With the rapidly rising cost of tuition, many college students are relying on student loans to finance their education only to find themselves overwhelmed by debt after graduation. By planning ahead and borrowing wisely, students can minimize the amount they’ll owe and pay off the debt faster.
Only borrow what you need. It can be tempting to apply for student loan funding above and beyond the basic tuition needs to supplement living and entertainment expenses, but the more money borrowed, the longer it will take to pay off the debt. Working part-time can be a good alternative for bringing in extra cash flow.
Pay attention to the loan repayment terms. Signing on a dotted line for student loan money is easy enough, but at some point that money has to be repaid. Make sure the repayment terms are clear and calculate what monthly loan payments will be to make sure they are affordable before getting the loan.
Start saving early. Don’t wait until the first year of college to begin planning how to pay for it. Start putting savings away as early as possible, even if it’s just a little bit – every dollar will help. Savings accounts designed specifically for education expenses can be a great way to put money away with possible tax benefits.
Earn college credits in high school. Many high schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses, allowing students to begin earning college credits. Not only will this save on tuition, but AP courses also can potentially help students earn more scholarship money.
Take advantage of other funding options. Student loans aren’t the only route available to help students pay for college. There are many scholarships and grants available. Fastweb.com provides a free scholarship matching service to help students pay for college. Parents may wish to look into whether borrowing money from a retirement plan or IRA makes financial sense for the family.
Cut back on housing expenses. Instead of using student loan money to rent an off-campus apartment, consider applying to become a resident assistant (RA) in an on-campus dorm. RAs supervise dorms and in return often receive steeply discounted or even free housing in the dorm. Living at home with parents for a year or two during college is another good option for saving money on living expenses.
Do you have additional tips for minimizing student loan debt? Share them here.
If you find an old bank statement, certificate of deposit or safe deposit box receipt buried in your family records, don’t assume those assets are lost forever. Tracking down old accounts can take some work and detective skills, but it can be worth it to recover money or valuables. The FDIC offers these tips for researching old bank accounts:
Determine whether the bank is still open. As the years pass, some banks will change names or merge with other banks. You can trace the history of any FDIC-insured institution through the FDIC’s Bank Find online database.
If the bank has closed, search your state’s unclaimed property records. After a certain period of inactivity, unclaimed property from closed banks will be turned over to the state. You can search a database of unclaimed property records in most states by visiting Unclaimed.org or MissingMoney.com.
Remember, the best thing you can do to help prevent bank accounts from being lost in the first place is to keep detailed records. Compile a list of all your accounts and what financial institutions are holding them and store it in a safe place. Make a habit of updating this list annually or as changes occur and be sure to notify your financial institutions in writing any time your mailing address changes. Once an account is closed, destroy those bank records or make clear notes on the paperwork to indicate the account is no longer open.
After seeing your money disappear every month, you’ve crunched the numbers and outlined a personal budget – now the key is to stick to it. According to the Wall Street Journal, there is no magical solution for budgeting that makes everyone successful, but there are steps you can take in your daily life to help you stay on track:
Set a future goal for something that budgeting will help you achieve. Whether it’s taking that tropical vacation you’ve always dreamed about or landscaping your backyard, picturing the fruits of your labor will help motivate you to monitor your spending.
Remove credit cards from your wallet. Seeing those plastic cards in your wallet just waiting to be used may be too tempting to resist some days. That’s why it’s best to just remove the temptation all together. If you’re concerned about needing a credit card on you in case of an emergency, then slip it in a pocket of your wallet where it’s not readily visible or tape a note to it reminding you this card is for emergencies only.
Give yourself a visual cue as a daily reminder. Try putting a change jar in the middle of your dining room table so you’ll remember that you’re watching your pennies when you walk by it every day. Or make a homemade bracelet out of a cheap chain and a penny. You’ll see it every time you pull out your wallet as a reminder to spend wisely.
Use cash for daily expenses. At the beginning of each month or pay period, withdraw cash in the amount you’ve budgeted for daily expenses. This will help you track what you’ve spent and what you have left. When you run out of bills, you know you’ve reached your limit.
Sleep on big purchases. If you’re considering purchasing a large ticket item such as a new television, take a 24-hour break before returning to the store to buy it. This will help you avoid impulse purchases and give you time to reflect on whether you really need it and if your budget can handle it.
Set up a savings account with early withdrawal penalties. If you know withdrawing money from your savings will cost you, you’ll be less likely to dip into it every month to cover budget overages. Capitol Federal® offers several term options for certificates of deposit to help you expand your savings.
Share your goal with family members and friends. Once you’ve planned out a budget, clue in your family members and close friends so they are aware of your new spending goals. They can help by offering encouragement and will understand if your new money habits mean fewer dinners out.
Reward yourself. Setting up a budget and sticking to it isn’t easy. So when you’re successful, you deserve a reward. Budget in small rewards at the end of every month or quarter for things you wouldn’t normally let yourself do, such as a manicure or a night out to the movies.
CapFed’s True Blue Online® can make it easy to track your expenses and see where your money is going. The service is free to all our deposit customers and you can even download transactions into Quicken®. For additional resources to help you manage your finances, including our free online budget calculators, visit our Web site. Member FDIC