guest post: a student’s guide to keeping debt in check

We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.

Happy Friday, guys! I have the day off work, and the sunny weather we’ve been having lately makes me want to get outside rather than sit at my computer and type out a blog post. Luckily, this month we have another guest post, this time from Jesse Clark over at soulful-travel.com. She’s writing on student debt, a growing problem in North America.


As reported by Credible, the average student loan debt in the United States stands around $40,000. Students who are on the cusp of entering college should thoroughly plan regarding the amount of debt they can undertake and create a reliable pathway for repayment. To help students in this process, Little Black Checkbook explores the various ways to minimize long-term debt.

Pick an Affordable College

When shortlisting colleges, research about their faculty and amenities related to your field of study. Most high-ranking colleges are known for a particular field and may not have the best departments for other disciplines. Choosing a smaller college also translates into cheaper tuition, reducing the burden of taking a hefty student loan.

As an alternative to college, you may want to investigate what professional development options are available to you. For example, you can apply online for a medical coding course to learn job-ready skills. The course will teach you medical coding skills that you can immediately apply to a job in the field. This can be a much more cost-effective option for getting you into a job.

Make the Most of Financial Aid

Make financial aid the central criteria for choosing a college. As reported by Education Data, 4% of undergraduate students receive an average of $5000 in federal grants. But, each year up to $2 billion of grants goes unclaimed. This could be due to students being unaware of grants being offered by their colleges. Hence, before enrolling for a college, connect with their financial aid department to understand their requirements, eligibility, and funding capacity.

Additionally, research about grants and scholarships funded by the college. These can be of various types such as:

  • Entrance Scholarships: Students with a high incoming GPA may be eligible for scholarships that cover full or part of tuition fees.
  • Academic Scholarships: By maintaining a high academic standing during the degree you could obtain scholarships that can help reduce tuition costs.
  • Department Scholarships: Each department has a separate budget to provide scholarships to a select number of students. The criteria for this can be a combination of grades, participation in extracurricular activities, conducting research, publishing papers, etc.

Choose the Right Lender

When it comes to loans, students have the option to choose between federal and private lenders. As reported by Federal Student Aid, federal loans charge lower interest rates, do not require credit checks, and expect repayment to start only after you have completed your degree. Additionally, depending on your finances you may be eligible for a subsidized loan. Under this loan, the government will fully or partly cover your interest payments while you are pursuing the degree.

Private loans do not provide a subsidized option, could expect you to start repayment before finishing the course and charge high-interest rates.

Work While Studying

One of the best ways to cover expenses and start paying off your loan while in college is to find work. Start your job search by applying for on-campus jobs, this can include working as:

  • Peer Tutor
  • Campus Ambassador
  • Resident Assistant
  • Student Tech Support
  • Library Assistant
  • University Bookstore Assistant
  • Research Assistant

While student jobs can be convenient, you shouldn’t expect to earn anything higher than minimum wage. Some colleges may have ‘student wages’ which could amount to less than $10/hour. But don’t fret, as you can complement your student job with an off-campus hustle, allowing you to earn a respectable income every month. Here are some of the best options to choose from:

  • Start Freelancing: Hone in on one skill you’re good at, which can include writing, graphic design, website design, UI/UX design, data entry, etc., and start selling it online. Websites such as Upwork, Fiverr, and Guru receive hundreds of new gigs each day, providing you a constant flow of income as long as you’re consistent.
  • Dropshipping: As a dropshipper, you will be responsible for promoting a set of goods online and driving sales through an e-commerce platform. You’ll need to partner with a supplier who will do all the heavy lifting of manufacturing, storing inventory, and shipping. The more goods you sell, the more you’ll earn.

Go Beyond Minimum Payments

While making the expected monthly repayment keeps you on track for repaying the loan, in the long run, you’ll be repaying an amount higher than what you borrowed due to the accumulation of interest. To keep your repayment burden to a minimum, aim to repay 10-20% higher than the expected monthly amount. Paying more than the minimum payment each month can also improve your credit score which banks use to determine your credit risk and the terms of any future loans you’ll take out. 

Following these steps can help you reduce your debt burden, make timely repayments and prevent yourself from facing the prospect of long-term debt.


From spiritual journeys to gap years, Jesse loves guiding mindful, free-spirited people like herself through life-changing journeys around the globe. As you connect with our planet and with other people through the gift of travel, you’ll also reconnect with yourself.

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