Financial Aid Advice

Tips for Cutting Costs and Reducing Borrowing

Posted by Anthony R. Glad on April 21, 2021

As the costs of dental school continue to increase, so too does the average dental student loan indebtedness. Remember, tuition and fees are parts of your cost of attendance (COA) over which you have no control, so it’s important to review your living costs to help reduce your overall cost and to help reduce borrowing.


Do You Have a Budget?

Having and sticking to a set monthly budget is the first place to start in controlling your costs. Need a place to start? Check with your school’s Financial Aid Office. They will have a guideline of how much you should be spending on rent, food and miscellaneous living costs (laundry, toiletries, transportation, etc.). Sticking at or below these guidelines will help keep your borrowing down.

Do You Have a Roomie? Should You Get One?

Sharing an apartment or house is a great way to reduce living costs. Not only are you reducing rent, but you also are able split utilities and other costs. You and your roommate(s) may even be dietary compatible and can pool together for groceries!

Do You Have a Tracking System?

OK, you have the cost of rent and food settled, but you still don’t know why you’re going over your monthly ideal budget? Time to track those expenses. For at least a one-month period, keep your receipts from all your purchases. That means all receipts, even for that morning cup of coffee. You can use pencil and paper to tally them all, create your own spreadsheet or even use one of many apps created just for this purpose. ( is a great free online resource that rates budget apps for cost and efficiency.) 

Be honest—how many cups of coffee do you drink? And don’t forget trips to the barber or salon! Once you have a good idea of where your money is going, you can take steps to set priorities and cut out excess spending.

About That Cup of Coffee…

Once you have your priorities identified, there’s still room to whittle down costs. Remember, every time you purchase something with loan money, it has an interest cost attached. That $3 coffee from your local barista each morning of the week starts to add up: 

$3 per day x 5 school days = $15 per week or $780 per year

$780 per year x 4 years = $3,120 principal cost for all four years of dental school

If you borrowed that with a loan at 6.8% interest, your total payback cost would be $5,078. Possible solution? Brew that cup of coffee at home.

Plan for a Splurge or Two

Don’t forget to allow yourself a little fun here or there! Maybe hit that barista on the weekend for a special latte and leave a few dollars for a movie or your favorite streaming service. It’s easier to control costs in other areas if you know you’ve got one or two little splurges coming your way that you have planned for.

All these tips will help you follow that old but sound bit of advice that has helped thousands of students over the years prepare for a sound economic future: Live like a student now and you’ll be better able to live like a professional when you complete your education and training.

Good luck!


Products mentioned within this article are not sponsored by or affiliated with the American Dental Education Association. 

About Anthony R. Glad :

Anthony (Tony) R. Glad_headshot

Anthony R. Glad 
Associate Director of Student Financial Aid & Planning
Columbia University College of Dental Medicine
Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons College of Dental Medicine

Anthony R. Glad has over 30 years of experience working in financial aid for institutions as diverse as Georgetown Medical School, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the International Education Finance Corporation. He has been at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine for the last five years. Mr. Glad graduated from Duke University with a B.A in History.