Undergraduates and consumer debt: Avoiding an empty wallet

Will Stennett

News Editor

The average age of being debt-free is 53. Of course, this is terrifying, but with the average student loan debt as of graduates of 2013 being $25,250, this is not unimaginable. Students are now using more credit cards and building up consumer debt.

In 2009, Sallie Mae conducted the study “How Undergraduate Students Use Credit Cards: Sallie Mae’s National Study of Usage Rates and Trends 2009” and concluded that half of undergraduate students use four or more credit cards. Of course, building credit is a good thing, but the average debt of college students is $3,173 while the debt of graduating seniors is $4,100.

It is obvious to assume that students are using their credit toward education expenses, which is 90 percent. But 70 percent of students have admitted to using their credit on clothing and 69 percent on cosmetics.

Students are generally surprised when they see their bills. But there are a several ways to avoid collecting a huge amount of debt.

1.) The most obvious solution is to pay only what you can afford. You will eventually have to pay for what you bought with your credit card, even though your limit is $2,000. Only use your card for what is necessary.

2.)To determine what you can afford, you should determine your monthly and yearly income. Doing this, you can prioritize your spending. Try separating your budget into categories, like Food, Rent, Loans and etc.

3.) Be vigilant about the credit card company you choose. Ask your company if they charge annual fees and if they do, some are begrudgingly willing to drop it. Know what fees they charge.

4.) Don’t pay the minimum price every month or this will come back to haunt you. Pay the full price and own one credit card instead of four.

With students loans rising and creating more debt, do not add the extra pressure of consumer debt. Be smart with your wallet and know your spending.

23- year- old MUW alum Joseph Musgrove of Columbus, gave his advice on using credit cards.

“Always look for a company where you can get six months or less no interest and where you can get as good as cash,” Musgrove says, “And if you can’t get no interest, get half cash. Because you can use half cash and half credit.”

Although he gives sound advice, he still has his woes when using credit.

“I just bought a couch, and though it is nice, I’m still paying on it. I would’ve rather used half cash, where I can pay cash up front and the rest credit. I’ll say this though; I’m canceling my credit card once I get it paid off,” says Musgrove.

Add this to the list: research your credit card and learn the advantages of using it.

“This next time, I’m going to use a credit card through Wal-Mart or where I work, Lowes. I mean, it’s a really, really good idea to get a credit card but a really, really bad idea to make enormous purchases when you don’t have a salary job,” Musgrove adds.

With the rising amount of student loan debt, don’t add more pressure to yourself by building consumer debt.

And always remember, that money will have to be paid someday, somehow.