Rising student debt is a major concern around the world. In 2020, several universities put a moratorium on student debt payments in place of COVID-19.
However, student debt may also include other kinds of debt not related to education. For example, you might owe money on credit cards or be in the process of paying off a car loan.
Building positive financial habits while still being a student is a great investment in your future. With some effort and commitment, you can come up with a strategic plan to help you reach your goal of a living debt-free lifestyle sooner.
Here are some ideas on how to navigate debt payments and move closer to your goal of gaining financial stability.
1. Create A Budget And Stick To It
A great place to start is to understand your monthly expenses and work around them. This practice helps you live within your means in the long-term.
List down all your fixed expenses such as rent, utilities, mobile bills and subscription services. Allocate a budget for important needs such as food, transportation and educational expenses like books.
Living paycheque to paycheque is a struggle, but it always good to allocate a small amount of money for emergencies. You should also write down how much debt is owed and the amount that needs to be paid each month.
Today, the market is flooded with several apps that can help you track your monthly expenses. Download an expenses app and record your expenses every month so that you can keep a tab on exactly where your money is going.
2. Say “No” To Wants, “Yes” To Needs
While creating a monthly budget is a key step, it is also equally important to identify how you can lower your expenses. Cut down on things you could live without—for example, your over-the-top content streaming subscription or exorbitant christmas expenses.
Learn to say “no” to impulse buys. Wait 24 hours before making such a purchase, and have an accountability partner if it seems tough at first. Avoiding purchases that aren’t on your monthly budget also helps you differentiate between needs and wants.
Redesign your social life to fit your budget – and don’t forget to also make it exciting. For example, instead of hanging out at the pub or going out for dinner, host your friends at home, or have a picnic in the park.
Eating is another major expense for students. Explore options like learning how to cook meals at home. It’s less expensive and healthier, too.
3. Get A Part-Time Job Or Side Hustle
It’s a great idea to work while pursuing your education. Work part-time and have some income coming in every month to offset your expenses. A part-time job also helps gain work experience and build a work ethic early on, no matter what kind of work it involves.
These days several online platforms offer gig-style work that can be done remotely and crafted around your study schedules. For example, you can register as a writer and do part-time writing work.
Consider working for virtual assistant platforms if you have no work experience. These platforms pay you to do administrative work on your own time.
It is also possible to turn a passion or skill into a side hustle. For instance, if you make handmade products, you can market these on social media or through online marketplaces to generate a pipeline of income.
Monetising your passion may also prove to be a source of satisfaction. Student creators sometimes continue their side hustles long after graduation, even while pursuing a full-time job on the side.
4. Get Savvy About Money
More and more consumers today are keen to learn about managing their money and building a comfortable egg early on. For example, many students are learning about the stock markets.
You can make small investments that allow you to earn passive income even before you graduate. By investing in your own financial literacy, you can learn the ropes of saving, investing and managing money.
Every time you plan to go for a night out, think how this money can work for you if you spend it on purchasing a new stock instead!
Several online platforms, blogs, YouTube channels and courses focus on financial literacy, and many of them are accessible free of charge.
Financial literacy is helping consumers reach their life goals faster, whether it is to buy a new home, travel the world, retire early, or work for passion and not money.
5. Build Your Credit Score
The misuse of credit instruments like credit cards has given them such a bad name that consumers often blame the instrument rather than the practice of misusing it. By doing so, they miss out on the perks of building their credit scores.
Luckily, building up good credit over time will help you get access to financial products that come with perks, rewards and benefits that lower your expenses and raise your standard of living over a period of time.
For example, credit cards that offer travel miles can help you fund your travel around the world for free.
Some steps to raise your credit score include:
- Making a list of all credit instruments and the amount of debt owed on each. Write down the payment schedules for each, and decide which ones to pay off first.
- Typically, it is a good idea to pay off the one with the highest interest first while making the minimum amount of payments on the rest.
- Never miss a payment, as this results in your interest immediately increasing. At least pay off the minimum amount.
- When getting a new credit card, make sure you understand all the benefits and payment rules. Make an informed decision, and choose the best one for your situation.
Paying off debt as a student can be tough. But the lessons and skills learned and experience gained during this phase of life are building blocks for the future.
So, invest in building positive money habits and a positive credit score, and you will be able to make the shift to a debt-free life much sooner.