Save on college costs

If you plan ahead, there are steps you can take to spend less on college costs.

Ways to save before you get to college

  • Plan ahead with high school classes. Credit for your high school's Advanced Placement classes or credits for community college courses taken while in high school can transfer as college credits. Having to take fewer classes saves on tuition.
  • Consider attending school in-state or take core classes at a community college. They may offer a lower sticker price. Make sure that your prospective college will allow transfer credits.
  • Comparison shop on your living arrangements. Compare on-campus with off-campus with living at home (if that’s possible). An apartment may sound great, but it could add to your living expenses.
  • Ask friends and family for money for your college fund. Instead of gift cards, ask for contributions for your college savings. Even better, see if your college savings plan offers a gifting program where gifts can be contributed directly.
  • Get a part-time job. Every extra dollar you earn is one that you won’t have to borrow for school.
  • Consider using a credit card—wisely. If you need a credit card, look for one that offers cash back rewards, with no annual fee. Always make regular, on-time, monthly payments so you don’t rack up late fees and interest. Using a credit card wisely may help you accumulate some extra cash, and also help you build your credit history.


Enrolling in college level courses while in high school allowed me to earn college credits for free that apply to my degree.

Kaci N., Make College Happen Challenge winner

Ways to save while you’re in college

  • Find a part-time job on campus. Many colleges and local organizations offer part-time jobs for students. Think about working at local shops, restaurants, or libraries to earn some income.
  • Work closely with an advisor. Make smart choices for classes and try to graduate in four years or less.
  • Buy used books or share. Textbooks can come with a hefty price tag. Look around for discount bookstores or buy them used from your campus bookstore. If you share classes with your roommate or friends, offer to share textbooks.
  • Share the housing expenses. Having a roommate and splitting the rent is a no-brainer.
  • Eat at the dining hall. You’ll probably have to pay for a meal plan anyway, so use it for daily meals instead of spending additional money on groceries and eating out.
  • Use your school gym instead of paying for a private gym membership. Use the resources available to you on campus. It’s a great way to keep expenses down and meet other students at the same time.
  • Don’t bring your car to school. Insurance, gas, and parking mean expenses. Does your campus have ridesharing or is it near public transportation?
  • Consider graduating early. Take classes over the summer or add more courses during the year to finish a semester early, which can save you housing costs.

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footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.