Our interview series is almost done! We’ve got six more interviews to go, and we plan to share them all by the end of the year. We’ve got some really great ones in store, including today’s interview with Laura S. She shares how she graduated from school debt free (!), as well as all her awesome tips and tricks for others who are hoping to do the same. So without further rambling from us, we’ll let Laura take it from here!
Tell us your story.
Hey friends! My story started somewhere around the time that I started high school. I knew I wanted to go to university, but I also knew that it costs a lot of money to get a degree. My parents instilled in me from an early age the importance of doing well in school. and participating in a variety of activities. It was partly because those things would make me a more intelligent and well-rounded human, but also because they understood the importance of scholarships. Consequently, I was very active in clubs and activities in high school and ended up getting a few different scholarships that resulted in a (mostly) full ride to school. I’ve also worked at least part-time since I was 16, so I used that to pay for things like books, a laptop, and other essential student items (like coffee & beer!).
Most students your age don’t really comprehend what debt even means, so what made you so determined to graduate without debt?
I knew that I wanted to travel both while I was in school and once I finished, and I knew how hard that would be if I was in debt. I also felt a sense of achievement if I received a scholarship that I pursued, which was definitely a factor!
So what are your secret ingredients to debt-free schooling?
I have a few!
Number 1: Apply for any and all scholarships you might have a chance at. Ask your parents if their companies offer any scholarships, check with the guidance department at your school, and look around online for community-specific ones. You might be the only one who applies, and it’s easy money in your pocket!
Number 2: Get a part-time job! Yeah, I know, I know. You’re in school, you’re busy, there’s no time for that. That’s just not true. Either find a job that you really like (for me, that’s waitressing!) so that it feels like a break from schoolwork, or find a job where you can also work on homework. I know my school has library assistants that are pretty much paid to do homework for 4 hours, then clean and lock up at the end of the night.
Number 3: Follow all that good student advice you’ve heard. Never buy textbooks from the bookstore. Ask every store you shop at if they have a student discount. Make your own coffee. Look for free activities to do with your friends (Hint: Work out. You’re already paying for that campus gym). Pregame before heading out to the bar. You can find lots of these tips online!
What sort of tips do you have for fellow students looking to make the most of their college experience on less?
Look for times when you can convince your friends to do a free activity, or suggest a place that has a food or drink special instead of paying full price. Master the art of pregaming & house parties to avoid spending as much at the bars. Look for different DIY projects on Pinterest, whether that’s making gifts or cleaning supplies, or a week of meals for under $30. Pinterest has it all!
What budgeting tools (apps, spreadsheets, strategies, etc.) are you using?
I currently use a paper budget at the beginning of the month to map out how much I have to spend in each category while still saving for various things. I use the app Spendee to track day-to-day expenses, since I really like the interface. One of my favourite apps when it comes to things like road trips is Budgy. You create a budget and put people into it, then you can mark who paid for groceries, who paid for gas, etc., and easily work out who owes who what.
Any final words?
At the end of your college experience, you won’t look back and think, dang, I wish I’d have bought a coffee every day, but you’ll never forget that awesome concert you went to. Save your money for experiences!
Thanks, Laura! Such great advice for any and all students and soon-to-be students. I could have really used some advice like this before my freshman year! If you have any thoughts or high fives for Laura, feel free to leave them in the comments below.