Overwhelmed by student loans? Here are 21 money tips that can help


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You already know that saving money is a responsible habit to practice, but the weight of student loan debt can make that challenging to do. According to Student Loan Hero’s latest data, the class of 2018 graduated with a total of $29,800 in private and federal student loan debt.

Although student debt can drag down your savings momentum, saving money — for example, by hunting for digital coupons or refinancing your student loan to a lower rate — can help you in the short and long term. Here are a number of easy ways to save money, despite your student loan debt.

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1. Create a budget


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How to save: A budget helps you set money aside for necessities, while making it clear how much money you have leftover for savings and discretionary spending. Start by writing down your monthly income and subtract your non-negotiable expenses (e.g. rent or mortgage payments, utilities, loans, etc.). What’s left is the amount of money you can save or spend on non-essentials.

Impact: Big; budgeting is a foundational part of managing your money.

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2. Account for irregular expenses

How to save: Although starting with a budget is a simple way to save money, it can be easy to forget other expenses that aren’t a monthly bill, like a quarterly car insurance payment or an annual car registration fee. When budgeting, look at the previous year’s expenses to catch all of these irregular costs so you don’t have to rely on credit cards to cover them.

Impact: Variable

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3. Track your finances

How to save: Keeping your budgeting habits sustainable helps you stay on track. Instead of recalling your budget by memory, use a financial app, like Mint, to track your cash flow. After a few months of monitoring your money, you’ll see which categories you spend more or less in and can redirect your savings accordingly.

Impact: Big, if you regularly check in with your transactions and take actions based on your spending data.

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4. Automate your payments

How to save: Late fees can be costly. For example, the average credit card late payment fee is up to $39. That can quickly add up if you routinely miss payment due dates across multiple accounts. Set up automated payments through your bank or directly with your subscriber or creditor to avoid late fees.

Impact: Variable

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5. Build an emergency fund

How to save: Unexpected events, like a sudden trip to the emergency room or the loss of your job, can be detrimental to your finances. Whether your budget lets you set aside $10 or $100 per month toward an emergency fund, any savings is better than relying on high-interest credit card debt to carry you through a financial emergency.

Impact: Big; an emergency savings fund can be a lifesaver when you least expect it.

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6. Invest in a high-yield savings account

How to save: Keeping your savings in your everyday checking account isn’t helping your savings grow. The national interest rate for savings and checking accounts is less than 0.1% at the time of publishing. If you want to keep your savings accessible while still earning interest, look into a high-yield savings account, which can help you earn a bit more on your deposit.

Impact: Small; aside from higher interest rates, a dedicated high-yield savings account helps you avoid dipping into your savings for unplanned, non-emergency expenses.

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7. Make higher payments

How to save: Accruing interest is one of the factors that makes debt so expensive. The longer you’re in debt, the more interest you’ll pay. By increasing your student loan payments, you’ll climb out of debt faster and spend less on interest in the long run. You can either increase your current monthly payment amount or make a second payment each month.

Impact: Big

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8. Consider an intro 0% APR credit card

How to save: When used strategically, a credit card can be an easy way to save money on interest charges. Zero-APR (annual percentage rate) credit card promotions can last anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. During this time, any debt that you transfer to the card doesn’t accrue interest. Before pursuing this option, however, you should note that 0% APR balance transfer cards may incur transfer fees, and once the promotional rate expires, you may pay a higher standard APR. Calculate whether this option makes financial sense for you and proceed with caution.

Impact: Big, as long as you’re able to repay all of the transferred debt and new charges within the promotional period.

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9. Refinance student loans

How to save: Refinancing your student loans may help you save money if you’re approved for a lower interest rate. You can refinance federal student loans and private student loans. If you’re thinking about refinancing federal student loans, however, realize that you’ll lose access to federal protections like income-driven repayment and forbearance.

Impact: Big; borrowers who have strong credit and high-interest student loans may qualify for competitive interest rates that can save hundreds or thousands of dollars over time.

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10. Work toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness

How to save: Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a federal program that helps you save a significant amount of money by having your Direct Loans forgiven. Borrowers who work full-time with a qualified employer, are on an income-driven repayment plan and make 120 qualifying student loan payments may get the remainder of their student loan debt forgiven.

