5 Tips for Entering the Workforce Without Debt

Written by: Kevin Gardner

You need a higher education in order to obtain a job in many fields. However, years of college can leave you with seemingly never-ending debt. You have probably heard horror stories of graduates still paying off their student loans well into their 30s.

It does not have to be this way, however.  You can take out student loans and still have limited debt by the time you graduate college. Here are some tips for doing so.

1. Boost Your Income

Many schools offer work-study programs on or off campus. You may even be able to find a job in your chosen field of study. There are lots of freelance opportunities available on holidays and weekends. You could drive for Uber or provide handyman services to classmates, as well.

2. Choose Your College Wisely

The cost of college tuition is well documented. Yet room and board costs have also skyrocketed in recent years. One study found that room and board for four-year public colleges in the 2015-16 school year cost $9,800. For four-year private colleges, the cost was $11,600.

To eliminate this expense, consider applying to a college close to home and living with your parents. You may miss out on campus life, but you will graduate with less debt that your classmates have. 

You also do not have to pick the traditional four-year degree program. Depending on your major, you may be able to graduate in just two years. Look for schools that offer this option.

3. Take College Classes in High School

If you can handle it, you should consider taking college-level classes in high school. While Advanced Placement courses often are difficult and require lots of studying, if you do well on the end-of-year exam you could earn college credits without having to pay tuition.

Many community colleges also offer classes for high school students. You do not have to take any standardized tests to get college credits from these courses, either. Instead, you just need to pass the class with at least a C grade.

4. Reduce Spending

It is not just college tuition that gets young adults into debt. Once you start living on your own for the first time, you may want to spend big on a new apartment or fancy clothes. Your credit card bill could quickly rise as a result.

Reducing your social media use could help lower this urge. If you see your Facebook friends going on luxurious vacations, you may feel tempted to do the same. Instead, focus on your own life, and only purchase what you can afford. You do not have to eat out every night or attend every local festival.

You should also keep track of exactly what you purchase each month. If you create a budget, you may soon realize that you are wasting money on items you do not need.

Cutting out these expenses will give you more money to put toward your debts. Maybe you have a Netflix subscription you barely use, or a membership to a gym that you never visit. You may also want to sell some of the clothes that are collecting dust in your dorm room.

If you are prone to impulse purchases, draw firm boundaries when it comes to your expenditures.  That may mean leaving your credit card at home or only using it for emergencies.  

5. Save What You Can

The money that you do not spend on frivolous items should instead be put into a savings account. You can draw from this account when you make your student loan payments. Alternatively, your savings could give you a safety net in case an unexpected expense – such as a hospital visit – arises. Without an emergency fund, you would have to use funds earmarked for student loans towards this new bill.

Do not spend your first years in the workforce in severe debt. The above tips should help you pay off your student loans before you graduate.

Related: Navigating the Student Loan Marketplace