Learning from your financial aid mistakes, part 3

Not long ago I read an article that made me cringe: A graduate student at California State University, Northridge Click here to learn about third-party website links decided to put her tuition on a credit card.

On her credit card? With all the other options out there? [Gasp.]

Although Jennifer didn’t put her tuition on her credit card, she did charge some of her living expenses, which left her in a bit of a bind. Here’s the final part of her story.

Mistake #3. Living on Credit — Not Taking out Enough Money in Loans to Cover Living Expenses

When I went away to college, my mother made a deal with me. She would give me an allowance of $200 every two weeks for living expenses (basically all she could afford). She also got me a credit card. Six years later, we still have the same deal and the same credit card.

When I took out loans, I only borrowed enough money to cover tuition costs and my rent. As it turns out, that $200 every two weeks hasn’t been enough to live on, and I now have a standing balance on my credit card that I can’t pay off.. Very recently a wise financial advisor pointed out to me that the nearly 18% interest rate that I pay on my credit card balance exceeds the interest rate of my student loans. Neither my mother nor I thought that it might be a good idea to budget living expenses into my student loans even though she’s encouraged me to keep putting the larger, unusual purchases on my credit card.

Now that we’ve learned out lesson, my credit card will be paid off this fall before I start my new grad program. I’ve taken out extra money for my living expenses and I’m going to try something new once I’m established at school: My credit card is going in the pencil box that I bury in the bottom of my desk drawer, and I plan to withdraw a budgeted amount of cash every week.  The objective will be to live “cash to mouth,” or to make the cash last the whole week, without running out — groceries, coffee, everything. Any extra cash will go into a reward fund that I will utilize at graduation, one year from this September.

While the economy is increasingly digital, and more merchants can handle small $2.00 coffee transactions digitally, stick to cash because it’s tangible. It’s easier to see how the coffee adds up when you’re making change and not just handing over a thin slab of plastic.

How many times have I heard that little gem of wisdom before? Lots. But there’s no teacher like experience.

Jennifer’s right — there’s no teacher like experience. But perhaps the mistakes she made (or almost made) can help you avoid some financial pitfalls of your own.

Want to tell your student loan story? Have any wisdom to share about your own financial experiences? Send us an email — we’d love to hear from you!

This entry was posted in Back to school, Banking, Federal loans, Financial aid, Financial education, Interest rates, International students, Lenders, Paying, Post-college, Preparing, Private loans, Student loans, Wells Fargo Bank. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Learning from your financial aid mistakes, part 3

  1. Eliza D. says:

    She would’ve been better off putting her tuition on her credit cards.

    She could’ve at least filed bankruptcy if she couldn’t pay it off.

    Now, she’s stuck with the black cloud of her student loans for the rest of her life.

  2. Staci Schiller says:

    Hi Eliza–While it’s true that most credit card debt is generally dischargeable in bankruptcy, we certainly don’t want folks to get to that point. That’s why we try to provide education and shared experiences here on the blog, so we can learn from each other.

    If you’re paying for education, student loans offer certain benefits that credit cards don’t–such as deferred repayment while you’re in school. My understanding from Jennifer is that she fully expects to repay both her student loans and her credit card debt.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective.

The Student LoanDown

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Your questions and comments really matter to us! We're glad you want to join the conversation and connect with other readers. All we ask is that you keep some simple guidelines in mind:

  • Stay on-topic. Only comments that are related to the subject of the blog entry will be posted.
  • Be respectful. It's okay if you disagree with a post or comment, but please, no personal attacks or offensive language.
  • Maintain your privacy and confidentiality.Please do not provide any of your specific account details or other personal information! If you have immediate service needs, please contact your bank representative or Customer Service.
  • Wells Fargo team members: In the interest of full disclosure, if you are a current employee of or are associated with Wells Fargo, please make note of your affiliation.