Here's something I wish I had learned in college: it’s never too early to start paying down student debt.
I was six years into repayment before I realized just paying the minimum wasn’t going to get me ahead.
Fortunately, I was able to buckle down and quickly pay off my student loans. I did this by making short-term sacrifices and committing to a strict budget.
When it comes to budgeting, some people use techniques like the envelope method, where you set aside your allotted spending money as cash in an envelope. Other people prefer to use a service.
Tiller is a service I've found very useful.
Tiller allows you to customize money management, making your strategy easier to follow. And it includes templates that college students can use to get a jump on paying down student loan debt.
The Best Tiller Templates for College Students
I’ve found three templates that will work best for college students. These are the Weekly Expense Tracker, the Net Worth Tracker, and the Tiller Budget Template.
The Weekly Expense Tracker helps you identify where your money goes each week. Its features include:
- Setting up categories to reflect how you think about spending
- Categorizing new transactions a couple times a week
- A review of your categorized spending for a specific period of time
- Having a visual of your spending for a particular category
- Seeing the big picture as it pertains to your spending
I like the Weekly Expense Tracker because it isn’t overly technical, so you can see where you can improve.
The Net Worth Tracker is a simple and quite useful way to see where you stand financially. It's where you can keep track of your assets and liabilities to understand your actual net worth.
The features of the Net Worth Tracker include:
- Feeding your balance history into the finance spreadsheet template daily
- Ability to add accounts into the dashboard
- Easy configuration
- Regular checks of your net worth
A college student with few assets might dismiss net worth tracking. However, it's useful and motivating to watch your net worth grow over time.
Tiller Budget Template is going to be your best friend. You can set your budget, stick to it, and track your progress.
Here’s how it works:
- Set up categories to reflect how you feel you spend your money
- Set up a budget that makes sense for your income and expenses
- Categorize your new expenses twice a week
- Track budget progress
- In-depth review of your spending by category
- Track account balances for the accounts you connect to Tiller and those you have manually entered
The budget template is easy to use, and the learning curve is very small. That’s good because college students don’t have a lot of time to spend on learning something complicated outside of college work!
What’s neat is that anyone wishing to give Tiller a test run can do so for free. As a student progresses through college, graduates, and starts their career, Tiller templates can help track things like credit card spending and a family budget.
Nailing Down Your Budget
Of course, you do have to nail down the budget. You can track spending to reduce it, but you will have to determine exactly where to cut down on spending.
You'll be amazed at how having a visual tool like Tiller can make a difference. It’s like having a picture of your spending. You can change that picture to create a nice "before and after" you take charge of your budget.
I’m not going to lie and tell you trimming spending is easy. It isn’t. It's hard at first. That amplifies the importance of having a good budgeting service at your disposal.
In fact, you may find it exciting to watch your spending shrink and your money in the bank grow.
The point is that you can do it. Many students are taking control of budgeting and debt while still in college. This is good news, as the average graduate leaves college with over $27,000 in debt.
Breaking the Debt Cycle
That kind of debt can hamper a young person's financial life for years to come. As many children watch their parents struggle with student loan debt, they aren’t going to want to continue the cycle. This could ultimately have a positive impact on the future of the country’s student loan debt.
Imagine a time when record numbers of students aren’t in default. This could mean improvement within the loan program. While that doesn’t impact students now, it could impact the children and grandchildren of today’s college students.
This guest post comes from Jacob at Dollar Diligence. As a math teacher by day and personal blogger by night, Jacob is constantly looking at and analyzing numbers. He shares some of his best tips and tricks at DollarDiligence.com