It’s no surprise that college is expensive, so try to save as much cash as you can before going to college. And apply for as much free college money as you can — think scholarships and grants. Financial aid offices make it almost too easy to sign up for student loan debt, but in order to reach financial independence sooner rather than later, think before signing on the dotted line.
My Debt as a Teenager
On first impression, my life looks fantastic. Money comes in, money is saved, and financial independence isn’t a matter of “if” but “when.” I have a net worth higher than the average adult in the U.S. and I’m only 24. The fact is, my life is good. But I had to work to make it that way.
In 2008 and 2009, my money situation wasn’t so ideal. I took out approximately $16,500 in loans during my first two years of college. I couldn’t give a good reason why, just that I wanted to go to school and I quickly grew tired of filling out scholarships — so much so that I’d rather work 14 hours a day doing something else than fill them out. Stupid, I know, but it’s the way I looked at it. (The best hourly rate I’ve ever received was filling out scholarship forms.)
I opted to take out multiple student loans over the course of my first two years. I remember making various stops at the student financial aid office. Here’s how it went:
Me: Hey, my name’s Will Lipovsky. I was asked to stop by and sign some papers.
Student loan lady (I didn’t even find out her name): Here you go. Sign here and here, please.
Me: Great. There you are.
Student loan lady (she was a bottle blonde, I believe): Okay, looks great. You can access the records online.
Me: Great. *slings backpack over shoulder and heads to class*
I felt that I had to go to a four-year school. Private seemed the way to go. So once I started, I felt the only logical way to make it through school was to sign any loan papers I needed. I signed more student loans than scholarships.
How I Paid for College Without Really Using Loans
But that’s the end of the pathetic sob story. I knew in high school that college is expensive. So here’s what I did — it’s an insane idea — I saved money for college before I went to college. What a revolutionary idea!
I still went to college at the same time as my friends. Saving up cash didn’t hold me back. And it allowed me to pay back the loans in cash before any interest had accrued.
Paying the loans back hurt a lot. I kept thinking: “This stupid stupid loan debt could have instead gone to buying a turbocharged MK4 Toyota Supra.”
When I was in elementary school, I measured money by how many packets of Skittles it could buy.
When I was in In high school, I measured money by how many ATVs it could buy.
When I was in college, I measured money by how many Toyota Supras it could buy.
Today, I measure money by how many years of financial independence it can buy.
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My advice: Save as much cash as you can to pay for college before going. And apply for scholarships like it’s your full-time job. Hire a virtual assistant to help if you hate doing it as much as I did.
I recommend filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form at your school’s financial aid office to ease your burden. Once you fill out this form, you will be eligible to receive grants, in addition to federal loans. These grants don’t have to be paid back, making it free money to put toward your degree. You have nothing to lose by filling out the form, but, as you can see, you have a great deal to gain.
I also worked hard to get through college as cheaply as possible. For example, I would buy used textbooks whenever possible. While it doesn’t sound like much of a difference, saving $10 to $15 per textbook over four years really adds up.
Not to mention, there are hidden charges everywhere that can really eat into your budget. For example, do you really need to eat out so much? Do you really need cable television? While these seem like small expenses, they can add to your debt quickly.
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