Here's a new strategy for covering tuition fees: Use mail-in rebates. That's what PhD student Jonathan Hood has done to pay for most of this semester at Auburn—some $3,500, or more than 200 debit cards' worth, Business Insider reports. That leaves just $1,000 to pay out-of-pocket. Hood uses rebates to pay for his cell phone bill, too, at $95 per month. "I haven't made a payment on my T-Mobile bill without using a rebate debit card for probably two years now," he says.
Hood has been "hooked" on rebates since he was 15 and his father took him to a Black Friday sale, he says. He buys everything online and trolls the message boards at Fatwallet.com—other sites are out there, including Newegg.com—to find rebates. It can take months for a rebate to arrive, but "on a weekday, I usually have about two or three debit cards or rebate checks coming in," he says. He's even made a computer program to help him organize the rebates. For extra money, he uses a credit card that offers 2% back—and he often sells items he's just bought on eBay. Keeps the rebate, though. (Read more college costs stories.)