College Ideas & Money Saving Tips

College Tips Money Saving Super Page.

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This College Money Saving Tips & Ideas  Page contains a growing number of money saving ideas for cutting the cost of a attending a University/ College and getting a higher education!

In addition to the reader-submitted tips on this page, we’ve written a 5 part series on how to save a ton of money on college expenses.

Read all of the Debt Free College Blog Series Here:

  1. 6 Ways High Schoolers can Crush College Costs
  2. How to Get Your Student Loans Forgiven
  3. Is There Gold at the End of the Scholarship Rainbow? Hack!
  4. How to Maximize FAFSA and Pell Grant Money!
  5. 10 Out of the Box Ideas for Big Time College Savings
  6. How to Eliminate College Debt
  7.  One kid who got a college degree in 22 months for $3100 (you could too)
  8. How Joe Earned $166 per hour studying for his SAT

Power Budgeting for A Grad Degree

As a single guy, saving to go to grad school, I’ve seen the value of sticking to a carefully defined budget. With careful planning, I’ve been able to save between 30 to 40 percent of my income while still enjoying my lifestyle. Yes, I’ve eliminated a few “luxuries” but haven’t really noticed a decline in my enjoyment.   Jacob Benyi – Tempe, AZ

Editors’ Note: We’ve known Jacob for many years. He did save 40% of his income. He did apply to graduate school. And he did get accepted to Columbia in New York City. Jacob had most of his tuition and expenses saved for grad school before he went. He worked part time for his current employer, and borrowed just a little money for his graduate degree . . . which he paid off promptly.

Leave College Loans . . . alone!

“64 percent of college graduates take on some kind of student loan.” Ben Kaplan (author of the best-selling book, “How to Go to College Almost for Free.“)

We started our marriage with 22 credit cards — $14,000 debt and $40,000 in college loans. We’ve had to work really hard to pay it off. Seven years, and six kids later, we have a zero credit card balance and owe just under $20,000 in college loans. We can see and agree that college loans are not always the best way to go!   Candy and Tom – Ohio

Editors’ Note: College loans can be a trap for decades. Fill out FAFSA, sign up for, look for grants, work a summer job, get a part-time job, use a budget, and after all of that, if you still need some cash consider a loan. But borrow only as little as you need. You’ll be glad you did when you graduate and get your first job!

Hard Work U

I was recently made aware of a college in Missouri called College of the Ozarks, located right outside of Branson. The college’s nickname is Hard Work U because the students pay NO tuition to attend. Instead, they all have to work on campus. I attended a conference there and saw the student staff everywhere on campus (very few “adults” working except for professors).

Since 1989, College of The Ozarks has been recognized yearly as a Top Comprehensive College by U.S. News & World Report. It is an excellent place to receive a quality education debt-free. Their website is

They also have a wonderful Inn and Restaurant as part of the college. S. Tourville, Ph.D. – Columbia, MO 

College Re-Education

We wish you shared in your college series about paying for a college education were around ten years ago, we could have saved THOUSANDS!

Our daughter owed $30,000 when she graduated, and with our help, ten years later is down to $19,000! Keep up the good work!  – Linda & James — San Jose, CA

How to Eliminate College Debt for Everyone

Joe graduating from GCU with Steve & Annette

Question: Do you have suggestions for my son who has accrued college debt of close to $90,000? He is paying for most of his loans and we also took out a Parent PLUS loan. We know that was a big mistake but it’s done now and we have a loan that we can’t pay. Is there help for us?

Answer: Our hearts go out to you. There are hundreds of thousands of parents who have done the same thing – taken out a loan for their kids, thinking they were helping. Your heart is so big and generous, but like many, you’re feeling the delayed consequences of borrowing money you really couldn’t afford. We recommend a two-pronged approach:

1)    Students Responsibility

Your son should shoulder ALL of the responsibility for repaying his student loans–not you. No matter what you’ve talked about in the past. If he got a degree that cost $90,000 he should have a decent job, so let him scrimp and save (like you probably did) for a few years and pay that loan off in record time. Perhaps he could get a job where loan forgiveness is part of the compensation package. Read this article at (a great resource for help with mountains of debt).

2)    Get Financial Help 

Since the Parent PLUS loans are crushing you, get help from Money Management International. They may not be able to get the loan forgiven, but they can help you manage your own finances better so you can survive.

