UT Dallas Magazine

An Alum’s 2 Cents to Paying Off College Loans

Justin Miller BA’14

About two years after walking the stage at spring commencement, Justin Miller BA’14 paid off more than $26,000 in student loans and $19,000 in additional debt.

Here are his five tips for diminishing debt:

  • Continue to live like a college student. Just because you are making more money with your degree doesn’t mean you are ready to upgrade your lifestyle quite yet.
  • So don’t spend money on “stuff.” After school, a lot of people often rack up more debt before paying off what they currently have. Buy used items when you can, such as a car, furniture and books. Avoid anything that comes with interest rates.
  • I repeat, do not buy a new car. Most graduates head straight to the car lot after their first fancy check. This debt will follow you for half a decade, and the value of the vehicle will diminish every day. If your vehicle doesn’t directly make money for you, then you will almost always be throwing your money away on it.
  • Always keep an emergency savings account of at least $1,000. Life happens, and you need to have a safety net of savings to avoid gaining extra debt. This savings can be the difference between having an unexpected expense create a life catastrophe or just a minor inconvenience for you.
  • Know yourself when it comes to your spending discipline. I personally champion having credit cards with cash back rewards while building my credit at the same time. However, I never, ever carry a balance on them. Credit cards often have huge interest rates and you can find yourself in hot water if you are not disciplined enough to pay them off each month. Only use them for what you can pay out of pocket at that time.
Justin earned a bachelor’s in criminology. Today, he lives in McKinney and works as an independent contractor for an online resell company.