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Road sign saying STUDENT LOANS with a background of partly cloudy sky

Most student loan borrowers receive a student loan refund check just before the beginning of every semester. The check represents the amount left over after the school has taken out what is owed for tuition, fees and room and board (if applicable). Student loan check amounts can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on each student’s unique situation.

If you (or your child) are about to receive a student loan refund check, here are five things to consider before spending the money.      Student Loan Check

It’s not ‘free money’

It may seem like an effortless, easy windfall, especially to a starving college student. But it’s not. You will be paying it back long after it (and whatever you buy with it) is gone, so avoid the temptation to spend freely on bar tabs, exotic travel or that tricked out new game system.

You’re legally bound to use it for education-related expenses

When you signed your FAFSA application and student loan promissory notes, you agreed to spend your loan money only for education-related expenses. Any other use of the funds is a violation. Should the student aid office get wind of it, they must report it to the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Education.

You’ll probably need it later

While it might seem boring to save the money from your student loan check to use for groceries, books and supplies throughout the semester, it’s the right thing to do. After all, do you really want to eat Top Ramen every night for days at a time? (Living expenses such as food and transportation are approved uses of student loan funds).

Consider giving it back

Ouch! This one might sting a little when you think of all the things you could do with the money. But if you really don’t need it, don’t keep it. Returning the excess amount of your student loan check lowers the total amount of  student loan debt you eventually need to pay back. It won’t be very much fun now, but your future self will thank you. Each check includes instructions for return the excess funds.

Use it to establish good financial habits

How you spend your student loan money is the start of your lifetime financial habits, so use it wisely. Deposit it into savings, establish a budget and only withdraw the amount you budget for each week. Starting and sticking to these habits is a priceless lesson no amount of schooling can teach.

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