra money to go towards your loans. Use your time wisely. You can use a temp agency to help you find a few jobs that you can do here or there. If your schedule allows while you are in school, you can get or keep a job while you are in school. Try to pick something where you can work on your school work or something that will otherwise help you in your career search once school is over (like a research or teaching assistant on campus). A lot of students think they can’t handle a job while they are in school. Some schools (especially when you are earning a professional degree) will even discourage you from working. But do your best to not justify not having a job. Use your school breaks, evenings, and weekends wisely. You won’t regret it. In addition, you don’t have to have  formal job. There are plenty of things you can do on the side to earn a little extra money– sell things on Amazon, take online surveys, start a blog, become an Uber driver or a Postmates deliverer. The sky is the limit! Do anything you can possible do to earn money while you are in school.

      2. Don’t take out the maximum amount of student loans available to you.

        One of the easiest ways to keep your student loan balance in check while you are in school is to not accept the full amount of student loans available to you if you don’t need them. The amount of student loans you qualify for is usually more than you will ever need while you are in school. And taking out more student loans than you need creates the obvious set backs of 1) having more debt to repay and 2) having more interest accrue, further hindering how much debt you will have to repay. Obviously, you can’t control how much tuition will cost every semester. But you can control how much money you will need for living expenses. Understandably, it might be difficult to guess how much money you will need to accept for living expenses, but this can be easily be remedied by tracking your past spending and creating a budget (more on how to create a budget here). Once you have an idea of how much money you will need to make rent, keep yourself fed and clothed, it makes it a lot easier to know exactly how much money you will need to take out.  Just because you are offered a certain amount of money, doesn’t mean you need to accept it. Remember, you can always accept more student loans later if you need them. Do your best to not accept every dollar available to you.

      3. Make student loan payments during school.

        Use any extra money that you get your hands on while you are still in school to put towards student loans. Remember that every day (if your loans are unsubsidized) your loans are accruing interest, costing you more and more money. This is especially scary if you have six figures or more of student loan debt.  Any gifts you receive (for a birthday or holiday) or money earned from a job can be applied towards your loans. It may seem like a sacrifice now, but when you are able to pay off your student loans FAST, you will be glad you made some payments while you were still in school.

      4. Live like a student.

        It might be tempting when you are in school to live the way you intend to live in your upcoming profession. Just because you are *going* to be a doctor (or lawyer, dentist, teacher, accountant, whatever your chosen field) — you aren’t one yet. Do yourself a favor and live as frugally as possible while you are still in school. With any luck, that frugal mind set will stick and you will still live frugally when you are making more money– that way you can make and meet lots of exciting financial goals. But while you are in school, don’t buy the nicest car that you think you will be able to afford when you graduate. Use coupons and rebates to do your grocery shopping. Take advantage of the “student discount” — most places like movie theaters and restaurants offer great deals for students. Live with a family member or get a roommate(s) at an affordable apartment. Use promo codes for shopping online (Honey scans the internet for valid promo codes for you!) Live like a student, so that later you can afford the lifestyle that you seek.

Take it from someone with more than $600k in debt. Do what you can NOW, while you are still in school, to keep your student loans in check. You won’t regret it!

What things did you do/wish you did in school to keep your student loans in check? Comment below! 

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