Category Archives: College Money

The Student’s Guide to Being Frugal

Great for college students. The Student's Guide to Being Frugal.

If you’re a student or if you’ve ever been one in the past, you’re probably aware that it isn’t exactly the most luxurious lifestyle in the world. And while it does depend on each person’s background, most students are generally broke and looking to save as much money as possible at any potential opportunity.

The sad truth, however, is that most of us are not that good at saving money, and constantly being bombarded by shopping ads everywhere you look isn’t exactly helping this situation. I’ve been there, and I know how hard it is to save up when you’re living on your own and constantly have to worry about paying the rent and the huge amount of student loan debt you probably have going.

Over my years as a student, I’ve gained quite a bit of experience with saving money, through my own mistakes as well as the advice of other people, and today I want to share my advice with you. So without further ado, here are the five ways in which you can be more frugal as a student, and potentially save up a lot of money.

student budget

Avoid Credit

The easiest way to throw money down the drain is to commit to a credit card purchase that you’ll have to pay interest on. Don’t get me wrong, credit cards can be extremely useful in certain circumstances, but you should absolutely avoid making this your default way of paying for things. Interest can add up extremely quickly if you’re not careful, and you can completely unnecessarily lose a lot of money. So go for debit or cash, and save credit for emergencies – you’ll thank yourself later that you did.

Buy It Nice, or Buy It Twice

This age-old saying has way more truth to it than you might think. Why? Because cheap stuff breaks and stops working – end of story. Whenever you’re out to buy something that you want to last you a while, like a desk, a pair of headphones or even minuscule purchases like a simple notebook, don’t fall into the trap of buying the cheapest one. It’s the cheapest one for a good reason, a reason I already mentioned – it simply isn’t going to last. I’m not saying that you should buy expensive stuff just for the heck of it. I’m saying that you should be skeptical of cheap products and services.

Search for Deals

Whenever you see a deal that you can potentially take advantage of, take your phone out and make note of it. Search for deals online, collect coupons – anything you can do to get a discount that can save you money is worth doing. If you tend to shop online, use a ExpressVPN to see if you can get a better price on larger purchases if you change your IP (this actually works sometimes).

Student's guide to frugality

Want it or Need it?

Your “need” list should always hold priority over your “want” list, and when buying a product or paying for a certain service, it’s very important that you make this distinction. It’s perfectly okay to want something, just as long as you’re honest with yourself about why you’re buying it. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of making the “I need it” excuse, and once you do it’s very difficult to stop buying things that you could absolutely do without.

Keep Track of Expenses

This is perhaps the most crucial point on this list. Your income and all the monthly expenses that need to be taken care of should be written down, analyzed and calculated as studiously as possible. It’s incredibly easy to do this nowadays – all you need is an app like Google Sheets, although if you don’t want to fiddle around with a smartphone, a calculator and a piece of paper will do fine.

First, input all your fixed expenses: your bills, your rent, the stuff you know you will have to pay for each month – and deduct all that from your average monthly income. Every time you make a purchase, write it down, deduct it from the total. Being aware of how much money you have left at any given moment gives you a much better idea of how much you’re spending and whether you need to slow it down.


Adam Ferraresi writerAdam Ferraresi is 23 years old, but he first became interested in writing when he was in high school. Today he’s a successful web developer living in Dallas, Texas, and one of the most trusted writers at In his free time, he’s an avid mountain climber and enjoys playing basketball with his friends.

Occupation-Based Student Loan Repayment Programs

Student loan repayment programs for doctors, nurses, vets, STEM majors, lawyers, educators and more!

Most people are aware that your student loans can be forgiven if you’re in a government position.  A while back I wrote about states, cities, and provinces that are willing to pay back your student loans for simply moving there.

Today I’ve got even more programs that will help you pay back that nasty debt.  Most of them are based on your occupation.  Some of them are pretty common.  Some of them are completely random.  Some of them only apply to certain states or geographic locations.  Some are national.

All of them are worth reviewing.  They could help you pay back a significant portion of your debt.

