Hey everyone! I've got a REALLY good guest post for you today. Mrs. Picky Pinchers is back on the site again with some tips for avoiding student loan debt or college in general. This is something I wish they taught kids in high school!!!! Enjoy! ~M$M
I’ve loved school my entire life.
I was the kid who couldn’t wait to board the bus every morning. I eagerly raised my hand to answer questions in class with Hermione Granger-like spunk. In college I whipped out research papers with satisfaction, feeling like a hungover, sleep-deprived genius.
Education has changed my life for the better in many ways. But, like many millennials, I find myself buried under the heavy shadow of student loans.
Americans have a combined $1.2 trillion in student loan debt—a number that grows by $2,726.27 every second. Often this debt hangs over people’s lives for decades. While some are able to pay down the debt, it can often strangle the life out of others’ finances. Owning a home, starting a family, and living a debt-free lifestyle are pipe dreams to people with huge student loan debts.
After managing to pay off $14,000 in credit card debt and aiming to pay off student loan debt in 18 months, I now look at student loan debt in a different light. While my education gave me the ability to get decent jobs, was it really worth it?
Is college always worth it?
I don’t think so.
Sure, there are a lot of great things about the traditional four-year college experience. It feels secure because that’s the path most traveled—but it also can be the most expensive.
Here are some alternatives to consider instead of the debt-loaded traditional college experience.
Take a Gap Year
Does anyone else think it’s ridiculous that you’re expected to plan out your entire life when you’re 16-18 years old?
I was hyper and obsessed with video games at that time—I wasn’t thinking about what it took to make it in the adult world. I never had a job or bills to pay, and I always knew where my meals were coming from. I had no idea how tough life can be if you’re in debt or if you aren’t in a profitable field.
There’s value in taking a gap year to mature. You have time to explore your options, see the real world as an adult, and figure out where you want to go in life with less distractions.
With a gap year, you can explore a lot of different options. You can travel, get a job without school (see below), or volunteer.
Okay, okay, so community college is still college. But it’s often much, much cheaper than attending a university from year one. By taking care of your basics first, you have time to determine what path you’d like to be on.
It’s also possible to attend community college part time while holding down a job to either pay as you go or to build your savings to avoid debt.
Sure, this is still going to cost money. According to The Simple Dollar, the average trade school degree costs $33,000. The cost of a bachelor’s degree varies, but some studies say the average is $127,000.
Plus, trade schools usually take two years to complete, which means you get into the workforce more quickly. Plumbing or A/C maintenance might not sound exciting to you, but they’re actually really lucrative fields.
If sitting in a cubicle isn’t for you, trade school could be the answer.
Join the Military
The military is an incredibly frugal post-high school move.
It’s not for everyone, but the experience builds structure and can set you up financially. The military isn’t an option for the faint of heart, but serving your country can be a great way to start off adulthood with less debt.
My dad joined the Army right out of high school, which taught him useful professional skills and provided networking opportunities. He’s an incredibly successful professional today and
achieved that without a college degree!
Get a Job—Sans School
I do have to say that it’s more difficult to find entry-level jobs without a degree in some fields.
But there are always jobs you can get without a degree. Whether it’s working as a cashier at a store, an administrative assistant at a family business, or starting your own business altogether, it’s possible to become a professional with just a high school diploma.
You can get a jump on your peers by climbing the corporate ladder — four years ahead!
The Bottom Line
While I enjoyed my four-year college experience, it was absolutely not the frugal option. I wish I had explored my options more before committing to such an expensive experience.
But with student loan debt becoming a crisis for our generation, it’s important to note that there are other opt ions out there. There isn’t a singular path to success. By taking the time to plan the most frugal option for your ideal future, you can start off on the right foot.