3 Ways to Save Money on a Trades Education


No matter what industry you’re in, education means career success. When you build your skills, you make yourself more attractive to employers. You have an edge that other workers don’t have. This means more negotiating power to get the benefits and salary you deserve. School and training, however, don’t always come cheap.

Yes, trade school and training programs are less expensive than a 4-year college. But the cost isn’t nothin’ to shrug off. If you have a family and financial obligations, you may not have the extra cash to update your skills. And if you’re a high schooler or student who hasn’t got a solid income yet, you’re gonna need help.

The good news is that there are tools out there to help. Check out the following three ways you can save money paying for your trades education or training. Heck, go ahead and try out all three. You could get your whole education without paying a dime from your pocket.


Grants are one of the best ways to pay for a trades education. Why? Because, unlike student loans, they don’t involve a grody amount of debt. A grant is free tuition help from the government, your school, or a private organization. Yup… they don’t even have to be repaid. Novel idea, eh?! Literally free money. And how to get this free money, you ask?

  • Reach out to the schools you want to go to or programs you want to be a part of and have their financial aid office connect you with grant opportunities
  • Meet with your local union to see if there are any grants available through their programs
  • Visit Studentaid.ed.gov to apply for all the grants you are eligible for

Check out multiple trade schools, unions, and grant providers! Do some window shopping. See where your best opportunities are and knock your socks off. You shouldn’t go broke just to learn the skills that will make you valuable in your field.


Yes, yes, it’s true. Student loans are getting a super bad rap these days. But lemme make something straight… not ALL student loan providers are the bad guys. And there IS a way to use student loans to pay for your education without racking up god-awful debt.

But how do you decide if a trades education or training is even worth taking on debt? Think of it as a trade-off. Find your projected earnings for your job. How long will it take you to pay this debt off, given these earnings? At which point will you be making the kind of money you want to make, and the real benefit of your education be kicking in? This is the stuff that’ll tell you whether it’s worth it.

If you’re feeling real ambitious, make a budget. It may seem like a pain in the ass, and it sort of is. But better to look at the big picture now than when you’re knee deep in thousands of dollars of debt three years down the road. Right?

If you DO decide to go the ‘Sallie Mae’ route, keep in mind these tips to keep your student loans in check:

  • Build a repayment plan (and factor it into your shiny new budget)
  • Be real about how much cash can go toward paying your loans off. You know how they say that stuff always costs more than you think it will? Yeah… that’s basically always true.
  • Get honest about how you’re spending your money. Yes, that double parachute camping hammock with a 900 lb capacity would be a badass thing to have. But the small (and impulsive) purchases add up super quick.
  • Pay off the most expensive loans first. If you took out many loans, tackle the private ones first. These suckers have the higher interest rates.
  • Consolidate loans. This is a nifty trick where you turn many small loans into one big one. This makes payments more affordable—decreasing the interest rate, and resetting the clock on deferments and forbearances (some student loan lingo that you should know about). Look into the pros and cons of this first.
  • Check out loan forgiveness programs. Student Loan Hero has a full list of options
  • Make more money. This one seems sort of… uh, obvious. But, if you’re in a real fix, find ways to make more money in your free time. Check out Forbes’s list of ideas
  • Don’t take on more debt. One of the best ways to pay off your debt fast? Don’t take on more in the process. Seems simple, eh? If you’re one for the fancy lifestyle, though, you’ll need to figure out how to stop using your credit card (to buy things you probably don’t need)
  • Find an employer who will pay off some of your debt (see below).


Companies who need skilled workers are dealing with a serious labor shortage. Because of this, many are willing to take a chance on someone who is still completing their education, or who needs help paying for it. E.g. YOU. So ask employers to fund part of your training if you commit to staying with them for a set number of years. It’s all about convincing them of your skills and abilities. Need help on this? See our blog on how to ace your skilled trades job interview.

Talk to trade schools about employers in the area who do co-ops and internships. Working part-time while finishing your education is a great way to make more money. And if loan debt is a big concern, you can get in specifically with employers that value your skills and will pay for part of your debt.

If you’re already in the working world, looking to sharpen your skills, talk to your boss. He or she may be willing to pay for part of your training, or at least connect you with the right tools to take the next steps.

The resources are out there. You just have to find the tools and use whatever ones will get you where you want to be. You never know where you’ll strike some luck, so keep looking. Visit some tech schools. Talk to their financial aid department. Reach out to your local union. Find out what grants you’re eligible for. Find employers who will pay for your education. Or ask your current employer to pay for part of your training. The world is, no doubt, your oyster.

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