(These are all snippets…for full details of the program hit “more information” under each one as their may be additional qualifiers I do not mention.  You may or may not be eligible for the full payback amount as listed depending on your situation.)

National program to get student loans forgiven

Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness

Locality:  Federal/National

What it will pay back: Up to $17,500 on direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans & subsidized and unsubsidized Federal Stafford loans.

Special Requirements:  Be a teacher in a low-income school district for 4-5 years

More Information

Work in education? You may be able to get your student loans cancelled!

Teacher Student Loan Cancellation

Special Requirements:  Hold on!  You don’t have to be a teacher for this one!  If you work in the educational field, odds are you qualify.  You have to work either in a field where there is a lack of qualified educators as determined by your state, in special education, OR in a school with low-income families.

Locality:  Federal/National

What it will pay back:  A discharge of up to 100% of your loan from the Federal Perkins Loan program.

More Information

uninsured lost obamacare

Association of American Medical Colleges Scholarships, Student Loan Repayment & Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Locality:  Various states across the country.

What it will pay back:  Varies. Some state programs grant scholarships while others provide student loan repayment or forgiveness.

Special Requirements:  Varies, but you will need a tie to a state in order to qualify for its program.

More Information

occupation based student loan repayment programs

NURSE Corps Student Loan Repayment Program

Locality:  Federal/National

What it will pay back:  60% of your loan balance over the course of two years, possibly 25% for a third year.

Special Requirements:  Must be an RN with you education completed. Must be working full-time at a designated eligible critical shortage facility.

More Information

occupation based student loan repayment

Pitt Law Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program

Locality:  University of Pittsburgh Law School graduates

What it will pay back:  An unknown-to-me sum towards your debt.

Special Requirements:  Must be a graduate of Pitt who is using their law degree in public service (or public service related to the welfare of children depending on the program.) Your income must be below 400% of the federal poverty level.

More Information

Pitt Law has two additional student loan repayment programs available.

A lot of other schools and states have programs for their law students. Do some research around your own!

Vetrinary Student Loan Repayment Programs

Arkansas Veterinary Student Loan Repayment

Locality:  The state of Arkansas

What it will pay back:  The balance due on your loans for five years.

Special requirements:  Get a job or internship within 90 days of your graduation, and stay employed in the field consecutively to get the maximum benefits for the full five years.

More Information

Programs for Veterinarians in Other States

Joining the Peace Corps could reduce your student loans.

Peace Corps Student Loan Deferment and Cancellation

Locality: National (You may serve outside of the US.)

What it will pay back:  Potential 15-70% cancellations on Perkins Loans. Deferment on several Federal Loans. Deferment on private loans vary from lender to lender.

Special Requirements:  Join Peace Corps and serve for at least two years.

More information

occupation based student loan repayment programs

New York State Licensed Social Worker Loan Forgiveness Program

Locality:  The state of NY

What it will pay back:  $6,500/year up to $26,000

Special Requirements:  Be a licensed social worker in New York state working in a critical human service areas in health, mental health, substance abuse, aging, HIV/AIDs, child welfare, or in an area with multilingual needs. You must work in an eligible county at 35+ hours per week.

More information

STEM Student Loan Forgiveness

North Dakota Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Occupations Student Loan Program

Locality:  The state of North Dakota

What it will pay back:  $1,500/year up to $6,000

Special Requirements:  Must be a North Dakota college graduate with a final GPA of 2.5 and have been working in your field for 12 months.

More information

Vermont used to have a very similar program that paid out a little bit more, but Vermont’s Student Loan STEM incentive program has sadly been discontinued.


While it’s really exciting if you can take advantage of any of these programs, be aware that money you receive to pay off your loans may be subject to taxes!

Cities that will Pay Your Student Loans

For this kind of money I'm definitely moving to a city that will pay my student loans!

Small town anywhere is dying.  A lack of young blood, not to mention highly-educated, innovative blood, is killing them.  People are moving on to bigger and better things in areas with higher populations.

