How To Pay For College Without Loans (Full Guide 2019)

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Are you drowning in debt or wondering how you can pay for college without taking out loans? 

As a college student, I worried about graduating with debt.

Well, what if I told you I graduated from college debt-free and even had a remaining balance of $2,000 in my bank account?

True story, but trust me, I am not the only one. There are many other college students who have walked away with their college degree debt-free.

Unfortunately, there are millions of other college students who did not take advantage of resources that could have helped them pay for college.

Did you know millions of college graduates are in debt every year? The sad part is that they don’t even know how long it’s going to take them to pay off all their student debt.

Below are some statistics about the student loan debt crisis that you should be aware of.

student loans

Sounds crazy, right?

That won’t be you though, because after you read this post, I know you are going to find many alternatives to pay for college without having to take out any loans.

I want to share with you my secrets and strategies on how I was able to walk away with my college degree without taking out any loans.

1. Take Classes at a Community College

There is a common misconception that students who attend a community college are not as smart as students who choose to attend a four-year university straight out of high school.

Often, the reality is, many community college students were accepted to four-year universities such as UCLA, Michigan State, Duke, and other top institutions when they applied during their senior year of high school.

However, many students were unable to commit and attend those universities due to high tuition prices and not having sufficient funds.

In 2016, a study conducted by the College Board Research found that an average four-year, in-state, on campus university student would budget over $24,000 per year for their bachelor’s degree. 

On the other hand, a two-year, in-district community college student would budget about $17,000 per year for their associate’s degree. 

There are various pros and cons to attending a four-year university.

However, when it comes to how much money you could save from taking classes at a community college, numbers don’t lie.

Attending a four-year institution and obtaining your degree is no different from attending a community college and transferring to a four-year institution to receive that degree. The end goal is the same.

Pro Tip: Attending a community college for two years before transferring to a four-year university certainly helped me save money and avoid taking out student loans.

2. Time Management

time management

This is probably one of the most underrated methods that many people do not utilize when it comes down to saving money. 

Everyday we become distracted by things like hanging out with friends, watching Netflix, attending social events, visiting a favorite beach spot, etc.

But do you ever actually stop and ask yourself:

“Where is all my time going, and is it benefiting my future?” 

Once I realized that a majority of my free time was going towards watching YouTube and Snap chat videos, hanging out with friends, and investing time in activities that did not align with my goals, I knew I had to make a change

Time Management table. Discover where your time is going.

There are 168 hours in one week.

Refer to the following activities (in the left-hand column) and write down the amount of hours you spend for each one in a week (in the right-hand column).

Once you’ve completed your table, add up all the hours from your list and subtract that number from 168.

When I first used this time management table, I realized there were still 22 hours of the week left where I spent my time doing nothing. 

Once you discover where all of your time is going, start making adjustments and eliminating those non-productive activities out of your schedule. 

Make better use of your extra time by working more hours at your job, applying for scholarships or internships, or spending your time researching ways to make money to prevent college debt

Pro Tip: Stop wasting time doing nothing. Use the table to manage your time, become productive, and start getting ahead of everyone by organizing your life.

3. Work 25 hrs Weekly During College

I know what you might be thinking: working 25 hrs a week or more while taking classes as a full-time student? That’s crazy! 

Believe it or not, I was working 3 jobs while enrolled as a full-time college student; that was about 40 hours a week, sometimes more.

But even though I was working and attending classes full-time, I was still able to maintain a relationship, socialize, go to the gym, and do other fun activities.

Working full-time put me on a tight schedule and it kept me focused.

Sure, I was not going out every weekend, but at least I was not spending my money on things like beer, cover charges, and take-out.

Remember: it’s all about time management.

Pro Tip: Working at least 25 hours a week is critical to paying for college without loans but you have to be willing to sacrifice your time. It is challenging but it keeps you focused and enhances your time management skills.

4. Find Jobs That Pay Your Tuition

Did you know there are dozens and dozens of companies that are willing to pay for your college tuition?

This is definitely one of the best ways to pay for your college expenses, and it is highly important that you consider this option. 

Why not have one of these companies pay for your college tuition while making money working for them? That’s killing two birds with one stone!

Related: 17 Mind-Blowing Companies That Will Pay For Your College Tuition

5. Ride the Bus

First and foremost, buying a car costs a lot more than one might assume.

Buying a car means you have to keep up with monthly payments, insurance, registration, gas, new tires, oil changes, and other car maintenance issues.  

It is much easier to use your college ID and ride the bus for free.

Check to see if your college campus provides this opportunity.

Using public transportation can reduce your chances of having to pay any fees that come along with car accidents, speeding tickets, parking fees, etc.

