Career Cost 

Active Ways to Save on College Expenses

Many of us learned new ways of saving money by being more frugal in 2020, perhaps by cooking at home or postponing small luxuries. Those small savings can translate into impressive ways to save for your education, or a loved one’s.


Fill out the FAFSA every year. Complete the FAFSA by April 15th before each new school year, regardless of your family’s financial status to see if you’re eligible to receive funds. The FAFSA helps you tap into federal, state and institutional grants and scholarships.

Apply for scholarships and grants. Scholarships aren’t just for freshmen. Keep applying for scholarships for specific costs, such as study abroad, or for fellowship programs to cover the cost of unpaid internships. Check with your academic department and watch for other scholarship program announcements from companies and organizations who may have opportunities that are relevant to you. Sign up for alerts from scholarship search organizations like

Visit your local bank. Ask about checking and savings accounts designed especially for students. These often have lower fees and no minimum balance required. To track your balance and avoid expensive overdraft charges, use online banking to check your balance regularly.

Pay your credit card bill in full—if you have one. If you elect to get a credit card, choose one with the lowest interest rate and only charge what you can afford to pay off in full each month. This will help you avoid late fees and costly credit card debt while you establish good credit for your future.

Lower your interest rates. Do you have loans or cards with high interest rates? Call the lenders to ask if they will lower them.


Borrow or rent textbooks. Textbooks can be surprisingly expensive. Before you hit the campus bookstore, see if you can borrow books from a fellow student or from the university library. If not, buy or rent used textbooks at You can also rent books from Chegg or Barnes & Noble’s textbook service or order digital textbooks through sites like, which offer a pay-as-you-go model.

Explore campus amenities. Check out activities that are available on campus. Everything from movie nights to fitness classes might be offered free of charge.

Check out the library. Use the library on campus and in your community to check out books, videos, audiobooks and other resources. Many Indiana libraries offer digital services and also have items available for checkout, from museum and pool passes to bakeware, board games, and even outdoor games and instruments.

Workout at on-campus facilities or exercise outside. Skip paying a monthly gym membership and check out on-campus fitness classes or get outdoors to get your sweat on. There are also a number of in-home workouts that you can access for free digitally.


Create a budget. Use an app like Mint, EveryDollar or You Need a Budget to help you track and keep control of your money.

Shop thrifty. Consider buying things second hand to save. Many consignment shops offer student discounts. Some friends also have fun swapping clothes as long as each person takes good care of the items borrowed.

Limit meals out and brown bag your lunch. If you bought into the meal plan at school, use it! Student discounts aside, the costs of eating out can add up quickly. You may also stock up on groceries for snacks and to brown bag your lunch instead of purchasing snacks from vending machines or grabbing lunch on the go.

Shop generic brands and meal plan. When you shop for groceries, buy the off-brand and plan ahead so you buy what you need and don’t waste food. You can also stretch your food by eating your leftovers. Consider meal planning or creating a cooking schedule with your roommates to share in the preparation and expense.

Make your own coffee. If you are a coffee lover, invest in a good coffee maker instead of spending money every morning on lattes.

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