Impact: Big; the amount of money you can save through PSLF can be in the thousands, depending on how much you owe.

Related: These 5 states offer help paying student loans

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11. Claim the federal student loan interest deduction

How to save: When filing your federal taxes, you can reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500 through the student loan interest deduction. To qualify, your modified adjusted gross income must be less than $80,000 if you’re filing single, or $165,000 if you’re filing a joint return.

Impact: Small

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12. Downgrade your home

How to save: Whether you own a home or rent an apartment, housing costs are likely your highest monthly expense. Downgrading your housing situation — like relocating to an up-and-coming neighborhood, or moving from a trendy one-bedroom apartment complex to a modest studio apartment — is an easy way to save money month over month.

Impact: Big; living in a more affordable home and/or neighborhood can mean hundreds of dollars in savings each month.

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13. Get a roommate

How to save: Splitting housing costs with another person literally cuts your community living expenses by 50%. Ask a close friend or significant other that you trust and who is financially responsible if they’re interested in saving money with you.

Impact: Big

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14. Book off-peak travel

How to save: Traveling isn’t a cheap activity, but if you’re itching for a getaway and have a flexible timeline, book your trip during off-peak travel season. Regardless of your vacation destination, avoiding peak tourist season can save you money on your flight, hotel and activities.

Impact: Variable

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15. Pick up a side gig

How to save: Earning extra money is another easy way to save money faster. Leverage your special skills, whether that’s teaching piano lessons or freelance writing, for a secondary source of income. You can also sign-up for app-based gigs, like Lyft or Doordash, for extra cash on the weekends.

Impact: Variable, based on the side hustle you pick up and the rates you can charge.

Related: Avoid these 7 common side-hustle mistakes

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16. Always use a coupon

How to save: There’s never a good reason to pay retail price when shopping online or in-store. Before paying at checkout, check online sites, like RetailMeNot or Coupon Cabin, for coupon codes or printable coupons to save money on your purchase.

Impact: Small

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17. Sign up for cash-back websites

How to save: The promise of cash back doesn’t justify going overboard with shopping. However, if you’re shopping online for items that you planned ahead for (e.g. toiletries or a gift), sign up on cash-back sites like Rakuten to earn a percentage of your money back.

Impact: Small

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18. Avoid ATM fees

How to save: When you use an out-of-network ATM, you may get charged a fee by the ATM network. Your own bank may charge you a fee as well. An easy way to save money on fees is to plan your trip to the ATM ahead of time. Locate your nearest in-network ATM instead of opting for an out-of-network machine.

Impact: Small; you’ll save a few dollars per ATM transaction.

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19. Ditch your car

How to save: Owning a car is a big monthly expense, especially if you don’t own your vehicle outright. By taking public transportation or using a bicycle to get around, you could save hundreds of dollars each month on a car payment, auto insurance, gasoline, maintenance and repairs.

Impact: Big

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20. Cancel your gym membership

How to save: Maintaining a regular exercise routine is a good way to stay on top of your physical health. However, a gym membership is a monthly cost that isn’t absolutely necessary to stay healthy. Cut this cost from your budget to save money, and step outdoors for a (free) jog around your neighborhood.

Impact: Medium, if you have a premium gym membership.

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21. Prepare meals in advance

How to save: Buying lunch every work day (and let’s be honest, sometimes dinner, too) adds up quickly. Reserve dining out exclusively for the weekends and dedicating a few hours of your Sunday for meal-prepping can help to curb costs throughout the week.

Impact: Small

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Should you save money when you have student loans?

Saving money can offer extra financial reassurance and help you reach specific goals, like saving money toward a vacation. However, there may also be value in aggressively repaying your loans instead of saving money if you already have emergency funds set aside.

This is a personal choice to make, based on your overall financial goals and individual circumstances. To help you make an educated decision, use a student loan repayment calculator to estimate how much you could save by repaying your debt early.

Related: 5 ways student debt can impact your credit

Melanie Lockert contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on StudentLoanHero.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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