I Paid Cash for Graduate School and You Can Too!

The following post is by TaNiqua.

I graduated with my undergraduate degree in spring 2013. I took the summer off and began graduate school in fall 2013. I debated on whether or not to further my education. I decided I didn’t have anything better to do and might as well pursue it.

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I looked into applying at schools. I only had two schools in mind and only ended up applying to one which was the one I really wanted to go to. I began applying for scholarships and received a full tuition scholarship to a graduate program. Applying for scholarships is fundamental if you want to go to school without accumulating debt. It may seem tedious but any scholarship is better than no scholarship.

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The next thing that is important is finding a full time job. Yes, you can work full time and go to school full time if you are motivated and use your time wisely. Even though I had my tuition covered I still had to pay additional fees for school. Those additional fees had to come out of pocket. I had about $2,000 additional fees each semester. Fortunately, I was in a position living with someone so I did not have to pay rent and even though I had a full time job I was not making that much money. I got paid biweekly and would put at least $150 if not more towards my additional school fees with each paycheck. I was on a tight budget but I made it work. I just had to prioritize my expenses. Luckily, school came first for me. I went into debt for my undergraduate degree and was determined not to for my graduate degree.

I also paid for all my books cash or got them as gifts. I would shop around and find the best deal for books. I would either rent books or buy the ones I knew I would need to keep. My parents would always ask me what I wanted for either Christmas or my birthday which is in May. I would always ask for at least one book. Christmas helped me at least get a book for the spring semester and my birthday would help me get a book for my fall semester.

Any extra money I had went straight to my additional fees and I made it a personal goal to always have my additional fees paid off the month before school ended. It is possible to work full time, go to school full time, and graduate within 2 years with a graduate degree…I did it!

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Paying off Credit Card Debt: How it Saved Me

Do you know what they call credit cards in Japan? Loan cards. Because that’s exactly what these deceptive little pieces of plastic are. We don’t actually realize that each time we swipe our credit cards, we are essentially borrowing money at a hefty interest rate. Paying off credit card debt wasn’t a real concern to me when I got my first credit card during junior year of college at the oh-so-smart age of nineteen.

By the time I graduated, I was in deep trouble. I didn’t have to take out a student loan for my undergraduate degree, so I thought I would be debt-free for the rest of my life. I was lucky enough to get a good on campus job that was sufficient at first to pay off several hundred dollars each month in bills. Looking back, I know my problem was that I was financially overconfident. And, like most people, I thought credit cards were a fact of life. My parents and some of my older friends had several credit cards so I thought getting one was simply a part of transitioning into adult life. Oh, how naïve I was.

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So in 2011, there I was, a twenty two-year-old fresh out of college with a $10, 000 credit card debt looking for a job in a market shaken by a global recession. I was completely depressed, furious at myself and scared out of my wits. I was struggling to pay rent, utility bills, Internet bills and other essentials on top of the debt. I sincerely didn’t think I was going to survive all that. Then, I received a golden piece of advice that might have very well saved my life.

The Golden Rule to Paying Off Credit Card Debt

Pay more than the minimum requirement. That’s right. It came from my landlady, of all people. I’ve been paying the minimum amount each month on my debt which barely covered the accrued interest. Basically, I was going nowhere near reducing my overall balance with the minimum payment. It turns out no one does. The only way to make any real progress in paying off a debt is to at least double the minimum payment. Otherwise, you will only ever pay off the monthly interest, for years to come.

Once I got that down, it was time for the nitty-gritty aspects of being debt-free. I had to do everything I could to raise my income level to pay double the minimum amount on my debt.  I had a full daytime entry-level job that paid only a pittance. So after getting off from my “proper job” at 5 p.m. every weekday, I did part-time shifts at the local Taco Bell. Trust me, it was a real nightmare in there to get extra shifts, especially for the weekends. So I went from store to store looking for part-time weekend shifts until a local bar took me in to serve drinks on Saturdays. Both these jobs paid only the minimum wage, but it was enough to earn me several hundred dollars each month, all of which went towards paying off credit card debt.

Perhaps, the hardest part was controlling compulsive buying. I fully stopped eating out. I made my entertainment budget zero and stopped shopping for clothes from anywhere other than the Salvation Army. Ramen was largely my food of choice. It may sound extreme to some but I only had to tolerate two years of this and then I was completely, truly debt free. I felt like a bird in the summer. Oh, and now I only use a single debit card.

senator tom paying off credit card debt

What strategies have you used to pay off debt?

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