5 Tips for Saving Money as a College Student

5 Tips for Saving Money as a College Student

By: Jacqui Kearns

As fall approaches, you might be about to start your freshman year of college, or you might be starting a second, third or fourth year and considering some changes. Alternatively, you may be entering your senior year of high school, and only now beginning to think about where you want to apply. You may also be returning to a physical campus or taking online classes, since there is still uncertainty around the trajectory of COVID-19. However, regardless of which stage you’re in or how you’ll be studying, you’re probably thinking about ways of saving money. Considering the ever-rising costs of college – from tuition to textbooks to housing – there are good reasons to look for any potential cost savings. Though college will likely be a pricey experience (but usually worth it in the long run!), there are definitely ways to avoid starting out your professional life with no money and lots of debt.

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Here are five tips for saving money as a college student:

1. Look for the best student loan options: Tuition rates are the single biggest contributor to the expense of college, having risen by more than 25%1 in the past decade alone, requiring most students to take out enormous student loans. This has led to a surge in student debt as well, with 45 million Americans owing a total of $1.6 trillion2 as of early 2020. Investing in your education is always a good idea, but it pays to consider all your loan options as thoroughly as possible. Federal government loans typically offer lower interest rates than private loans do, and in 2020, due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, they will be lower than at any time since 20053. If you can’t cover all your tuition costs with federal loans, Affinity Federal Credit Union offers loan options with competitive interest rates, multiple repayment options, no origination fees and no prepayment penalties.

2. Live with your parents (if possible): Another big college expense – and likely for a long time after you graduate – is rent. Whether or not you can take this piece of advice depends on how far from your parents’ home you attend school. If you attend college out of state you will need to spend money on housing, whether on- or off-campus. But if your campus is close to “home” – or if you won’t be attending on-campus classes because of COVID-19 – you should probably consider staying with your family for a few more years…if they’ll let you!

3. Get rid of your car (if possible/applicable): This is a tip that isn’t available to everyone; if you have a car that you pay insurance on, it may be useful to sell.. The reason is, insurance combined with gas costs take a huge bite out of an already thin budget. Many colleges today have reliable public transportation options for students, thus making it easier to commute in an urban area. This is a cost worth cutting and can possibly save a ton in the long run. If you still live with your parents and need to commute, then you can probably afford to keep paying your insurance and filling your tank. In short, think about cutting either living expenses or car expenses, depending on your situation.

4. Buy used textbooks: Tuition isn’t the only price that has dramatically increased recently. The cost of mandatory textbooks has risen by an absolutely astounding 1,000%4 since the 1970s! Since there’s usually no escaping these purchases, you should be as savvy as possible and look for used textbooks at discount prices. You can do this by going on Amazon and comparing prices, and choosing the lowest one available. Another option is to simply ask around your campus to see who might be selling their old books at a reasonable rate. Basically, there’s not much reason to pay top dollar for new books when there’s always used ones around.

5. Get a part-time job: This final tip might be difficult to act on with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis generating economic uncertainty, but if possible, find a part-time job. Part of federal student aid is the Work-Study Program5, which allows you to earn money to pay education expenses. You can also check local job listings near your campus to find employment. Working part-time while attending classes can be a good way to ensure that you have spending money and maybe even a small nest egg once you graduate.

As I already said, college is almost always a great investment in your future. It always makes sense to start thinking about saving money early. That way you’ll be able to lessen your post-graduate financial worries and start life on a great financial footing!

For additional information and updates from Affinity about COVID-19, please visit http://cloud.connect.affinityfcu.com/hereforyou.


This information is for informational purposes only and is intended to provide general guidance and does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice. Each person’s circumstances are different and may not apply to the specific information provided. You should seek the advice of a financial professional, tax consultant, and/or legal counsel to discuss your specific needs before making any financial or other commitments regarding the matters related to your condition are made.  

1 Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/13/cost-of-college-increased-by-more-than-25percent-in-the-last-10-years.html

2 Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2020/02/03/student-loan-debt-statistics/#34d2054c281f

3 Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/federal-student-loan-interest-rates-record-low-2020-7

4 Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/3/6/18252322/college-textbooks-cost-expensive-pearson-cengage-mcgraw-hill

5 Retrieved from https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/work-study/