As you dig your way out of this situation, you’ll gain more resolve to manage what you do have so that you’ll never borrow again. You’re going to make it. It won’t be easy, but it will be good! And you’ll be so much stronger and smarter when it’s all paid off that you’ll be able to help others avoid the same pit of despair.

How Joe earned $166 an hour on his S.A.T.

A college mortar board and diploma.

Our son Joe graduated high school in 2010. For the most part, he was homeschooled but took some dual-enrollment AP classes at our local community college.

We’d been researching four-year colleges and universities and found one that looked really promising. They were starting a baseball program (Joe’s sport) this year and would be awarding athletic scholarships too. Joe applied to the school and found that he could get most of the tuition and fees covered through various scholarships—he has a really good GPA.

Then the financial aid person we were talking with said that if Joe could raise his SAT scores just 50 points he would qualify for another $3000 scholarship which would really make the school affordable. That was a real motivation for Joe.

Taking the SAT

So we signed Joe up to take the SAT test on June 5. Unfortunately, we had to pay a late fee, but we compared the potential reward to the cost and thought it was worth it. Joe studied and practiced for 18 hours in the two weeks before the test.

He used two free online sources:

LearningExpressLibrary – this site is now only accessible through your library.

We found through a Consumer Reports article years ago. It’s a good site, but a little limited in the scope of the questions they have your answer.

We found LearningExpressLibrary through our public library’s website. Joe told us that the LearningExpress website was tougher and much more comprehensive. Their website is available at no charge through most libraries or colleges. We were able to access it from home using our Phoenix Public Library card.

Not only does LearningExpressLibrary provide SAT and ACT testing, but they also have guides and tests for Real Estate, Plumbers, US Citizenship, GED preparation and a whole host of others.

SAT Results for Joe   

On June 24, Joe woke up early to log into the website to check his SAT scores. He was so nervous that he typed in his password incorrectly three times (wouldn’t you be nervous if you were wondering if you had just earned $3000?). Joe finally logged in and a smile quickly spread across his face.

He not only increased his score the necessary 50 points but exceeded it. By spending 18 hours studying he increased his overall score 160 points! Yep, we’re proud of him!

After we finished cheering, Steve pulled out a calculator and divided $3000 by 18 hours of studying and discovered that Joe earned $166.66 per hour for his efforts.

Now that’s really smart money!

If you have a child who is preparing to go to college, help them be prepared for the SAT by using the websites we’ve found. A little encouragement from you can go a long way to making college really affordable!

SAT Fee Waivers offers waivers of SAT fees for families who qualify due to lower income. You can learn more here. If you do qualify for a fee waiver, you may also qualify for a waiver of several different college and university application fees. Learn more here.

This link will take you to specific information about income qualifications.

Contact your high school guidance counselor to receive a waiver card. The waiver allows you to take the SAT up to four times at no charge.

Do your research and you could earn and save a boodle.

To view the upcoming SAT test schedule on click here. 

University/ College With No Student Loans

Question: I am wondering how you put your kids through college without student loans.

I currently have three kids in college and one who has graduated. Even with all the scholarships, grants and gifts for school, our oldest three kids have had to take loans. Our youngest is in her second year at Arizona State University and so far no loans for her but I’m guessing that we will need one for her by the time she reaches her senior year.

She received about ten different scholarships ranging from $150 to tuition paid on a competitive basis. She works for the school so her dorm is provided. This is the same path our oldest took but she still had $20,000 in student loans at graduation.

Our son took a year off and is a returning student. We are overwhelmed with the cost of higher education. His schooling will be paid for mostly with grants and loans. Any suggestions?

Money Smart Family Answer

Paying for college is certainly a challenge. We strongly urge all parents to carefully consider the pitfalls of school loans because most 18 year-olds don’t fully comprehend the full consequences of a financed education.

If the average college student graduates with $20,000 to $40,000 in school debt and marries someone in the same situation, how will that debt load plus living expenses affect their relationship? It’s a recipe for decades of payments, stress and potentially divorce. Even without marriage, a heavy debt-load on a starting salary after graduation can be tough.

We encouraged our kids to start at community colleges for their core curriculum. The cost is roughly half that of a university, class sizes are smaller, they are taught by professors, and financial aid is plentiful.

