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Student Life
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How to Afford College and Living Expenses

Published: November 8, 2021

When you think of the costs associated with college, you might only factor in your tuition and fees. But you probably have lots of other expenses that don’t go away once you start school. How can you afford both on a tight budget? With some careful planning and saving, you can cover all of the costs incurred during your college days.

Apply for Financial Aid

If you could fill out a free form and receive some money to pay for college, would you do it? Who wouldn’t? When you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, your school will use it to determine what your financial aid package will be. That package can include federal grants as well as student loans, which can cover the cost of tuition and other expenses such as student fees and textbooks. Check with your school’s financial aid office to find out exactly what college-related expenses can be covered with your financial aid package.

You may not know this, but any financial aid money that’s left over could be used to pay for your living expenses. If the total cost of your accepted financial aid package exceeds the total cost of your tuition and fees, the money that’s left over will be given to you. Use that money wisely, especially if it’s a student loan. You’ll have to pay back student loans after graduation, so don’t take more than you can be responsible for. But if some loan money is left over, you could put it toward:

  • Transportation costs
  • Off-campus room and board
  • Textbooks, equipment, and supplies
  • Utilities and Internet costs
  • Groceries and necessities

Do not use student loans to pay for frivolous expenses like entertainment, electronics, and travel. And don’t take out student loans unless you really need them. Remember that it’s not free money—you will be responsible for that student debt for years after your graduate, so think carefully before you accept them.

Get a Part-Time Job while In College

A part-time job can help you pay for your living expenses and boost your resume at the same time. Look for jobs on or near campus so you won’t have to travel far after classes. You can also look for part-time jobs in your field or in a closely related industry. If you’re interested in IT, for example, you might take a job at a computer store or electronics shop. Or, if you want to pursue a career in healthcare, you could assist hospital patients as an orderly or transporter. You’ll gain experience and earn a much-needed paycheck.

Sell Old Things before Going to College

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You could have treasures lying around your house that you might not even know about. Go through your old things and make a pile of what you don’t need, want, or use anymore. You can sell it online through sites like eBay and Mercari and then use the cash to pay your bills.

Cut Down on Non-College Expenses

If you want to save money, you need to know what you spend. Make a list of expenses and cut out anything you don’t really need. Magazine subscriptions, streaming services, and fancy cups of coffee are all items you can snip from your budget. And instead of buying expensive meals out, prepare your food at home, including your morning coffee. You’ll find that you can save a lot of money in the long run by eating out less.

Look for Student Discounts

Everyone knows that college students can have a tough time financially. Some companies will offer discounts to students to help ease the burden. Find out where these discounts are offered and use them to your advantage. For example, Apple and Microsoft offer discounts on computers and software to students with a valid .edu email address. Your local public transportation system might offer discounts or free rides to students. Your Internet provider or phone company could also offer special packages for students. Ask around for special deals and use them while you can.


College is an expense, but it’s one of the best investments you can make for yourself. At Charter College, we offer a variety of career training programs in Business, Health Care, Information Technology, and the Trades that can help you invest in your future career. We also offer financial aid packages to those who qualify. Call us at 888-200-9942 or fill out the form to learn more.