Pro Tip: Riding the bus saves you a ton of money and helps you avoid expenses for things like: new tires, gas, car insurance, parking permits, car maintenance, monthly car payments, etc.

6. Start a Side-Hustle For Money

  • Become a Freelancer

Do you have a talent for graphic design, social media marketing, writing, editing, web design, web development, game design, video production, animation, e-commerce, photography, or audio engineering?

If you are getting an education in graphic design or visual arts, why not start putting your skills to good use and gain valuable experience?

Related: 36 Ways To Make Money If You Are Broke

  • Become a Tutor

Put your knowledge to good use and start tutoring your peers: local high school, middle school or college students.

  • Complete Surveys

One of the easiest methods I stumbled upon was literally answering surveys and earning money from it.

You can earn gift cards or cash simply by playing games or reviewing questions they are asking.

Swagbucks gives you the option of getting paid for watching videos, surfing the web, testing products and leaving reviews. It’s one of the easiest and fastest ways to earn money on your phone while you are standing in line or doing nothing at home.

Related: 4 High Paying Survey Apps That Pay Through PayPal: REAL Reviews.

Pro Tip: Use a skill of yours to find a high paying side-hustle that pays you more than minimum wage. Be confident in your skills or learn a new skill that you can offer.

7. Use Coupons to Save You Money

You can literally use coupons for anything and everything. 

There are coupons to reduce costs of groceries, gas, clothes, massages, and shoes. If you haven’t been checking your mailbox, now is the time to start. 

I constantly find tons of coupons like ‘Buy One Get One Free” (BOGO) and many others that I can use at grocery stores and food chain restaurants.

Every year, thousands of people are losing hundreds of dollars by not taking advantage of these discounts. 

You can set up your email account to receive coupons by subscribing to the company’s newsletter. You will then begin to receive additional offers and you can optimize how you save your money. 

Related: 53 Legit College Student Discounts You Are Not Using!

8. Get A Restaurant Job At Your College

When I was in college, I was working at a restaurant run by the university, and as a student I found ways to eat there…for free! 

During those 2-3 years, I rarely went grocery shopping and instead put that money towards tuition expenses. 

Supervisors would also give students meal passes to use after completing their shift.

Find a restaurant that is student friendly. Talk to the student employees there to see how lenient the environment is and how they like their job. 

Many college students, myself included, would make food at work and take it home to eat for dinner. 

You’d be surprised to find how flexible some college workplaces are for students. 

Pro Tip: Find a restaurant to work for at your university and see if they offer meal plans for every working shift to get a meal. Even just working there you can get discounted meals for being an employee.

9. Budget and Learn to Say No

Starting a budget is one of the best ways to begin saving money! 

Look at your bank statements and pinpoint what you are spending most of your money on.

Do you really need to buy coffee everyday?

Do you need to go out every weekend and spend money on extracurricular events or shows?

While budgeting is a great place to start, it really helps to define why you are starting this process.

Write it down, or tell yourself why you are starting a budget in the first place, and how much money you are planning to save. 

Budgeting can save you money, reduce overspending, and help you reduce or stay out of debt. 

Begin by eliminating useless expenses and only spending money on what you need, not what you want.

Related: 12 FREE Budget Apps For Money Management

10. Use Food Resources In Your County

A majority of city counties have food banks that provide food at least every 2 weeks for anyone who needs it. 

This is a great resource to look into. It will allow you to see what type of food sources your county offers to the general public.

I utilized this resource multiple times and would sometimes bring my friends to the food bank with me (even if they didn’t necessarily have food insecurity).

They would receive groceries from the food bank and then give them to me, doing me a solid favor. 

This is definitely an effective way of utilizing your resources!

I highly recommend you talking to any of your college advisors and inquire about food resources that you are eligible for. 

My college has a food pantry, which I visited every other week. I was able to walk in without any questions asked.

I would just swipe my college ID to sign in, was given a bag, and could take things ranging from pasta, vegetables, and canned goods to tooth brushes, school notebooks, and shampoo. 

Additionally, through the college’s Basic Needs program, I was able to acquire 2 free meal passes that I could have per week and use them at one of the buffet-style dining venues on campus.

Using resources like this will help you spend less money. You just have to take the initial step by seeking these opportunities on your college campus or community.

Pro Tip: Find local food bank resources around your county and get some food for yourself. Talk to your college advisors and seek food resources and ask for a food pantry.

11. Stop Renting Textbooks

Many people will disagree with this tip on paying for college without loans but hear me out though.

Buy your books and when you’re done with them, sell them to other students who are going to take the class the following quarter or semester. 

Lets do the math.

Say you rented a textbook for $100… Well there goes those $100 since you have to return the book now. 

