How To Be a Debt-Free College Samurai (5 Musts)

Or, “Debtxer: How I Serial Killed My School Debt”

It is a social norm to borrow money; students carry loans like backpacks. They’re everywhere. Weighing us down with a guiding hand. With loans, students study without having jobs or attend class without worrying of bills or can afford their outrageous price-gauging textbooks. Students think nothing of it because their loans are wrapped in pretty packages, bundled with the free financial aid; they wave, smile. The numbers show us their boobs. “LOOK AT ME,” she says.

I returned to college when all my high-school friends were graduating with degrees. I’m now 27 and am finishing my junior year as an undergrad. It feels like it’s taking forever because it is. Still, I’m excited because—although I’m tired of school and feel too old all the time—I’m studying exactly what I want to study, and I’ve remained debtless throughout my academic journey.

I’m no Dave Ramsey diehard freak, nor do I only carry cash, nor do I have a clean credit card; regardless, when it comes to student loans, I believe you should borrow as little of it as possible or, if you can avoid it, none at all. Don’t be a dumb college student. Be an awesome samurai. Samurais earn their way. Samurais serve with nobility and never borrow. Samurais think ahead.

But Kevvvinnnn, howwwww??? I need my mocchhhaaaaaazz (dumb college girl voice).

It’s not easy. Some say it’s impossible. I’m sure certain situations, say, an ivy league education or law or doctorate programs, require some debt.

As far as an undergrad education goes, you can do it debt free. Be a samurai! NOTE: Not a Tom Cruise samurai.

Here are my 5 musts.

1. Be poor. This is the easiest one. I’ve been poor my whole life! When you’re in a low income bracket, financial aid offers grants to help you. I did my first two years (or so) at a community college with a lower price tag. I never had to pay a dime. This situation plays out different depending on whatever state you’re in, I’m sure. I’d recommend Idaho. A great and beautiful state to be poor in.

2. Stay poor. This means turning down the extra money that financial aid offers you! I know you need a new computer. I know you need a new car. I know you want to buy a new TV because, dammit, you deserve it. But listen. You don’t deserve it. It’s borrowed money, and there will be interest. This year, when my wife and I moved to Rochester, we bought a tube TV from the thrift store. It was big, heavy as hell, and I broke my back moving it up the stairs. It was also only $20.

3. Work, you lazy bum. Some of the cool kids don’t have to work. Don’t be a cool kid. They’re wealthy and have their own set of issues to work out. Be who you are. If you have to work to pay your rent and pay for your books and your food, well, do it. It means you will have two jobs and you’ll have to work a little harder. You should know this going in.

4. Find scholarships. The great thing about starting at a community college is that it’s easier, generally speaking, to earn good grades if you put in the work. When you do, you can apply to local scholarships. Remember that computer you wanted to buy with the loan money?  Just wait. Get good grades, find a local scholarship and win it. That’s what I did. I know life is not always that easy, but you CAN actively work hard at scholarships. The work pays off. Like a scholarship X-File, the money is out there. (Outdated reference? Pshaw!)

5. Location, location, etc.  After you complete your first couple years you’ll need to transfer somewhere. You can stay close and go to a state school and save yourself some money. If you don’t care about traveling or attending a fancy school then this is probably your best option. However!, don’t settle for less just because you want to save money. Through grants and scholarships I was admitted into the University of Rochester (ranked 32 nationally) and haven’t had to pay a dime. What was the catch? Well, we had to move across the country, away from everyone we know, to a place that is very, very cold. It snowed today. It’s April.

So there ya go. What are your debt-free college education tips? Would you like to donate to the The Number Kevin College Scholarship Fund? All money goes towards supporting a pale, red-headed blogger.

Seriously though, think about the long-term when you borrow for the short-term. There are always consequences. If you can avoid it. Avoid it. I’ll see you on the other side.

Thanks for reading. Here’s your extra credit.



  1. Great stuff. I’m happy to say my daughter Grace is following your model and has almost 1 1/2 years of debt-free undergraduate school under her belt. She’s well on her way.

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