Student loans are killing millennials.  The average grad carries more than $25,000 in debt if they took out loans, and that’s just the average.  Oh, and student loans don’t die.  They follow you forever and ever, even through most bankruptcies.

Innovative Communities Will Pay Off Your Student Loans–Just for Moving There

Some of these communities are seizing an opportunity to create solutions for both groups. They are offering to help repay student loans for graduates that establish their residences within their community’s boundaries.

Truly innovative problem solving, it presents real solutions to both parties.  Here are three of the major programs for cities that will pay your student loans that have already started or are deep into the works:

Kansas' Rural Opportunity Zones either pay off your student loans for you or allow you to skip out on state taxes.Kansas Rural Opportunity Zones Program

Location:  Kansas.  In any of these 71 counties.

Status:  Active

Requirements:  Establish residency in one of the above mentioned counties on/after July 1, 2011. Have outstanding student loans along with an associates, bachelors, or post-graduate degree. You must have lived outside of Kansas and made no more than $10,000 in Kansas income for the five years prior to establishing residency.

How much will they pay?:  Up to $15,000.

How it works:  The state pays 20%  of your student loan balance over the course of five years, up to $3,000 per year for a total of $15,000.  Payments will go directly to the lender. Keep in mind that any payments made to your lender will be taxable.

Where to apply:  Kansas Department of Commerce

Move to Niagara Falls, NY and they'll pay off your student loans. Live Niagara Falls Program

Location:  Niagara Falls, New York

Status:  Active.

Requirements:  Associates, bachelors or post-graduate degree.  They originally recruited at local colleges, but are open to other applicants from far-off places.  You must also move to the the city of Niagara Falls.

How much will they pay?:  Up to $7,000.

How it works:  You’ll get up to $3,500 from the city to pay your student loans over two years in the form of reimbursements.

Where to applyLiveNF website, which should be live again in February 2017.

Anyone who graduated in the past seven years can take advantage of Saskatchewan's Graduate Retention Program.Saskatchewan Graduate Retention Program

Location:  Anywhere in Saskatchewan, Canada

Status:  Active

Requirements:  You must have graduated from an approved program after January 1, 2010. That program must be equivalent to six months of full-time scholarship and must have rewarded you with a certificate, diploma, undergraduate degree, or journeypersons certification.  You must live in or move to Saskatchewan.

How much will they pay?:  $20,000 Lifetime max. You will receive up to $3,000 if you have a one-year certificate/journeyperson/diploma, up to $6,400 for a two-year certificate/diploma, up to $15,000 for a three-year undergrad degree, and up to $20,000 for a four-year undergrad degree.

How it works:  During the first four years, you get 10% of your tuition reimbursed to you as a nonrefundable tax credit, as long as you file your taxes in Saskatchewan.  For the next three years, you get 20%, up to the maximum amount for your certification/degree. If the credit is more than you owe in taxes, you can carry the credit over for up to ten years.

Where to apply:  Saskatchewan’s Graduate Retention Program


Didn’t find a program you like? There are occupation-based student loan repayment programs across the USA. Click here to check some of them out.

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Get Free Textbooks with a Special Allowance

 Erm, did someone say free textbooks? Doing this next semester.

When you’re trying to improve your situation, you come up against a lot of obstacles. Maybe you got into school to further your education, but, especially if you have children, you can’t afford to go without working–which conflicts with your class schedule.

You can combat this by applying for scholarships that will cover your costs above and beyond tuition.

After you have those scholarships, you have another major hindrance: textbooks. They’re crazy expensive, especially if you have a narcissistic professor who wrote their own and only publishes through the school. In a lot of situations, you can find ways to get textbooks for cheap, but sometimes the school bookstore is the only option.

If you’re truly struggling with money, there may be a way for you to get free textbooks. You may be able to get a special allowance (SPAL) through your state welfare office to get these costs covered.

