Avoiding student-loan debt: Budgeting for college life and after graduation


Here's advice from a financial expert about saving money in college and establishing good habits for after graduation.

USC senior Tammy Brokaw is like a lot of students: she has a considerable amount of debt from tuition and books, but unfortunately the debt also comes from money spent unnecessarily.

"I try to avoid going shopping, but a lot of my friends have jobs, so they ask if I want to go, and I'll be like, 'OK, I'm going to be good, I'm not going to buy anything,' and then I always end up buying more than the person that I went with," says Brokaw.

That's one reason why she is now meeting with a financial planner.

You may be thinking, Isn't a financial planner for someone who has a career, thinking about retirement -- not a college student? Think again.

"There's a lot of times, I'll give you a great example, where a mom or a dad that's a client of our firm that will say, 'Hey, can you sit down and talk to my daughter or my son, because they're getting ready to graduate from college, and can you get them on the right track?'" says Jeff Motske, CEO of Trilogy Financial Services in Huntington Beach.

His first suggestion with any student is to set up a budget, starting with not going out to eat at expensive restaurants, or out too often.

"We end up going to Cheesecake Factory or restaurants and it ends up being like $20 or $30," says Tammy Brokaw.

"Sometimes they might have to tell their friends, just say no and just don't go," says Motske.

Even coffee at Starbucks is a good way to overextend the budget.

"I love Starbucks," says Brokaw. "I have a gold card."

"If you're buying a $4 or $5 latte every single day, that adds up to over $100 a month," says Motske. "Maybe you could make your own coffee in the morning before you go to work, or make your own coffee before you go to class. You can save an awful lot of money just by something as simple as that."

Another suggestion is for the student to set the alarm -- and he doesn't mean the alarm clock: It's paying the bills on time.

"If you start having bad credit, that can affect when you get into the workforce. There are many firms now that actually pull up credit reports before they actually hire somebody," says Motske.

Some students get into financial trouble with roommates who don't share the lease.

"When you have a lease, for example, and you've got two or three roommates and you're the one on the lease, if they don't pay the rent, you're responsible for the rent," says Motske.

So for many of these reasons it can pay for a student to meet with a financial expert.

"I want to be able to budget my money so when I get out of school, I won't have the same problem," says Brokaw.

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