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5 Tips to Save While Paying Off Student Debt

Written by Kevin McGovern

Illustration Monnaie Royale Canadienne and Tyler Doupe from Student Life Network

So you’ve got student debt. But, you also want to save (and occasionally splurge). You’re not alone. Let me tell you how I structured my life to make it happen.

First, a bit about me: I just recently graduated college and landed a great first job. I know there’s room for promotion, and though I’m nowhere near the top of my game, I’m off to a pretty good start.

But you know what comes attached to this new job? Bills! And, I am not talking about my cell phone bill that my parents made me pay while I was in college. I am talking about real bills.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “You will miss college when you hit the real word.” And, since my parents forced me to leave their house and start my own life, I’ve got to these bills myself.

Rent is fair, my car payment and insurance are manageable, and I do well with my food budget—aside from my stereotypical need for avocado toast to start my day.

But, the one thing that has really made getting started on my own a challenge is my student debt.

It’s such a Catch 22. I had to get loans to go to school, and now I am struggling using the education I got to pay off the loans I needed to get the education in the first place. But I’m not alone. In fact, I read somewhere that 71% of college students take out loans.

So, they must have figured out how to live with their debt, right? Well so did I. Here are some tips I have for my friends getting ready to leave the confines of campus life for the hustle and bustle of the real world.

1. Borrow Responsibly

One big regret I have about the way I managed my loans was that I used them for more than just schooling.

I wish someone would have reminded me that student loans aren’t meant for more than the direct costs of school, and they shouldn’t be used as a means to live above the “needs” threshold.

If you’re using your student loans to buy the finest new tech and rent that recently remodelled loft, you aren’t just taking advantage of the system, but you are also costing yourself that money, with up to 7% interest.

Remember student loans are not free money; they are far from it. Use them responsibly now and save yourself some serious heartache later when you’re paying for the frivolous things you bought in college.

2. Plan a Budget

I know… planning a budget can feel like such a chore. But it’s an “adulting” essential. Though it feels so limiting, it’s a great way to keep track of your spending habits.

You know what feels liberating, though? Paying things off early. That’s what I hope to do with my loans. I don’t want them lingering around when I go to buy a house or start a family.

Besides, it isn’t like we don’t live in the digital age or anything that make these tedious processes easier than ever. So there is no excuse. There are several apps for that!

I’m a big fan of CIBC’s free budget app, which you can find here. Once you get the hang of it, you can upgrade to something a little more personal like Mint.

3. Live Below Your Means

Yeah, you just got out of college and started a real job, but also, you just got out of college and started a real job. You don’t need the latest year model of any car unless it stopped being produced several years ago.

You don’t need the nicest matching set of furniture for your apartment. You’re young—focus on experiences rather than things.

Build up your material wealth slowly. Learn to be a discerning shopper.

I’ve seen a few of my friends make the mistake of too much too quickly, and I am talking about more than splurging on a few avocados. I know it won’t be long until they are drowning in a lot more debt than what they owe on their student loans.

4. Take Advantage of Deals And Promotions

In this day and age, there’s always a promotional sale going on somewhere. Surf the web for deals on any and everything before you buy it. Odds are someone probably charges a lot less than your local retail store.

Use apps like Flipp to find coupons. And use apps like Honey to apply hidden discount codes at e-commerce check-outs.

I’ve learned to take advantage of coupons and rewards programs—almost everywhere has them. Be patient; a deal may come along. There are plenty of ways to save out there. Take full advantage, especially as far as any loans or debt go.

I went one step further and decided to refinance my student loans to consolidate my debt for a lower interest rate. Like I said, I am set on paying off my debt early.

5. Allow Yourself Little Rewards

I’ve also learned that I need treat myself a little bit. It’s important to allow yourself little rewards every now and then.

Pick an item or an activity that you’ve been dreaming of. For me, it’s still my embarrassingly expensive avocado toast habit. I can’t start my day without it.

So, metaphorically speaking, eat your avocado toast to keep from getting discouraged.

In all seriousness, I am learning that if I practice frugality now, I’ll worry less later—which means I can have avocado on more than just my toast in the future.

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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.