I didn’t take out the max loans
The max loans I could take for three years of loan school was about $180k, but I ended up with about $92k (and $20k of credit card debt).
I went to a cheaper school
Not everyone has this choice, but it should be a consideration if you’re undecided. With in-state tuition, I saved about $5,000/year on tuition and likely $10,000/year in living costs compared with living in a big city. It’s not just that the cost of living was lower but it was much harder to spend a lot of money in a small college town than in, say, New York City. That’s $45,000 without doing anything at all.
Save money while in school
I treated loan money like real money. I checked my checking account to make sure there would be enough money at the end of the semester. I read the fine print and bought private health insurance, rather than the school insurance – saving me $2000/year and getting better coverage. I carpooled. Of course I bought used books. As I was talking about it with one of my classmates, it’s a little inconvenient to use used books, but it’s the easiest way to save hundreds of dollars a semester for a law school student.
I brought my lunch and made bulk dinners on Sunday. I shopped at Goodwill. I didn’t go on fancy vacations on borrowed money. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t have occasional splurges at nice restaurants but I preferred having a nice, memorable dinner with my boyfriend rather than numerous forgettable meals at the sad law school cafeteria.
Make money in school
I worked at the library from my 2L to 3L year and took a side job while I was studying for the bar. I made quite a low salary but the work was minimal, I was allowed time to study, I met people and the few hundred bucks a month paid for my rent. Also, having the additional money meant that I could avoid taking out new loans, which could save hundreds on origination fees and interest. Also any income gets you the earned income tax credit
Max out several 0% cards
This didn’t actually save a ton of money but it helped keep my peace of mind and liquidity. I got a number of 0% interest cards with staggered end dates. I put my last two years of spending on credit, but made sure that I was ready to pay them off once I had a job.
Paid tuition with money instead of loans
I only took out as much loan money as I needed to pay tuition, thus saving origination fees and interest fees for unsubsidized loans while I was in law school. This meant that I maxed out the subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans and only took out higher-interest loans for 1 out of the 3 years I was in school. If I needed to go into loan forgiveness, all of my loans could be forgiven; wouldn’t have private loans hanging over my head.
Basically, I lived like a student, and I didn’t regret it. Though I graduated with over $90,000 in law school debt, I know it could have been much worse. I think even keeping it below the six figure level put me ahead mentally (and of course, financially). Do you have any strategies for saving money in graduate school?
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