This post is inspired by a recent article published by ABC Action News titled “Florida Board of Health suspends health care licenses over student loan defaults” … I know scary right? There are plenty of loan forgiveness and repayment plan options available, but somehow, millions of Americans everyday still find themselves in a pile of student loan debt that they can’t seem to dig their way out of (See let’s talk about money for stats and numbers). Undergrad loans plus grad school debt adds up quickly into one big mess while trying to keep up with living expenses and emergencies along the way. In such cases- I think the most important question is – how do you prevent this from happening in the first place? My answer is to avoid student debt. But for most, that’s not a possibility since graduate school is so EXPENSIVE. But there are a few ways to reduce the amount of money that you borrow. I listed a few helpful tips below.
Determine what you can afford then look up the tuition costs for each of the programs you plan to apply to. Ask yourself, how much does each program cost and can I afford it? If not, is there anyway that you can come up with the additional funding?
Research and apply for scholarships
Don’t leave any money on the table! Finding scholarships for graduate programs are a little more challenging but they are available. Some may require an essay or letters of recommendation while others will expect you to work for their organization for a specific period of time upon graduation. Either way, do the research and GET THAT MONEY!
Understand loan options and repayment plans
Before you go any further into debt, thoroughly review and understand the loan options as well as the process of paying them back. Use the student loan repayment calculator to estimate what your monthly payments would be in the future.
Get into the new groove
When school starts you most likely won’t be working. Create a detailed budget that corresponds with the reduced income. Once created, practice living according to that budget prior to matriculation. Adjusting in advance will help to make the transition smoother. It also provides an opportunity to recognize and workout any kinks with your budget ahead of time. (See Lets talk some more about money for instructions on how to create a detailed budget)
Pay down/eliminate debt
If you have multiple car loans, credit cards, personal/private/student loans in addition to your regular bills… you should strongly consider eliminating as much of that debt as possible. School is stressful enough, don’t add money problems on top of it. Debt collectors are going to want their money on time, every month without question.
The essentials for survival are food, clothes, shelter, utilities and transportation. Once those are taken care of, go through the rest of your budget line by line and eliminate or reduce where possible. For example – Can you – (1) Reduce the dining out budget? (2) Lower car payments/insurance? (3) Style your own hair? (4) Use the gym on campus instead of paying a gym membership (5) Get a gel manicure as opposed to a full set? (6) Do you really need those magazine subscriptions?
There is a disaster waiting to happen with your name on it….Be prepared! Whether it be a car accident, home repair, medical emergency or spouse being laid off… you want to be financially prepared for the unexpected. Try to save up a comfortable cushion to fall back on when the storms of life knock you down.
Remember it’s a LOAN,
You have to pay it back! Don’t get caught up in the mindset of, “I’ll be able to afford it once I start working.” Chances are you will try to live a lifestyle that mirrors the paychecks you are cashing, without ever taking the time to fully evaluate the amount of debt accumulated. Time and interest rates have a way of sneaking up on you and before you know it … you’ve defaulted on the loan and you can’t work because your healthcare license has been suspended. Life is unpredictable and you have no idea what lies ahead, so play it smart and ONLY borrow what you NEED after carefully reviewing all financial options and resources available to you.