I wish I had taken out more money in student loans

I wish I had taken out more in student loans. You read that statement right. In fact, I wish I had maxed out my student loans every chance I had. You might want to look into it as well.

When I was working towards my undergraduate degree, I was extremely frugal. The first year I attended college, I was fortunate enough to avoid taking out any student loans during my first year. I attended a state school in Wisconsin, where I was a resident, and I had enough in scholarships to cover my entire cost of tuition and room and board. I was ecstatic when I went to the financial aid office and they notified me that I didn't have to take out any student loans, and they even handed me a check for $1,000. It was more money than I had ever had at one time in my entire life.

After my freshman year, I transferred to a private college to continue playing baseball. I still earned a large amount each year in scholarships, and I lived in the cheapest apartments I could find and regularly ate cheese sandwiches, 88 cent pizzas from Walmart, and ramen noodles. Splurging was going to the Pizza Hut, where my roommate and I would use a buy-one-get-one free coupon to split the cost of the $6 lunch buffet. The point is, I lived as cheap as possible. I worked regularly at a grocery store and a pharmacy, and was able to graduate college with only $20,000 in student loans. It was more than I wanted at the time, but not unmanageable.

I continued to live as frugally as possible through pharmacy school. I lived in the cheapest housing in the area, ate the cheapest food, and almost never spent money on anything I could avoid or delay. The car I drove through pharmacy school was such a piece of junk that the attendant at the oil change station told me it wasn't worth the $20 to change the oil in it. He said I'd be lucky if it continued driving for the next 30 days. I kept it for almost a year after that and finally sold it for $400 to a man who fixed up cars as a hobby. After living frugally, and taking out the "budget package" of our student loans, I still graduated pharmacy school with almost $300,000 in student loan debt.

Looking back, would an extra $5,000 or $10,000 really made a difference in my student loan balance? Not drastically. If I had an extra $1,000 each year though, I could have had much less stress and enjoyed my time in school much more. It would have been worth every penny just to have one less thing to worry about while in school. School is stressful enough as it is. Worrying about having enough money to pay the bills doesn't need to be piled on.

I would undoubtedly pay an extra $10,000 today in order to have had an easier life while I was in school. The craziest part, is that I wouldn't even need to pay that extra $10,000 back. I could have maxed out my student loans each year, lived in a nice apartment, ate high quality food, and drove a reliable car. If I had known I was going to pursue student loan forgiveness anyway, I would have maxed out my student loans. Under income-driven repayment, my student loan payments are capped at 10% of my discretionary income. Since my student loan balance is much higher than my annual income, it has nothing to do with what my monthly payments are under income-driven repayment. If you're pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), then your loan balance is completely insignificant. After 120 qualified payments, your loans are forgiven. No taxes. No impact from the remaining balance.

I would still gladly pay some additional taxes 20 years from now, in order to have enjoyed college a little bit more. Next time you think about using your savings towards tuition, or housing, or paying down your student loans while in school, think through what your plan will be after school. If you're going to be seeking loan forgiveness or Public Service Loan Forgiveness, then it might just be worth it to increase your student loan disbursements.