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When I ask most people if they have any regrets from college, they gaze off into the distance, smile, and shake their heads no. But for me, I look back and there is so much I would change. I made a lot of mistakes in college, and unfortunately most were money mistakes. Here are five of them that you can avoid.
I didn't do any research. I didn't look into interest rates or calculate how much time it would take me to pay back these loans. I was out of scholarship and grant money and I needed a quick-fix solution to pay my tuition. Everybody had student loans right? How nasty could private loans really be? Turns out they can be pretty nasty. If you have to take out a loan, try to get a government subsidized one before taking the private loan route.
It's a great idea to have a backup credit card in case you get stuck in an emergency situation. But you need to be strict with your use of it. When I first got my credit card, I was good with it and then I lost control and let the material world get the best of me. I closed my accounts long ago but am still paying for the clothes and other unnecessary purchases I made 10 years ago.
I had the option to commute, but living near campus with my friends, frankly, was much more fun. It is possible to live at home and still have a great college experience – especially when you have friends on campus. Half our friends crashed with us multiple days of the week for free when they commuted. Rather than borrowing only what I needed for tuition and sucking it up at my parents for as long as possible, I took out loans for more than what I needed for my tuition so I could use it for books, rent and living expenses. I'm still paying for that rent and food.
I did work in college -– a few different reception jobs here and there –- but I wasn't working all of the time. And I wasn't being wise with the money I was making. I used my class schedule as an excuse to work less and party more. What I should have done: work, work, work and save, save, save. It would have saved me a lot of money.
Avoiding My Debt
This is by far my biggest life mistake so far. I was young and naïve, and I had no idea how much money I was borrowing. I just took what I needed and thought I'd have it all figured out when college was over. But when college was over, I was lost and drowning in a sea of debt. Instead of taking charge, I avoided my debt until the loan companies started calling me and my parents. I was spending more than I was making, and that is something no one should ever do.
Five years later, I am embarrassed of my debt. I feel like I inherited it from someone I barely know, and now I am really paying for it today -– not just literally. I easily could have avoided all of these mistakes if I would have taken the time to research and talk to someone like my parents or a counselor before just diving into the debt pool. Take it from someone who has walked in expensive shoes. Debt as a whole is difficult to avoid altogether, but if you can minimize what debt you take on, your future self would thank you.