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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 6.15%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.80% – 9.36%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.91% – 5.25%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.53%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.15% – 4.42%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|2.00% – 5.63%8||Undergrad & Graduate|
|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 May 1, 2021.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate 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 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
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 LendKey.
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 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
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 2.15%-4.42% 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.
7 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.
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.
8 Important Disclosures for Nelnet.
Checking your rate results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score.
Interest rate reduction of .25% for automatically withdrawn payments from any designated bank account (“auto debit discount”). Auto debit discount applies when full payments (including both principal and interest) are automatically drafted from a bank account. The auto debit discount will continue to apply during periods of approved forbearance or deferment if the auto debit discount was in effect at the time of receiving the forbearance or deferment. Auto debit discount will remain on the account unless (1) the automatic deduction of payments is canceled or (2) there are three consecutive automatic deductions returned for insufficient funds at any time during the term of the loan.
Request for the cosigner to be released can be made by the borrower after 24 consecutive, on-time payments (not later than 15 days after the due date) of principal and interest have been made. Borrowers in deferment or forbearance must make 24 consecutive, on-time payments after re-entering repayment to qualify for the release. The borrower must be current on their payments at the time of the cosigner release request and show the ability to assume full responsibility of the loan(s) by meeting certain credit criteria on their own at the time of the request, including, but not limited to, being a U.S. citizen or having permanent residency in the United States, being the age of majority in their permanent state of residency, providing sufficient proof of income, and having no student loans in default.
Hardship forbearance allows you to temporarily suspend payments on your loan(s) while you are experiencing financial hardship. It is offered in increments of two or three months, with a maximum of 12 months available, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. If your loan(s) are in good standing at the time of your request, you will be eligible for forbearance in increments of two monthly payments. If, at the time of your initial request, your loan(s) are considered past-due, you will be eligible for forbearance in increments of three monthly payments. Future increments of forbearance, up to a life-time maximum of 12 months, may be requested upon the completion of making a certain number of principal and interest payments. During the two- or three-month forbearance period, you will not be required to make payments; however, any unpaid interest will continue to accrue and will be capitalized (added) onto your principal balance at the end of the forbearance period. You may continue making payments in any amount without penalty during the forbearance period. Your loan repayment term will be extended by the number of months in the forbearance period.
Refinance Loan Eligibility: You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security number, and be the legal age to enter into binding contracts in your permanent state/territory of residency, or be at least 17 years of age and apply with a cosigner who is at least the age of majority in their state/territory. Non-residents can apply with an eligible cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security number. The student loans you refinance must be in their grace or repayment period, and you can no longer be enrolled in school on a half-time or more basis. You must have at least $5,000 in student loans to refinance. You, or your eligible cosigner, must have an annual income of at least $36,000. Approval subject to credit review. Other credit criteria may apply.
Refinance Loan Limits:
Loan Refinancing Risks: Federal student loans include benefits that may not be offered with private student loans. Carefully review any potential benefits that may be lost by refinancing federal and private education loans, such as the loss of any remaining grace periods. To learn more about what to take into consideration when refinancing federal student loans with private education loans, click here
Selecting ‘Get Started’ results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score.
Fixed interest rates range from 2.99% APR (with auto debit discount) to 6.25% APR (without auto debit discount). Your interest rate will depend on your (and if applicable, your cosigner’s) credit qualifications. The fixed interest rate will remain the same for the life of the loan.
Variable interest rates range from 2.00% APR (with auto debit discount) to 5.63% APR (without auto debit discount). Your interest rate will depend on your (and if applicable, your cosigner’s) credit qualifications. Variable rates may increase after consummation. The variable interest rate is equal to the One-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (“One-Month LIBOR”) plus a margin. The One-Month LIBOR in effect for each monthly period (from the first day of the month through and including the last day of the same month) will be the highest One-Month LIBOR published in The Wall Street Journal “Money Rates” table on the twenty-fifth (25th) day (or if such day is not a business day, the next business day thereafter) of the month immediately preceding such calendar month. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for a variable interest rate loan will change monthly on the first day of each month if the One-Month LIBOR index changes. This may result in higher monthly payments. The current One-Month LIBOR index is 0.15% as of 5/4/2021.
The lowest interest rate for each loan type requires automatically withdrawn (“auto debit”) payments, a five-year repayment term, and the borrower making immediate principal and interest payments. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rate. The interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) may be higher depending upon (1) the credit history of the borrower and, if applicable, the cosigner, (2) the repayment option and loan term selected, (3) the loan type selected, and (4) the highest level of education attained. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate qualified for within the stated range.
*Checking your rate results in a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. If you continue with your application, Nelnet Bank will request your permission to obtain your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies. This is a hard credit pull and may affect your credit score. **Your actual savings may vary based on interest rates, outstanding balances, remaining repayment terms, and other factors.