“Behold it is my will that you shall pay all your debts.”
Doctrine and Covenants 104:78
The scriptures teach us we should avoid debt. I think God wants us to get out of debt because debt limits our ability to help others. If we’re not careful debt can creep up on us and cause us a lot of physical and emotional stress.
One of the primary times people enter into debt is college. In 2008, approximately two-thirds of (four-year) college graduates, had student loan debt. Among the 1.4 million graduates who had debt, the average amount of student debt was $23,200. That debt puts a lot of college students in a predicament, especially considering about 9% of U.S. college graduates leave school unemployed. (See more student debt facts)
Despite bleak debt statistics, there are simple things students can do to avoid debt. Here are 10 simple ways college students can avoid debt by saving money in college.
10 Simple ideas for saving money in college.
1) Use free textbook services. Save up to $500/year.
Here are a few simple ways you can avoid paying hundreds of dollars for textbooks. Some of these ideas may or may not be applicable at the college you study at.
- Read your textbooks before the full refund date is reached. If you buy your textbooks long before the semester begins, you can read and return the textbooks before the refund date is passed. College book stores will likely give you a full refund for a new textbook if it is returned in new condition and a used textbook if it is returned in an acceptable used condition.
- Buy/sell used textbooks on Amazon.com. If you show Amazon that you are a college student with a .edu email address, they will give you a 60-day free trial of Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime allows you free two-day shipping on a variety of products, including most textbooks. You can usually buy textbooks for cheaper than a campus bookstore and sell textbooks for more profit.
- Rent your textbook(s) from your school or public library. If you don’t need a textbook for more than a few months, it may be worth it to just borrow the book from a free library.
2) Take easier classes first. Save part-full tuition/year.
I believe one way to gain and maintain academic scholarships is to take easy classes before hard classes. By taking easy “A,” classes as you start your college career, you will be able to establish a nice GPA that will make you more eligible for academic scholarships. After you take easier classes, you will be more prepared to take on the harder classes and complete them with a better grade.
3) Use RateMyProfessors.com. Save part-full tuition/year.
Two students can take the same class and put in the same amount of effort, but if they do not have the same professor, they will likely receive different grades. In my college experience it is the professor’s harshness of grading that makes the biggest difference on a class’s GPA. For example the average GPA in a beginning Biology class by one professor could be an “A-” while the average GPA of the same class taught by another professor could be a “C+”.
Some students will stick with hard professors on purpose because they believe it will enhance their learning. In my opinion learning comes mostly from individual study and not from how harshly assignments and tests are graded.
4) Use public transportation or bike. Save up to $5,000/year.
If you live within five miles of school, work and church, or have the ability to carpool with a friend, then you could probably get by without a car. By not buying a car you will likely save a few thousand dollars each year, by not paying for insurance, car payments, repairs, gas, etc. The few thousand dollars you save each year in college could make the difference as to whether you take out a college student loan or not.
5) Use free communications services. Save up to $1000/year.
While lots of people pay about $50/month for a cell phone, there are some people who are using free internet services to communicate with others:
- With Google Voice you can call anywhere in the United States and Canada for free.
- With Textplus you can send unlimited free text messages.
- With Skype you can do free video calling around the globe.
- With Google Hangout you can host free video chats with up to ten people at a time.
With all of these free services, email and courtesy phones, it most likely is not necessary to pay for a monthly cell phone plan. By using free communication services, you could save $100-1,000/year in cell phone payments.
6) Apply for FAFSA. Save up to $5550/year.
Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA) can help you save money in college. Each year thousands of college students qualify for free money in the form of pell grants from the U.S. government. If you are single and dependent your eligibility is determined based on your parents’ income. If you are independent or married you eligibility will be based off your income.
Eligible students may receive up to $2,775/semester while in school ($5,550/year). Pell grants can be used for education-related expenses, such as tuition, living expenses, books, etc. An extra $5,000 to cover educational costs could help you save the money while you attend college.
7) Apply for Medicaid. Save up to $10,000 per birth.
If you are married and expecting a baby you may want to apply for Medicaid. With many private health insurance companies, you can expect to pay at least 10-20% of the hospital bill to deliver your baby (about $10,000). That 10-20% often equates to $1-2,000 per birth (with no complications).
Medicaid is a program set up for the government that can help low-income families receive affordable healthcare. If you are eligible and receive Medicaid, the government may pay for all of the birth expenses. Also Medicaid is free, so it could save you from paying $1,000-2,000 in health insurance payments each year.
8 ) Use free campus resources. Save up to $3,000/year.
If you are going to school full-time and working part-time, maybe now isn’t the time to buy new electronic gadgets. While attending school you will likely have access to hundreds of free, high-quality resources, that may include: computers, cameras, recording studios, software, etc. Why not utilize the free resources your tuition is funding while at school?
By using free resources on campus you could save several thousand dollars in purchases. Also, once you graduate and start working full-time, you will likely be able to afford the new gadgets you want, without entering debt.
9) Price-match at Walmart. Save up to $800/year.
Price-matching at Walmart is a relatively little-used resource, but a very powerful one. Since everyone needs to buy groceries to eat, you might as well find the cheapest place to buy groceries. By buying groceries on sale, you may save up to half the amount of money you would have spent.
When you bring in a competitors grocery ad to Walmart, Walmart promises they will match their competitors price for any of the same product. For example, if you were to bring in a grocery ad from Buy Low of 10lbs of oranges for $1, Walmart could lower their price of the same type of oranges down to the same price. Price-matching could save you money in college by cutting a large amount out of your grocery bill.
10) Buy clothes from the thrift store. Save up to $700/year.
One way to save a lot of money is to refrain from buying brand clothing. If you instead buy clothing at Deseret Industries or Salvation Army you will save a lot of money. While a brand pair of jeans may cost $50 at the mall, the same pair of jeans may only cost $5 at a thrift store. If clothing is a major expense for you, you might consider saving money by shopping at a thrift store.
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”
- Benjamin Franklin
Personal Notes: I believe the key to saving money in college is to limit expenses. After I lived for two years in Argentina on my LDS mission, I learned that almost everything we pay for we don’t need in order to survive. When it comes down to it, only food and shelter are necessary for physical survival.