Even though borrowed money is readily available, financial experts caution against raking up too many loans in college.
"While sometimes it's unavoidable for students to use student loan money on necessities like housing, students need to be careful," said Shelly-Ann Eweka, a financial advisor with the financial services firm TIAA.
"When it comes to buying clothing and food, it's important for students to buy only what they need in order to avoid taking out more loans — both student and credit card — and therefore accruing insurmountable levels of debt," she said.
In fact, that college debt burden has far-reaching consequences. As a result of their financial obligations, nearly half of millennials said it prompted them to delay buying a house, according to a TD Ameritrade survey released last year of 1,000 adults age 18 and older. About 29 percent said they were putting off getting married and 38 percent said they postponed having children.
"If you can reduce the amount of loans for incidentals, it can make a huge difference in your overall debt when you graduate," Mary Johnson, vice president of financial literacy and student aid policy at Higher One, said in an earlier interview.
Rather than take out every single dollar that's available, shoot for as little as possible, said Bakari Miller, a workplace banking coordinator at Regions Bank. "That will lessen the financial stress down the road."
Miller suggests starting with a financial plan at the outset to set the expectation of what school expenses will be like. "College can be one of the best times in your life – you don't have to deprive yourself but you do need to brace yourself."
Then, get familiar with the terms of any type of borrowed money, including the interest rate, length of the loan and what happens when you miss a payment.
"If they're going to borrow money for nonessential purchases, at least know the ramifications and consequences," he said. "When students understand that, they make better decisions."
Also, underclassmen should take into consideration their future career and earning potential and factor that into their decision about how much they want to borrow, said Jimmy Lee, CEO of the Las Vegas-based Wealth Consulting Group. "That might get them to think twice about using that money for things that are not necessary."
And TIAA's Eweka advises students who find they are struggling to get by to look into work-study opportunities, which are often included as part of financial aid packages. "Having a part-time job can be a tremendous help when it comes to paying for living expenses," she said.