We also helped them research and fill out a multitude of scholarship applications. The book, “How To Go To College Almost For Free,” by Ben Kaplan is phenomenal resource. Our oldest son spent about 10 hours one summer filling out applications and earned $1,000 in scholarships. Not a bad hourly wage at $100 per hour.

There is nothing wrong with kids working their way through college and going at a slower pace. The more they participate in earning their school money, the more careful they’ll be in spending it. The careless use of school loans for living expenses (and often times pizza for pals) is a fast track to accumulating enormous debt. Helping your kids understand the paralyzing power of a large student loan is critical to their future success.

Susan Redding wrote:
I have 6 children 3 going to college. I was under the impression that at 18 children must be full-time students to stay under a health care plan. Is this true? America’s Cheapest Family wrote: Generally, this is true, but check with your plan

Six Ways to Get College Scholarships

Question: In your article about paying for college, you said you helped your kids research and apply for scholarships. Can you give me some advice about doing this?

Answer: It’s great to see a high school senior so motivated. You can do lots of things:

  1. Study hard. There is no magic in this, but great grades really help. In Arizona, a 4.0 GPA can be worth a $40,000 scholarship.
  2. Pump up your SAT score by going to the free Web sites and and practice like like crazy.
  3. Read Ben Kaplan’s booksHow To Go To  College Almost For Free and The Scholarship Scouting Report.
  4. Search Out Scholarships   Go to and put in your profile. They will notify you of scholarships fitting your interests and inform you of writing contests you can enter and hopefully win.
  5. FAFSA   Get your parents to help you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at It qualifies you for lots of scholarships and grants.
  6. Get organized. If you keep track of deadlines, you can apply for and win many scholarships.

Our kids have averaged about $100 per hour for their efforts. With diligence, organization and determination, we bet you can do even better. We’ve written several articles on paying for college and finding scholarships which are contained in the subscriber portion of our website. 

Make Money in your Spare Time

When you’re a college student, you’ll most likely be studying hard and spending time with friends. But there are times when you’ll be riding the bus, train or with a friend that you could be making money. Check out our Best Survey Apps article to learn about apps where you can get paid for sharing your opinion.

Related Article: If you’re wanting to save money on Text Books check out or Money-Savings Tips page:  College Textbooks.

Related Article: Retail Arbitrage: How to Make a Living Bargain Hunting


If you have a  college tip for saving money on college expenses please leave it in the comments below and we’ll review it for posting on this page.

9 thoughts on “College Ideas & Money Saving Tips

  1. Sonia Perkins

    My children have not reached college years yet they are 10 and 11 how much money can I put back for them I only receive 735.00 a month

  2. Gianna

    CLEP tests are your best friend. At about $100 a test, they are much cheaper than taking a college course, and much easier to study for than you might think. You can find most materials you need at your local library- for the psychology and American literature I was able to just read and study the ‘Complete Idiots’ guide to the subject and pass the test. I was able to graduate in three years instead of four in part because I took these tests, thus saving me even more money in tuition and room and board.

    1. Steve Economides

      You are so right about CLEP testing, they are a huge money and time saver. Congratulations on reaching your goal so quickly and economically!

    1. Steve Economides

      Marsha, You must be so proud of your daughter! How did she get free college tuition and a stipend? We’d love to hear the story.

  3. Joanna

    I’m goign to grad school right now and the textbook cost was terrible. So I took the ISBN numbers to the school library. They ran them through their system and found one in stock (free to check out and I can renew it), and another one was available through inter-library loan (again, free to check out). Another was available in on online format but I opted to buy the whole ebook since I wasn’t sure which chapters would be required and if those would be the chapters available online. The local public library didn’t have any actual textbooks on my list, but they had plenty of resources for the papers I ended up doing last semester. Sure you can get discounts online, but why not try FREE first?

    1. Steve Economides

      Joanna, We love your diligence and determination to find ways to save. There are always deals to be found, its just a matter of how hard we’re willing to look. The average expense for a semester’s worth of textbooks is between $400 and $700. How much do you think you saved with your textbook hack?

  4. Judy

    I got my undergraduate degree at the City Universitibof NY. At the time it was free. It is still a bargain over 40 years later. My company paid for my
    MBA. It’s was great having no student loan debt.

    1. Steve Economides

      Thanks for sharing your story.We love the idea of pursuing employers who value education and pay for some or all of your college costs.

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