The Best Ways to Cut Costs and Save Money on College

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By: Danielle Pietersen

Keeping your costs low while you’re at college can help keep your student loans down and save you a lot of money in the long run. Your main costs are going to be tuition, living expenses, and textbooks. Figuring out ways to keep those costs down is the most important way to save money at college. 

Small savings might seem insignificant, but making them over and over again can add up to thousands of dollars during the college years. 

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Ways To Save Money On Tuition

Tuition is one of the biggest college expenses. Finding creative ways to save on tuition can help you save money in college. They each require some sort of sacrifice or extra work, but the rewards are usually worth it.

Get Financial Aid and Scholarships

The most obvious way to save money in college is to get financial aid. Also, find out which scholarships you might qualify for and do the hard work of applying for them. Scholarship applications can be time-consuming, but putting in the effort to apply for scholarships is one of the best ways to start saving money on college. 

Use Community College Credits

Some students choose to complete their first two years of higher education at a community college and then move over to a larger college when they need access to more specialized subjects. Community college tuition is significantly cheaper. Most people will be able to find a community college within commutable distance, which means that a community college student can live at home and save on living expenses as well.

In-State Tuition

Residents of each state pay taxes which are used to fund state universities. For this reason, students attending college in their own state receive a significant discount. The savings vary between states and more specifically between colleges, but they are substantial and worth finding out about. 

On average, the cost of in-state tuition is about half of the cost of out-of-state tuition. These numbers can vary a lot, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons in your specific situation. You also need to take into account how much financial aid you qualify for at each institution before deciding which has the lower tuition cost. 

Work While You Study

Working while you study is one of the most effective ways to save money while you’re at college. Just make sure that you don’t end up overspending because you have an income. Sticking to a budget will help you save and stay in control of your finances.

The rise of online work means that there are many part-time job options for college students. It’s important to find something that still allows you to prioritize studying. Here is a list of some great ways to make extra money online while you’re at college.

Finish On Time

Finishing your college degree on time can save you a lot of money. Each year spent at college is an expensive year. It’s often well worth the cost, but the sooner you can get into the workplace, start earning money, and paying off any debt, the better.

AP Courses

Students who take AP courses in high school can get college credits for certain subjects. Taking AP subjects can help take the pressure off in college and make finishing on time more likely.

Save On College Textbooks

Buying second-hand textbooks is a great way to cut costs while you’re at college. Buying used textbooks and then selling them on to someone else once you’re done with them will help you spend almost nothing on textbooks. 

Best Way To Pay For College

If you want to know how to get free money for college, scholarships and other financial aid are undoubtedly the best ways. Most students and their families will find though, that the cost of college far exceeds the financial aid that they receive.

Most families need to take on student debt or make use of existing savings to pay for college. A financial advisor will be able to help you understand which methods best suit your situation, but it’s usually far better to use savings where possible to avoid debt.

If you need to take on debt, be sure to find the cheapest debt available to you and pay it off as quickly as possible. You’re looking for safe debt, that has the lowest interest rate you can find. Credit card debt is super expensive, so avoid using credit cards when you’re strapped for cash.


Upromise offers a really fun way save for college or pay down existing student loans. It’s a rewards program that offers rewards for usual daily tasks like shopping online, swiping your credit card, or dining out. The rewards are then transferred into your 529 account where they can grow and earn interest tax-free. The money can be used for most education-related expenses as well as for paying down student debt.

Obviously the earlier you start the better, because you give the money time to grow, but even if you’re late to the party it’s worth signing up. Every time you swipe or make a qualifying purchase, your college savings account is growing.

Live Cheaply

Keeping your living costs as low as possible can help you to save money in college. Many students find that creating a tight budget helps them keep track of their spending. Getting creative about ways to live cheaply can actually be fun and can contribute significantly to savings for college students. 

Find Free Entertainment

Finding things to do on campus that are free, or at least really cheap is a great way to save money. Many places like museums, zoos, aquariums, and certain theaters offer student discounts and may even have certain days or times where students can use their facilities for free.  

Ditch The Car

Owning a car is expensive. Walking, cycling, and making use of public transportation are excellent ways to free up extra money. If you’re using public transportation, remember to check if there are student discounts available in your area.

Save On Food

Having a meal plan, cooking meals with friends, shopping the specials, and keeping an eye out for coupons are all great ways to spend less on food. If you’re wanting to eat out, find out about specials at the restaurants in your area and take advantage of student discounts whenever you can.

Save On Accommodation

Finding cheap accommodation, or living at home (if you can) are great ways to keep your budget tight and spend less. Finding a roommate to split the cost of accommodation can help keep the costs down. Staying off campus can be cheaper, but it isn’t always, so compare all your options before making a decision.

Often accommodation and transport costs go hand in hand. Finding cheaper accommodation may mean paying more for transportation. It’s important to evaluate any additional costs that might be associated with your choice of accommodation and weigh them up carefully. 

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