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Tips on How to Save Money While in College

Finding it hard to make ends meet in college? You’re not alone. Many students are feeling the pinch of rising tuition costs and living expenses. The good news is that you don’t have to be a "starving student" in school. There are plenty of ways to save money and keep more of your hard earned cash.

Don’t buy new textbooks. It’s shocking how expensive textbooks can be. Before you hit the campus bookstore, see if you can borrow books from a fellow student or from the university library. If not, buy used textbooks at or rent them from Chegg or Barnes & Noble’s textbook service. Another option is to order digital textbooks through sites like iFlipd, which offer a pay-as-you-go model. College Ave never wants you to pay more than you need to for school, so they are giving you a chance to save money by winning free books for a year.

Save money on your new laptop. Check for discounts and tax-free days before you buy your next computer. Dell, Apple, and Adobe are among those offering reduced prices to college students. Many campus bookstores offer discounts on laptops to incoming students. Also, protect your investment by getting a lock for your laptop and installing the latest antivirus software.

Watch it with credit cards. It’s surprisingly easy to get a credit card when you’re a college student. Paying it off? Not always so easy. If you get a credit card, choose one with the lowest interest rate, and only charge what you can pay for. Be sure to pay off the full balance on time each month to avoid late fees. This will help you build up credit and keep you from getting into credit card debt that so many students fall victim to.

Watch application dates. Some scholarships renew each year—if you take the time to reapply. Be sure to get your applications in on time.

Limit eating out. If you bought into the meal plan at school, use it. Sure you want to splurge once in awhile, but don’t make eating out a habit. The costs add up quickly. Save even more by stocking your mini-fridge with snacks and soft drinks from the grocery store instead of the vending machine or convenience store.

Choose housing carefully. It’s usually way less expensive to live in the dorms than it is to live off campus. Make your housing budget go even further by splitting the cost with a roommate.

Stay focused on your classes. The reality is that many students don’t complete their degree in four years, and every additional semester is another big expense. Take advantage of university resources such as tutoring and academic advising to help you stay on track.

Use campus amenities. Before you spend money out on the town, check out what activities there are on campus. There’s usually a lot available for free right there—from movie nights to fitness classes.

Get a coffee maker. Chip in with your roomies to get a good coffee maker instead of forking over money every morning for a latte. It’s amazing how fast those little expenses add up!

Buy in bulk. Get a membership card for a store like Sam’s Club where you can pick up nonperishable items and toiletries in bulk to save money.

Monitor cell phone usage. Signup for a site like My Data Manager or, who’ll alert you if you exceed your monthly usage and will analyze your cell phone bills to make sure you have the best plan in place. And minimize your data usage by using Wi-Fi as much as possible.

Forgo a car. Paying for parking, gas, and insurance (not to mention unexpected car repairs) are enough to break the bank. You can always use public transit, borrow a friend’s car, or use a Zipcar if you need to travel a long distance.

Start paying off interest now. If you took out loans to help you pay for college, make in-school payments (even just $10 a month) to help you save money. You can learn more about student loans and other financing tips from

Visit a local bank. Ask about their checking and savings account designed for college students. They usually have no minimum balance and lower fees. Be sure they don’t hit you with big charges for things like using the ATM. Important: Use online banking to track your account balance and avoid overdraft fees—Otherwise, that’s a costly mistake!

Check the labels. Buy clothes that can be machine washed/dried to avoid costly dry cleaning bills.

Say goodbye to cable. There are tons of shows you can watch online for free or for just a few bucks a month through Hulu or Netflix.

Shop wisely. Ask for student discounts wherever you go to get lower rates on everything from meals to car insurance to travel. Hundreds of big brands like J.Crew as well as local shops and restaurants offer money off when you show your student ID.

The Top 10 Student Loan Tips for Recent Graduates

Whether you just graduated, are taking a break from school, or have already started repaying your student loans, these tips will help you keep your student loan debt under control. That means avoiding fees and extra interest costs, keeping your payments affordable, and protecting your credit rating. If you're having trouble finding a job or keeping up with your payments, there's important information here for you, too.

1. Know Your Loans: It's important to keep track of the lender, balance, and repayment status for each of your student loans. These details determine your options for loan repayment and forgiveness. If you're not sure, ask your lender or visit You can log in and see the loan amounts, lender(s), and repayment status for all of your federal loans. If some of your loans aren't listed, they're probably private (non-federal) loans. For those, try to find a recent billing statement and/or the original paperwork that you signed. Contact your school if you can't locate any records.

2. Know Your Grace Period: Different loans have different grace periods. A grace period is how long you can wait after leaving school before you have to make your first payment. It's six months for federal Stafford loans (sometimes called Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans), but nine months for federal Perkins loans. For federal PLUS loans, you probably have access to a six-month deferment (see details here and here). The grace periods for private student loans vary, so consult your paperwork or contact your lender to find out. Don't miss your first payment!

3. Stay in Touch with Your Lender: Whenever you move or change your phone number or email address, tell your lender right away. If your lender needs to contact you and your information isn't current, it can end up costing you a bundle. Open and read every piece of mail - paper or electronic - that you receive about your student loans. If you're getting unwanted calls from your lender or a collection agency, don't stick your head in the sand - talk to your lender! Lenders are supposed to work with borrowers to resolve problems, and collection agencies have to follow certain rules. Ignoring bills or serious problems can lead to default, which has severe, long-term consequences (see tip 6 for more about default.)

4. Pick the Right Repayment Option: When your federal loans come due, your loan payments will automatically be based on a standard 10-year repayment plan. If the standard payment is going to be hard for you to cover, there are other options, and you can change plans down the line if you want or need to. Extending your repayment period beyond 10 years can lower your monthly payments, but you'll end up paying more interest - often a lot more - over the life of the loan. Some important options for student loan borrowers are income-driven repayment plans such as Income-Based Repayment and Revised Pay As You Earn which cap your monthly payments at a reasonable percentage of your income each year, and forgive any debt remaining after no more than 25 years (depending on the plan) of affordable payments. Forgiveness may be available after just 10 years of these payments for borrowers in the public and nonprofit sectors (see tip 10 below). To find out more about Income-Based Repayment and related programs and how they might work for you, visit

Private loans are not eligible for IBR or the other federal loan payment plans, deferments, forbearances, or forgiveness programs. However, the lender may offer some type of forbearance, typically for a fee, or you may be able to make interest-only payments for some period of time. Read your original private loan paperwork carefully and then talk to the lender about what repayment options you may have.

5. Don't Panic: If you're having trouble making payments because of unemployment, health problems, or other unexpected financial challenges, remember that you have options for managing your federal student loans. There are legitimate ways to temporarily postpone your federal loan payments, such as deferments and forbearance. For example, an unemployment deferment might be the right choice for you if you're having trouble finding work right now. But beware: interest accrues on all types of loans during forbearances, and on some types of loans during deferment, increasing your total debt, so ask your lender about making interest-only payments if you can afford it.

If you expect your income to be lower than you'd hoped for more than a few months, check out Income-Based Repayment. Your required payment in IBR can be as little as $0 when your income is very low. See tip 4 for more about IBR and other repayment options.