Don’t look at the bright and shiny sticker price of college — it’ll only distract you from the reality that your tuition could comprise less than half of your true cost of attendance.
After all, you’ll also have to account for room and board, books and supplies, as well as personal expenses. Add them up, and they’re likely to trump whatever it is you’ll pay to attend class.
Here are four ways to economize these secondary — but significant — costs, plus what to do with your savings.
1. Substitute a cheaper option
Especially useful for: Transportation
When you look at (or imagine) your budget, you can see every item and its monthly cost. Substituting out more expensive items is the first way to score significant savings.
To substitute, you might need to become a better shopper. Whatever item you’re looking to replace, you need to ensure you can retain a similar level of quality for a lower price.
Say that one of your larger college expenses revolves around commuting to campus. Maybe you drive a gas guzzler each way. Whatever the case, consider these examples of successful substituting:
- Swap your ride for a more fuel-efficient car
- Switch out your go-to gas station for the cheapest pit stop nearby
- Ditch your pricey campus parking pass for free street parking
- Trade your costly car insurer for a more affordable competitor
- Leave your car at home and take public transportation part or full time
2. Conserve what you have
Especially useful for: Clothing
In addition to replacing what you already own, you could look to recycle. That’s the key to conservation.
By conserving, you’re taking a look at what you own and figuring out how to use it more efficiently. Then you don’t have to go out and buy more of it (or spend money to maintain it).
If you’re into fashion, for example, consider how conserving might help you save money on the clothing you wear to school:
- Employ your design skills to cut up, color or otherwise retrofit what’s in your closet
- Plan or time your clothing usage to do less laundry, less often
- Clean and store your clothing properly so that it’ll last longer
- Lend out nicer clothing you don’t regularly wear via a service like Style Lend (or earn serious cash selling it)
3. Collaborate with others
Especially useful for: Regular reoccurring expenses (rent, food, etc.)
You don’t have to resort to a bartering system to save money, but collaboration could also help cut your college costs. It’s more than doable, especially if live on or near campus with hundreds or thousands of other students doubling as neighbors.
To collaborate on limiting your living expenses, think not only about what you’re looking to find on the cheap. Consider, too, what you bring to the proverbial table.
Here are some examples of what collaboration looks like in practice:
- Share rent and bills by cohabiting with roommates (or move back home with Mom and Dad).
- Host bring-your-own potluck dinners to avoid the expensive campus meal plan.
- Exchange services: You could work out a deal if you’re an amateur barber, for example, and your roommate is a handyman.
- Create a nanny-share if you’re a student parent seeking cheap child care.
4. Utilize free resources
Especially useful for: Textbooks and school supplies
As the adage goes, nothing in life is free. That’s true of the college experience, too: What appears gratis turns out to be built into your cost of attendance.
So, instead of chasing free resources, look at it as benefiting from what you’ve already paid for, if indirectly.
Let’s see this money-saving method at work with textbooks. After all, the average student attending an in-state, four-year school spends $1,240 on books annually, according to The College Board.
To limit your spending in this expensive department:
- Check out used books from the library instead of buying them new.
- Search for the books you need on open source websites like OpenStax.
- Ask your professor about school-provided resources for books.
If that only gets you so far, other methods could come in handy. You might purchase cheaper used books (substitute), for example, or share textbooks with classmates (collaborate).
The more you save, the less you have to borrow
You might think you’ll have to beg, borrow and steal to afford college. It turns out, you could instead substitute, conserve, collaborate and utilize free resources.
Consider these four strategies to trim those hefty secondary college costs. They require a little bit of effort, but they could add up to a lot of savings.
Plus, the more you save on transportation, rent, clothing, books and other expenses, the less you might have to borrow in the form of credit card debt or federal and private student loans.
If you’ve already borrowed, you could throw your newfound savings at your debt — maybe zeroing out your credit card balance or making (voluntary) in-school loan payments. These measures could help you earn your way to good financial health, even before earning your degree.
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|2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
(1)All rates shown include the auto-pay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
(2)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7% variable Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 96 monthly payments of $179.28 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $17,211.20. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
(3)As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
Information advertised valid as of 5/29/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
3 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
4 Important Disclosures for Discover.
5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
* Offer valid for new Custom Choice Loans for which applications are submitted for a credit decision between 12:00:00am EST on June 1, 2019 and 11:59:59pm EST on August 31, 2019. A 0.50% interest rate reduction will be included in the loan options presented to an applicant during the online application process, upon passing the initial credit review. The interest rate reduction will be applied as of the first disbursement date and will be effective for the life of the loan.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|3.99% – 11.98%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.50% – 11.35%*,3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.84% – 11.99%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.27% – 10.80%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.46% – 9.43%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.74% – 9.72%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|3.99% – 11.64%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|