How to pay for living expenses while in college

What's the best way to cover college living expenses? Find out some options here. (iStock)

College living expenses go beyond tuition and fees, plus room and board. Expenses while in college also include a meal plan, books, gas, groceries, technology, money to travel to and from school, and perhaps even a little cash to have fun.

Continue Reading Below

Unfortunately, the problem is that all of these expenses can add up to thousands of dollars per year — on top of the cost of attendance. And chances are your college savings won't cover all of it. If you want to keep your personal finances in good shape while getting all the necessities, you're going to want to create a savings plan.

You're probably going to explore loans for college and how you can use loan funds to pay bills. Whenever you're considering taking out a private student loan or refinancing a current student loan to get a better interest rate and lower your monthly payments, turn to Credible. Credible can walk you through the process step-by-step and ensure your expenses while in college are covered.

How do students pay for living expenses?

There are a number of options available to you to cover the cost of living while you earn your degree. If you're looking to pay for college and living expenses, then you have at least three options.

  1. Take out a student loan
  2. Apply for a grant
  3. Work while in school

1. Take out a student loan

Student loans can be the easiest way to cover college living expenses because they are widely available and borrowing money doesn't require you to take time away from your studies.

Both federal student loans and private student loans can help you cover some of your routine costs. However, the amount you can borrow from the Department of Education is limited and may not be enough to fully cover all of your day-to-day expenditures. Private lenders are more open to lending you the total amount of money you require, and will generally allow you to borrow up to the school-certified cost of attendance minus any other financial aid you've already received.

There are a number of different private student loan lenders out there, so it pays to compare qualifying requirements, interest rates, and loan terms. You can visit Credible to view a rates table to compare fixed and variable interest rates from multiple lenders at once, so you can see what type of loan you may qualify for.

6 REASONS TO CHOOSE A PRIVATE STUDENT LOAN OVER FEDERAL

While it can make a lot of sense to use student loans to cover tuition costs, you don't want to borrow more than you can comfortably afford to pay back. Consider using an online student loan calculator to better understand the costs of borrowing.  You may also be able to refinance your loans after graduation to reduce your monthly payment and interest rate, so don't assume the rate you're offered when you initially borrow is always one you'll be stuck with for the duration.

If you have a private student loan you're considering refinancing, you can always use multi-lender marketplace Credible. With a private student loan refinance, you simply have to fill out one form to compare rates and access options from several lenders.

2. Apply for a grant

Grants can come from the federal government, state governments, or private institutions. The best part about them is that you do not have to repay grant money in most circumstances. That means, if you can obtain a grant to cover your costs, you won't have to worry later on about how you'll make repay the funds.

Grants from the federal government are often awarded based on financial need or are limited to individuals who meet specific requirements. For example, TEACH Grants -- or Teacher Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants -- are available to those who complete teaching programs and make a service commitment to work a certain number of years in a low-income school or a high-need field. There are also grants available for those who served in the military in Iraq or Afghanistan, among others.

You can check with your school's financial aid office, with your state's Department of Education, and with groups in your community or field of study to determine if grant money might be available to help you cover your bills while you get an education.

FINANCIAL AID AWARD LETTERS: WHAT TO KNOW AND HOW TO COMPARE

3. Work while in school

If you're interested in paying for college without financial aid, you may want to try to hold down a job to cover tuition and living expenses.

Depending on your situation, you may be able to work part-time and make enough to cover the costs of living while in school or you may have to work full-time and attend school on a part-time basis.

The good news is, there are many opportunities for students to take jobs that don't require a huge time commitment and that provide enough money to cover most of their routine expenses (even if they have to borrow for tuition). Consider applying for the federal work-study program or looking for on-campus jobs that can help you flesh out your resume while earning money.

Bottom line

By exploring each of these three options, you should hopefully be able to find the funding you need to cover your bills while you're earning your degree.

If you think you qualify for a federal student loan, contact a financial aid officer to discuss your loan options and see what benefits are available.

However, those who aren't able to get a federal student loan should consider getting a private student loan through multi-lender site Credible. Credible can help you compare rates and lenders to ensure you find the best deal possible and save money.

THESE HIGH-PAYING JOBS HELP YOU GET RID OF STUDENT LOANS FAST