That’s it, $100 gone now.

Now lets say you buy a textbook for $100, you can re-sell that textbook and earn your $100 back. In a way, you are not spending any money on textbooks.

There are just two methods I personally found useful in selling all my textbooks:

About 2 weeks before classes start, I would email my professor and ask them if they could send an email to all the upcoming students taking the class stating that I was selling the required textbook and I could bring it to them.

My professors would even announce it again on the first day of class. 

Students always get their textbooks last minute and you can even offer a $10 discount to encourage them to buy it from you. 

I had to do that at least 2-3 times.

Or you can check to see if your college has a Facebook Textbook Exchange page where you can buy and sell books from/to other college students. 

Pro Tip: Stop renting textbooks. Start buying them, resell them, and get money back.

12. Search For Money

  • File For FAFSA

This is a free application to receive federal student aid while you attend college.

Once you fill it out and submit it, you will be able to access grants, scholarships, work-study programs and federal student loans. 

It’s free money! 

Basic qualifications include the following: you must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen and have a valid Social Security number; you must have a high school diploma or GED certificate; you must be enrolled or accepted as a student in an eligible degree or certificate program.

The amount you can receive varies – depending on factors like your parents’ income, your income, the number of people in your household, etc. 

  • Apply For Scholarships

What if I told you that you can earn up to $100,000 towards your college tuition simply by applying to dozens of scholarships?

How exactly?

With the help of Monica Matthews, she was featured on The Penny Hoarder about her scholarship expertise.

She helped her son make $100,000 through scholarships by researching successful scholarship winners and uncovering the reasons why they were chosen.

Her son was able to attend college and had everything paid for through the scholarships he won.

The scholarship guide is extremely cheap for how much value there is in it.

Make sure to read my full review of the scholarship guide and start earning FREE money from scholarships to pay for your college tuition.

Related: Secrets To Winning $100,000 in Scholarships (REAL)

  • Speak To a College Advisor

Colleges have a surplus of financial resources that can help you with educational expenses.

Through Cal Poly’s Office of the Dean of Students, I found a program called Cal Poly Cares that offered me a $2,000 grant during a very difficult quarter. This grant aided me with college tuition expenses.

It is important to note, nonetheless, that this program is dedicated to helping students who find themselves in emergency situations that could lead them to drop out of Cal Poly. 

I wrote a letter to the program explaining my circumstances and how their financial support prevented me from dropping out of college.

The biggest take-away here is: start networking and seeking resources!

Talk to your college advisors and ask them who they can connect you with to find opportunities like this. 

Pro Tip: Talk to your college advisors about financial aid resources. Seek resources and apply for scholarships as these are the best options of paying for college without loans.

13. Meal Prep; No More Takeout

According to a recent study conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average, people spend approximately $3,000 yearly on take out food instead of cooking food at home. 

If you do the math, that is around $50-60 that the average person spends on a weekly basis for takeout.

With technological advancements in apps like UberEats, DoorDash, and GrubHub, users are going to continue to spend money paying for their food to be delivered.

Save money by meal-prepping. Start utilizing the food banks I mentioned earlier and check for food resources in your community (food pantries, food stamps, etc.). 

And don’t forget about those coupon discounts I listed earlier! (MyUnidays, RetailMeNot)

Pro Tip: Save money on food by visiting the food bank in your community and set time in your schedule to meal-prep at home.

14. Rent Out Special Items

Do you have a camera? Clothes? Shoes? A watch? Game consoles?

We all have items that just sit at home, and all they are good for is collecting dust. 

Why not rent out those items to people and earn some cash? 

There are many apps that allow you to find people nearby that would pay to borrow your belongings. 

Check out the Justburo app; it is legit and easy to sign up. All you do is upload photos of items you would like to let people borrow and wait for someone to contact you.

Pro Tip: Sign up for apps to rent out your items and start making easy money!


I hope you will utilize the tips and strategies that I mentioned in this post and that you obtain your college degree without ever having to take out a student loan.

I truly believe that any college student can graduate without having to take out loans. It only takes sacrificing some of your free time and actively seeking resources.

I graduated with my college degree debt free and with $2,000 still in my bank account.

I was willing to give up partying and traveling during college to save money and not have to worry about paying loans and interest rates after graduation.

Are you willing to sacrifice your social time to become debt free? Do you have any other ideas on how to prevent student debt? After reading this article, what methods or resources caught your attention?

Let me know in the comments below!

Yours Truly,


Yo! We are Marcos & Mayra

We help college students and millennials with ways to save & make money, eliminate debt, scholarship advice, resume & interview tips, and to achieve financial freedom to help you
 live the life you want.