College is expensive, there’s no debating that fact. The average amount of money borrowed to obtain a bachelor’s degree was $29,000 in 2017/2018, according to the College Board, That’s a whole lotta money (and it’s a number that’s only likely to go up).
If you want to avoid years and years of debt payoff after graduation then it’s up to you to try and keep your costs down. In an effort to help you do that, we’ve compiled a list of 10 ways to save on college.
1. Don’t go to college
This might sound like a joke but it’s not. The point is that before you go off and spend thousands and thousands of dollars on your education you need to make sure that college is the right choice for you. Is it what you really want to do? Are you ready?
Although college has become part of the prescribed life plan (high school — college — marriage — house…), it’s not the only option. You can also choose not to go and pursue other opportunities like entrepreneurship, a gap-year, joining the military or enrolling in a technical school. So, the purpose here is not to deter you from getting a college education but instead to ensure that it’s truly the right choice for the work/life you want to pursue.
2. Live at home
Nothing exemplifies the college experience more than living at home with your mom and dad…right? I know, this might not sound like the most fun way to “do” college. However, if graduating debt-free is a priority then it might be worth it. If you decide to go to a school that’s close to home (and your parents can stand you for another four years) then living with mom and dad can help you to save thousands of dollars on rent, utilities, laundry, and food.
3. Live with roommates
If living at home is not an option then consider renting with roommates. Yes, having your own space can be glorious however, it also comes at a premium price. If you’re serious about saving on college then having a roommate (or five) will help you save on things like rent, utilities, and even streaming services. It will also teach you how to cope with different personalities, which will serve you well when you graduate and enter the real world.
4. Live close to campus
If you live close to campus then you can probably get by without a car. This means no car payments, no insurance payment, and no gas. As an added bonus, you’ll never have to be the designated driver (assuming you’re 21 years old, of course). Instead, take advantage of public transit or bring your bike and get around using your own power.
5. Use your student status
Being a student is expensive but it also comes with a lot of perks! As a student, you’ll often have access to things like free transit passes, free gym memberships, equipment rentals (bike, skis, skates, kayaks), as well as tutoring and counseling services. Your student status might also get you discounted rates to museums, concerts, clothing, car rentals, and technology. To make sure that you don’t miss a student discount opportunity check out this list by Deal Hack.
6. Eat and drink at home
Eating and drinking at a restaurant or bar multiple times a week can get really expensive. Why not learn how to cook (a great life skill!) and save big by eating at home. This is not to say that you should never go out and have fun but if you want to minimize expenses it’s best to avoid multiple nights at the bar and opt for a BYOB potluck at your place.
7. Avoid credit card debt
The last thing you want to do is graduate from school with student loan debt AND credit card debt (a double debt whammy). If you’re going to have a credit card make sure you understand how a credit card works. If you’re not able to pay off your credit card in full each month then it’s probably best to stick to debit or cash.
8. Apply for scholarships
You don’t have to be the best or the brightest to win a scholarship. If you’re willing to put in some time and effort, you probably have a pretty good shot of winning some money. And remember, not all scholarships are based on your GPA. There are scholarships for everything: financial need, athletic ability, minority status, single moms … and so on.
If you’re a high school student — be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s estimated that $2.6 billion in FAFSA went unclaimed by eligible students for the 2018/2019…ouch!
9. Work, work, work
If you can hack it then get a job while you’re going to school. A great way to avoid debt is to have a continual source of income. In addition to the extra money, having a job is good for the resume, it can help you build your professional network (especially if you’re working in the field you’re going to school for), and juggling multiple obligations will teach you how to be organized and efficient.
10. Find a company that will pay for college
Both Starbucks and Walmart have programs that allow employees to get online degrees for nearly nothing. That’s becoming common at large companies and a surprising number of businesses offer at least some help paying tuition. There are also a number of employers that will help workers pay back their student loans.
You may not want to work at Starbucks, Walmart, or any place else that will pay for college, but it might make sense to suck it up and work for four years or so and come out of it with no debt and some solid employment history.
Just do what you can
When it comes to trying to save on college every little thing helps. While college should be fun, don’t lose sight of why you’re there … to get an education! When it comes to making tough financial decisions think about the position you want to be in when you graduate. You want to put yourself in a position to graduate debt-free (if at all possible) or at least put yourself in position to have a clear and easy plan to pay it off within a few years.
–By Jessica Martel