21 Easy Ways to Save Money When You Have Student Loans

 February 9, 2020
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You already know that saving money is a responsible habit to practice, but the weight of student loan debt can make that challenging to do. According to Student Loan Hero’s latest data, the class of 2018 graduated with a total of $29,800 in private and federal student loan debt.

Although student debt can drag down your savings momentum, saving money — for example, by hunting for digital coupons or refinancing your student loan to a lower rate — can help you in the short and long term. Here are a number of easy ways to save money, despite your student loan debt.

21 easy ways to save money, even if you have debt

1. Create a budget
2. Account for irregular expenses
3. Track your finances
4. Automate your payments
5. Build an emergency fund
6. Invest in a high-yield savings account
7. Make higher payments
8. Consider an intro 0% APR credit card
9. Refinance student loans
10. Work toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness
11. Claim the federal student loan interest deduction
12. Downgrade your home
13. Get a roommate
14. Book off-peak travel
15. Pick up a side gig
16. Always use a coupon
17. Sign up for cash-back websites
18. Avoid ATM fees
19. Ditch your car
20. Cancel your gym membership
21. Prepare meals in advance

1. Create a budget

How to save: A budget helps you set money aside for necessities, while making it clear how much money you have leftover for savings and discretionary spending. Start by writing down your monthly income and subtract your non-negotiable expenses (e.g. rent or mortgage payments, utilities, loans, etc.). What’s left is the amount of money you can save or spend on non-essentials.

Impact: Big; budgeting is a foundational part of managing your money.

2. Account for irregular expenses

How to save: Although starting with a budget is a simple way to save money, it can be easy to forget other expenses that aren’t a monthly bill, like a quarterly car insurance payment or an annual car registration fee. When budgeting, look at the previous year’s expenses to catch all of these irregular costs so you don’t have to rely on credit cards to cover them.

Impact: Variable

3. Track your finances

How to save: Keeping your budgeting habits sustainable helps you stay on track. Instead of recalling your budget by memory, use a financial app, like Mint, to track your cash flow. After a few months of monitoring your money, you’ll see which categories you spend more or less in and can redirect your savings accordingly.

Impact: Big, if you regularly check in with your transactions and take actions based on your spending data.

4. Automate your payments

How to save: Late fees can be costly. For example, the average credit card late payment fee is up to $39. That can quickly add up if you routinely miss payment due dates across multiple accounts. Set up automated payments through your bank or directly with your subscriber or creditor to avoid late fees.

Impact: Variable

5. Build an emergency fund

How to save: Unexpected events, like a sudden trip to the emergency room or the loss of your job, can be detrimental to your finances. Whether your budget lets you set aside $10 or $100 per month toward an emergency fund, any savings is better than relying on high-interest credit card debt to carry you through a financial emergency.

Impact: Big; an emergency savings fund can be a lifesaver when you least expect it.

6. Invest in a high-yield savings account

How to save: Keeping your savings in your everyday checking account isn’t helping your savings grow. The national interest rate for savings and checking accounts is less than 0.1% at the time of publishing. If you want to keep your savings accessible while still earning interest, look into a high-yield savings account, which can help you earn a bit more on your deposit.

Impact: Small; aside from higher interest rates, a dedicated high-yield savings account helps you avoid dipping into your savings for unplanned, non-emergency expenses.

7. Make higher payments

How to save: Accruing interest is one of the factors that makes debt so expensive. The longer you’re in debt, the more interest you’ll pay. By increasing your student loan payments, you’ll climb out of debt faster and spend less on interest in the long run. You can either increase your current monthly payment amount or make a second payment each month.

Impact: Big

8. Consider an intro 0% APR credit card

How to save: When used strategically, a credit card can be an easy way to save money on interest charges. Zero-APR (annual percentage rate) credit card promotions can last anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. During this time, any debt that you transfer to the card doesn’t accrue interest. Before pursuing this option, however, you should note that 0% APR balance transfer cards may incur transfer fees, and once the promotional rate expires, you may pay a higher standard APR. Calculate whether this option makes financial sense for you and proceed with caution.

Impact: Big, as long as you’re able to repay all of the transferred debt and new charges within the promotional period.

9. Refinance student loans

How to save: Refinancing your student loans may help you save money if you’re approved for a lower interest rate. You can refinance federal student loans and private student loans. If you’re thinking about refinancing federal student loans, however, realize that you’ll lose access to federal protections like income-driven repayment and forbearance.

Impact: Big; borrowers who have strong credit and high-interest student loans may qualify for competitive interest rates that can save hundreds or thousands of dollars over time.

10. Work toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness

How to save: Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a federal program that helps you save a significant amount of money by having your Direct Loans forgiven. Borrowers who work full-time with a qualified employer, are on an income-driven repayment plan and make 120 qualifying student loan payments may get the remainder of their student loan debt forgiven.

Impact: Big; the amount of money you can save through PSLF can be in the thousands, depending on how much you owe.

11. Claim the federal student loan interest deduction

How to save: When filing your federal taxes, you can reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500 through the student loan interest deduction. To qualify, your modified adjusted gross income must be less than $80,000 if you’re filing single, or $165,000 if you’re filing a joint return.

Impact: Small

12. Downgrade your home

How to save: Whether you own a home or rent an apartment, housing costs are likely your highest monthly expense. Downgrading your housing situation — like relocating to an up-and-coming neighborhood, or moving from a trendy one-bedroom apartment complex to a modest studio apartment — is an easy way to save money month over month.

Impact: Big; living in a more affordable home and/or neighborhood can mean hundreds of dollars in savings each month.

13. Get a roommate

How to save: Splitting housing costs with another person literally cuts your community living expenses by 50%. Ask a close friend or significant other that you trust and who is financially responsible if they’re interested in saving money with you.

