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Using Financial Aid: How to Use Your Financial Aid Wisely in 2020

using financial aid

College is an exciting time.

You’re breaking loose, bettering yourself, and taking the first step to the rest of your life! You extend your education, meet inspiring people, and taste true independence.

But there’s no escaping reality:

It’s expensive too. Total student loan debt hovers at around $1.5 trillion these days, which averages out to around $37,000 of debt per graduate.

That price-tag renders college off-limits to many.

Thankfully, financial aid can make a difference. You get access to a cash refund to put towards any number of college-related expenses. Unfortunately, though, using that financial aid wisely isn’t always easy!

It’s all too tempting to misspend the cash lump sum that comes at the start of the term. If you’re not careful, the money can go to all the wrong places and land you in serious financial trouble.

Want to avoid that eventuality?

Read on for 8 key tips for using financial aid.

1. Use It for Accommodation

One of your primary expenses is going to be finding somewhere to live. And, if staying at home is off the cards, then that means paying rent!

Alas, that’s never cheap- especially if you choose to stay in sought-after areas.

Be sure to allocate a percentage of your financial aid to handle the monthly payments (plus the deposit, utilities, and so on). Don’t put yourself in a situation where it becomes unaffordable.

After all, having a roof over your head is somewhat important to academic success (not to mention general wellbeing)!

It’s worth mention that this is less of an issue for anybody staying on campus.

In these situations, the cost of rent will be taken out of your financial aid automatically. The money disbursed is what’s leftover.

2. Use It for Food

Having enough physical and mental energy to excel in college is key.

The good news is that your apartment/accommodation should mean you can get enough sleep. But don’t forget that you need to eat as well!

There’s nothing worse than studying on an empty stomach.

That’s why using financial aid for your weekly food shop is another good idea. Get your hands on lots of nutritious food to cook up each evening.

Consider combining resources with your housemates too. With more cash to go around, you should all be able to eat better.

3. Use It for Transport

Try to find accommodation that’s close to campus.

That way you shouldn’t need to spend too much money on transport.

All the same, having some cash for your transportation requirements will come in handy. It might not go far enough to get you a car. But, for anybody with one already, it might cover fuel and repairs.

Others might need to call upon public transport. The good news is that most student cities will offer discounted fares. Even so, be sure to allocate enough of your financial aid to cover such expenses.

It’ll be essential for getting in and out of campus, back and forth from any jobs you have, and/or back home for holidays.

4. Use It for Books

Essential course materials are all-important for doing well in class.

The trouble is that they often have a hefty price tag. Affording them is no mean feat for students on a budget.

It’s worth looking into cheaper ways to get your hands on them.

Steer clear of campus stores and buy online instead. That’s one good way to do it. Another would be to get a used (and possibly outdated) version of the material versus brand new copies.

Finally, think about renting the books for a limited time-frame. Doing so means that you avoid the unnecessary upfront expense. Even better, you don’t end up with a mass of books to get rid of at the end of the semester!

5. Use It for Studying Abroad

Many courses have study abroad programs for students.

They provide an amazing way to explore a new part of the world while continuing your education. You experience new cultures, educational systems, and meet incredible people overseas.

Unfortunately, they usually cost money too.

You could decide to use your financial aid lump sum for this purpose. The cash might not cover the entire program, but it might be enough to take the pressure off.

6. Use It for a Rainy Day

Don’t need the financial aid right now?

Well, save it!

Who knows what’s around the corner? Financial situations change all the time. You might be plush for cash at the moment, but next month could be different.

Setting the money aside for a rainy day is always a good idea. It’s most certainly better than spending it on things you don’t need!

7. Use It for Loan Repayments

Don’t foresee any rainy days ahead?

Well, there’s nothing stopping you from using the financial aid to repay part of your student loan. Anything you pay back now means a lower balance to cover in the future.

Your life as a graduate will be made easier in the process. The regular repayments expected of you will reduce, which should take a bit of the pressure off.

8. Don’t Use It for Personal Shopping or Club Hopping

It’s worth noting what not to spend your financial aid on as well!

Avoid using it for anything that isn’t essential to your personal or academic experience at college.

You might want to spend your afternoons shopping in the mall. You might want to spend your evenings in bars and clubs.

Such activities are fun, for sure. But they’ll also drain your bank balance and make it harder to cover essential expenses. Err on the side of sensibility and you’ll be better off (in financial terms) for it.

Start Using Financial Aid More Wisely

Using financial aid in a sensible way isn’t always easy.

It is, however, of vital importance! Hopefully, this article will help you do it.

Looking for textbooks to buy with your financial aid? Click here to search all the books we have on sale right now.

About the Author

Christopher Manns

I was born in the UK, grew up in Canada and have lived in the USA since the 90s. I love my family, water sports, ice hockey, skiing and soccer. When I'm not helping people save money on textbooks, I'm travelling with my wonderful family and playing sports.