Away from home and caught up in the hurly-burly of campus life, it’s easy for students to overlook how simple it is for them to slide into debt.

Once they’re accumulated, these debts won’t go away, so the best cure is prevention.

That means financial planning, say experts in student finances, and a job that allows some pay-as-you-go schooling.

Tom Hamza, president of the non-profit Investor Education Fund in Toronto, says staying out of trouble can be done.

“The key to addressing the debt issue is to budget,” says Hamza. “It is a matter of understanding where [the money] goes.”

At the Regina campus of the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology, educational counsellor John LeBoldus says it’s essential students have a financial plan in place before their year starts if they want to avoid unmanageable debt.

According to Statistics Canada, students leave school with a hefty tab. The average debt for a college graduate is $14,000; it’s $19,000 for those who attend university.

Of course, some debt for most students is inevitable. But even here there are ways to prevent the zeroes tacking themselves on unnoticed.

Hamza suggests looking at those extra costs that, while not significant by themselves, add up over time. They can be as simple as a debit card and the small fee it incurs when it’s used to buy lunch, LeBoldus says. Or it could be that private gym membership when the school gym charges next to nothing.

Credit cards, surprisingly enough, don’t appear as the Most Wanted on either Hamza’s or LeBoldus’s list of villains.

However, “I strongly recommend not using [them] regularly and using cash [instead],” says Hamza.

LeBoldus doesn’t dismiss “credit card creep,” but says most student borrowing will be from a bank’s line of credit. However, if he or she does use a credit card, they should look for the lowest interest rate, he counsels.

Latest From ...