Impact: Big

14. Book off-peak travel

How to save: Traveling isn’t a cheap activity, but if you’re itching for a getaway and have a flexible timeline, book your trip during off-peak travel season. Regardless of your vacation destination, avoiding peak tourist season can save you money on your flight, hotel and activities.

Impact: Variable

15. Pick up a side gig

How to save: Earning extra money is another easy way to save money faster. Leverage your special skills, whether that’s teaching piano lessons or freelance writing, for a secondary source of income. You can also sign-up for app-based gigs, like Lyft or Doordash, for extra cash on the weekends.

Impact: Variable, based on the side hustle you pick up and the rates you can charge.

16. Always use a coupon

How to save: There’s never a good reason to pay retail price when shopping online or in-store. Before paying at checkout, check online sites, like RetailMeNot or Coupon Cabin, for coupon codes or printable coupons to save money on your purchase.

Impact: Small

17. Sign up for cash-back websites

How to save: The promise of cash back doesn’t justify going overboard with shopping. However, if you’re shopping online for items that you planned ahead for (e.g. toiletries or a gift), sign up on cash-back sites like Rakuten to earn a percentage of your money back.

Impact: Small

18. Avoid ATM fees

How to save: When you use an out-of-network ATM, you may get charged a fee by the ATM network. Your own bank may charge you a fee as well. An easy way to save money on fees is to plan your trip to the ATM ahead of time. Locate your nearest in-network ATM instead of opting for an out-of-network machine.

Impact: Small; you’ll save a few dollars per ATM transaction.

19. Ditch your car

How to save: Owning a car is a big monthly expense, especially if you don’t own your vehicle outright. By taking public transportation or using a bicycle to get around, you could save hundreds of dollars each month on a car payment, auto insurance, gasoline, maintenance and repairs.

Impact: Big

20. Cancel your gym membership

How to save: Maintaining a regular exercise routine is a good way to stay on top of your physical health. However, a gym membership is a monthly cost that isn’t absolutely necessary to stay healthy. Cut this cost from your budget to save money, and step outdoors for a (free) jog around your neighborhood.

Impact: Medium, if you have a premium gym membership.

21. Prepare meals in advance

How to save: Buying lunch every work day (and let’s be honest, sometimes dinner, too) adds up quickly. Reserve dining out exclusively for the weekends and dedicating a few hours of your Sunday for meal-prepping can help to curb costs throughout the week.

Impact: Small

Should you save money when you have student loans?

Saving money can offer extra financial reassurance and help you reach specific goals, like saving money toward a vacation. However, there may also be value in aggressively repaying your loans instead of saving money if you already have emergency funds set aside.

This is a personal choice to make, based on your overall financial goals and individual circumstances. To help you make an educated decision, use a student loan repayment calculator to estimate how much you could save by repaying your debt early.

Melanie Lockert contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.88% – 6.15%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.88% – 5.64%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.50% – 6.85%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.89% – 5.90%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.99% – 6.59%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.88% – 5.64%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

1.90% – 5.25%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.39% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

2.13% – 5.25%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit PenFed

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of June 1, 2021.


2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Interest Rate Disclosure

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.48% APR to 5.79% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.88% APR to 5.64% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 2.04% and 5.8% to the one month LIBOR. Earnest rate ranges are current as of 6/8/2021, and are subject to change based on market conditions.

Auto Pay Discount Disclosure

You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay.

Student Loan Refinancing Loan Cost Examples

These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042.39. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,249.77. Your actual repayment terms may vary.Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest. com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

Earnest Loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC or One American Bank, Member FDIC. Earnest Operations LLC, NMLS #1204917. 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105. California Financing Law License 6054788. Visit earnest.com/licenses for a full list of licensed states. For California residents (Student Loan Refinance Only): Loans will be arranged or made pursuant to a California Financing Law License.

One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC with support from Navient Solutions LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

© 2021 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved.


3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. ‍All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.


4 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates from 2.49% APR to 6.94% APR (with autopay). Variable rates from 1.99% APR to 6.59% APR (with autopay). All variable rates are based on the 1-month LIBOR and may increase after consummation if LIBOR increases; see more at SoFi.com/legal/#1. If approved for a loan your rate will depend on a variety of factors such as your credit profile, your application and your selected loan terms. Your rate will be within the ranges of rates listed above. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or may become available, such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license #6054612; NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Additional terms and conditions apply; see SoFi.com/eligibility for details. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.


6 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

1. NaviRefi loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC, a member of the Navient family of companies, subject to individual approval and underwriting criteria. California residents only: Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license. Additional terms and conditions apply.

– To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen permanent resident of the United States, reside in a state we lend in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.navirefi.com/help-and-questions. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Loan terms are subject to eligibility. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application. Loan approval is subject to confirmation that your debt-to-income, free cash flow, credit history and application information meet the minimum requirements. You must have a minimum FICO score to be considered.

– You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.75% – 6.04% APR (2.50% – 5.79% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.13% – 5.89% APR (1.88% – 5.64% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.

– You can take advantage of the 0.25% Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. NaviRefi rate ranges are current as of June 1, 2021 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

– Loan cost examples: These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,250. Your actual repayment terms may vary.

– The information provided on this page is updated as of 06/1/2021. Earnest Operations LLC reserves the right to modify or discontinue (in whole or in part) this loan program and its associated services and benefits at any time without notice. Check www.navirefi.com for the most up-to-date information. Terms and Conditions apply. Call 855-284-4893 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

– Earnest Operations LLC – NMLS #1204917, CA CFL #6054788 – 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Navient Solutions, LLC – NMLS #212430 – 123 Justison St., Wilmington, DE 19801. Visit https://navirefi.com/lending-licenses for a full list of licensed states.


7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 04/07/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.13%-5.25% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.