During the first week of optometry school, in between classes we had a parade of administrators coming in and out giving various pieces of information. We were briefed on how to read our class and clinical schedules, studying tips and the various clubs that were available. A guy from the financial aid department also came in and talked about some housekeeping stuff when it came to our loans. Before he began his talk, he put a slide up that said the following:
Live like no one else will today, so you can live like no one else can tomorrow.
I’m pretty sure only half the people in the class were even listening to the guy since we were all worried about the next test, but the half that saw the slide thought it was good but mostly kind of cheesy. He didn’t really go into much detail about the saying, but maybe he should have. Because that little slide gives you everything you need to know about debt: avoid it in the first place
Debt can Destroy
I’ve written about accumulating debt and the best way to pay off your student loans. It can become a long and protracted battle that can take decades to win. And there lots of casualties along the way. People put off getting married, buying a house and starting businesses because of debt. People also get divorced, lose their homes and have to shut down their businesses because of debt. It can destroy dreams and prevent them from happening in the first place.
What that slide tells me is that avoiding debt means going against the grain of society’s expectations. It is pretty normal for college students to go to bars, eat out a lot, spend spring break in the Caribbean and spend summer break in Europe. These are common stereotypes and no one would bat an eye hearing a college student do these things. But these stereotypes are also very expensive and can destroy dreams.
Going to a restaurant for dinner and drinks is a fun and normal thing to do, but if you pay for it with a credit card and are not able to pay the bill in full and on time, that dinner has just damaged your future. If you got a little more student loan money than you needed, spending it on a vacation to the Bahamas will make the banks very, very happy since you will be paying them interest for a long time. Just like investing early on in life will put time on your side and let you get some big returns, accumulating debt early in life will get time working against you.
Live like no one else will
We are constantly at the mercy of marketers, and marketers are very smart people. They want us to give them our money and they want it now. Being in debt is normal in today’s day and age, so it takes some willpower to be debt free. An effective way to do this is to first see how much you’re spending and what you’re spending it on. This can be as simple as recording it on the notes app of your phone or using a sophisticated website like Mint to automate it. Look at all of your non essential spending and aim to cut it in half next month. Take the other half and invest it or just park it in a savings account. This can get money working for you instead of against you.
Once you start living how no one else chooses to as a student, you will be accustomed to saving money. It will become like breathing. Once you get out of school and start making the big bucks, you will have more money than you’ll know what to do with.