From Side Hustles to Savings: Ways to Make College More Affordable

Posted On: July 20, 2023
College students studying - Extraco Banks

Pursuing higher education can be a financial rollercoaster that strains your wallet and budget. On one side, you have tuition fees and textbooks to worry about. On the other side, school supplies and living expenses can add up just as fast. 


To help you make the most of your budget, we've compiled a short guide to help you navigate the financial terrain with savvy strategies and clever hacks to transform your dreams of higher education into a budget-friendly reality. So, buckle up, grab your avocado toast and iced coffee, and let's get started.

Attend community college first

While your first inclination might be to aim for a four-year school, attending a community college is more cost-effective. 

Community college offers lower tuition, and dorms are often more economical if the college is not nearby and you’ll be living on campus. With a four-year degree, you'll spend much of the first two years in general classes, like math, science, English, and humanities. These classes are typically less expensive at a community college.

Once you've completed these general education (GenEd) classes, you'll begin your degree program's core, or more focused, classes. It makes financial sense to eliminate the general courses at a lower cost. Many community colleges offer programs that allow credits to transfer to universities. One caveat is that you must generally earn a "C" or higher in each transferring class.

Apply for scholarships and grants

Scholarships and grants are excellent resources, and they are available for anyone preparing for or already attending college. Scholarship databases like or Fastweb are excellent sources that help you search for funding opportunities. The great thing about these resources is that many scholarship and grant opportunities are available throughout the year; you just need to know where to look to find them. So, even if the school year has begun, continue applying for scholarships and grants as they become available and when they make sense for your profile and goals. 

Apply for work-study opportunities

Applying for work-study opportunities is another great way to earn extra money while attending school. These programs provide you with on-campus jobs that work around your class schedule and provide you with a competitive wage. In addition to extra income to supplement your budget, you’ll gain valuable work experience and establish professional connections.

Work part-time

Many college students work part-time jobs outside of school. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that 74% of part-time and 40% of full-time students hold jobs outside of school. Working even a few hours weekly can provide a steady paycheck to cover school and additional living expenses or personal needs. And you can add these jobs to your resume to increase your chances of employment post-graduation, too.

Consider a side hustle for extra income

Side jobs have become popular over the years, especially during the pandemic. Today, 39% of American adults work a side job. A side hustle can be nearly anything you want, to include like:

  • delivering groceries
  • transporting passengers
  • writing or editing
  • virtual assisting
  • customer service
  • web development or design
  • selling crafts
  • tutoring

So how much might you earn from a side hustle? The answer varies with your chosen side job and how much effort you put into your gig. But the average side hustle yields about $810 monthly from gigs. Besides taking care of your daily or monthly discretionary spending, you can also use the extra money to build your emergency account or pay off debt – such as outstanding student loans, car loans, or credit card debt.

Explore tuition-free and work-for-tuition arrangements

Ever wonder whether there are ways to go to school for free or nearly so? Guess what? There are! Tuition-free and work-for-tuition arrangements are real. However, these arrangements are available only at select schools. 

A caveat is that while these opportunities cover your tuition, most students must still cover room, board, and other fees. Additional funding, such as grants, scholarships, and student loans, can help offset these extra costs.

The final word

Although the cost of college might seem daunting, there are many ways you can reduce these costs to make your education more affordable. Start by considering the financial and other benefits offered by community colleges or tuition-free or work-for-tuition opportunities. 

Remember to look for scholarship and grant opportunities throughout the year. And if you need additional funds, consider a work-study program, a part-time job, or a side hustle. You can achieve your educational goals without breaking the bank with careful planning and perseverance.