How to Use a SPAL to Get Free Textbooks

In Pennsylvania, the Special Allowance Program (or SPAL) is available to those who are on food stamps or cash assistance. In order to qualify, you mus be willing or required to participate in an employment training program, including, but not necessarily limited to, college.

These SPALs can help pay for books, transportation and even qualification or certification tests.

If you do not live in Pennsylvania, that does not mean SPALs are not available. It just means that I’m not as familiar with the system in your state.

To get the SPAL forms you will need to go into your welfare office and talk to a case worker. Ask them for a Special Allowance packet, making sure you let them know why you are asking.

They will give you a packet of paperwork including some forms for your school to fill out and a job/career plan outline. There will be a couple of additional personal forms for you to fill out, too.

From here, you’ll want to take the forms to your school’s financial aid office. When they fill them out, make sure you also get a copy of your current class schedule and verification that the books and other materials you need are required to take each course.

Now you can mail in all the paperwork. If you’re approved, you will get the Special Allowance to use at your school’s bookstore for free textbooks. You must use it within 14 days of issuance, and then submit your receipt to the welfare office so they can verify that you used all the money for its intended purpose.

In that packet, you should have also received a monthly attendance worksheet. You will need your professors to verify that you are attending class by the 5th of each following month.

Say you’ve filled out the form for February. You will need to submit it to the welfare office by the 5th of March. Make sure you keep up on your paperwork or you could end up owing all that textbook money back.

Your experience may vary a little from the above. First of all, this is based off of personal research. I did not qualify for a SPAL when I was going to school, but you can bet I tried. Because free textbooks would have helped a lot.

Additionally, if you’re not in the state of Pennsylvania, the availability of special allowances may differ, or be nonexistent. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth researching, though. Free textbooks can save you hundreds or even more than $1,000 per semester–and that adds up.

FAFSA Changes That Affect You Tomorrow

So glad I saw this! I was going to wait until January 1!

Tomorrow is October 1st. Just another Saturday, amiright?


Tomorrow signals the start of a new practice with FAFSA applications, which is important for both non-traditional students and parents of college students alike.

FAFSA Applications Now Open October 1st

In years past, you had to wait until January 1st to apply for the FAFSA. This was a mess for a ton of different reasons. The first is that most people don’t even have their W-2s until January 31st unless their employer is overly ambitious, so filling out tax information before actually filing was a nightmare and usually required amendments.

The second is that waiting until January makes it really hard to compare offers from different schools—how are you supposed to know how much you’ll be paying in tuition when you don’t even know how much you’ll qualify for in grants?

Because of those issues, FAFSA applications now open on October 1st. That means the application you fill out tomorrow will be for the 2017-2018 school year.

Prior Prior Tax Year Data

That also means that instead of your 2016 tax year data being pulled for the 2017-2018 school year, the federal government wants you to submit your 2015 tax year data instead. That’s kind of beautiful because you’ve already submitted it. It can now be pulled up electronically sparing you the drudgery of going through all of your tax documents and matching them to the required online forms.

This practice is known as pulling the prior prior tax year’s data. Your 2016 tax return will still count—but only for the 2018-2019 school year. Then in 2019-2020, you’ll use 2017 tax year data.

Filing Early Means They Won’t Run Out of Money—Right?

Common advice tells you that Pell Grant funding is limited, so you should apply early to get your hands on those funds that you never have to pay back.

This is true, but typically the money doesn’t actually run out. For the 2015-2016 school year, applicants left $2.9 billion on the table. While applying early is still smart practice (I’d hate this to be the one year they ran out,) the bigger message is to apply—even if you think you won’t qualify.

The FAFSA doesn’t just open up opportunities for Pell Grants. It also opens the door for you to apply to state grants. It also issues work-study opportunities and gives you access to advantaged government loans. (Even though I’m all about doing college debt free, if you’re going to take out loans you might as well do it smart.)

On top of all this, to open the doors to funding from your individual institution, most will require you to have a completed FAFSA. The moral of the story is this: there is “free” money out there. Don’t leave it on the table. Apply. Apply. Apply.

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