How One Mom Side-Hustles to Cover Her Family’s College Costs

How One Mom Side-Hustles to Keep College Costs Down

How One Mom Side-Hustles to Cover Her Family’s College Costs

Published February 4, 2020 | Last Updated February 24th, 2024 at 10:08 am

How One Mom Side-Hustles to Keep College Costs Down

Will work for money to keep my daughter’s student loan down!

If you live in New Jersey, you may see Lisa Lombardo holding that very sign. No, not really, but Lisa says that she is side hustling to make sure her daughter, Nina, doesn’t have much student loan debt when she graduates.

“I’m doing whatever it takes so that Nina doesn’t have more than $20,000 in student loan debt when she graduates,” Lisa Lombardi, who lives in New Jersey, says. “That means I take on a lot of side hustles to make sure that happens.”

Parent Earns Extra Money for College with Side Hustles

Lisa works full-time as an administrative assistant, and her husband is self-employed.

But Lisa’s work doesn’t stop when she leaves the office.

She juggles several side hustles including cleaning houses, working Saturday golf tournaments that her family organizes, and helping with a friend’s food truck. When she isn’t doing all of that, she’s clocking overtime at her 9-to-5 job.

A freshman at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Nina received a $20,000 merit scholarship. That scholarship is what made attending a college 900 miles from home economical for the family.

Side Hustle To pay for college
Lisa Lombard with her daughter, Nina.

Still, a funding gap exists.

Nina took out a $5,500 Stafford student loan – the maximum offered – in her name, but she still has a gap of about $10,000 to $15,000 each year with room and board expenses and living costs. Lisa expects to earn about $40,000 on her side hustles over the next four years to cover the gap.

“I told her that for the next four years, I will do whatever I can to help you,” Lisa says. “She’s an only child, and I said that keeping her scholarship was her job.”

Lisa and her husband did not save for college at all – no savings account, no 529 plan or any other method.

She also didn’t take out any parent loans because she did not want to have debt, as she and her husband head toward retirement.

Be Smart About College Costs, Budgets, Loans

College costs emerged on Lisa’s radar during Nina’s senior year in high school.

Nina attended a private school and was deeply involved in soccer.

At one time, Nina thought she might receive soccer scholarships. But Nina knew that might not happen because she had already decided to attend a big state school, not a private one where soccer scholarships might be more attainable.

Unlike many parents, Lisa wasn’t a helicopter parent hovering over Nina while she researched and applied for colleges.

Her school counselors helped Nina through the entire process, guiding her to the best college for her – the University of Alabama.

Lisa and her husband were already paying for private school and soccer, so the minute Nina graduated that money shifted from the high school budget to the college budget.

Neither one of them had student loans when they attended college in the 1980s, and they wanted to offer the same for their daughter.

While some parents might think it’s just easier to get a loan, Lisa likes the challenge of hustling for money and it helps with empty nest syndrome.

“It makes me feel good to think I can go out and find work and make money,” Lisa said

“I was so happy when I could pay the first semester. I worked at golf tournaments, a food truck at a festival at an outdoor motor cross race and cleaning houses. [Thankfully], I can find control of my own schedule. I’m pretty much always looking for something.”

Nina isn’t getting by without contributing to her education, though.

Starting her sophomore year, she plans to live off-campus and find a part-time job to help with expenses. That might mean that Nina won’t be able to come home as often.

Lisa has some advice to other parents about paying for college. Get out, find work and send your student to a college that is affordable.

“It’s good to get a loan, but know what you’re getting into,” Lisa said.

One way families can educate themselves and explore potential loan costs is to use an online calculator to compare monthly loan costs by adjusting the loan term and whether or not you will make payments during the school year. 

Using information from this type of calculator can help families decide if they can manage monthly loan payments with or without trying to get side hustles.

“You don’t want to get loans that you or your kid can’t manage paying them off. It’s still good to keep working and trying to cover the gap as much as you can.”


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

What Exactly Is ‘Good Merit’ and How Do I Keep It Once I’ve Got It?

University of Alabama Merit Scholarships

Parenting Dilemma: To Assist or Not to Assist in College Applications. Hear What Parents Have to Say




In this article:

Upcoming Events

Similar Articles for You

Dear Roadie: Should I Get A Second Job So My Daughter Can Graduate Debt-Free?


Dear Roadie: Should I Get A Second Job So My Daughter Can Graduate Debt-Free?

Dear Roadie, I am flabbergasted at the cost of college today. My daughter is a stellar student, and the last...

Dear Roadie: Do Parents Need to Become College Admission Experts? I’m So Lost


Dear Roadie: Do Parents Need to Become College Admission Experts? I’m So Lost

Dear Roadie,  I’m the mother of a 10th-grader, and I’m realizing I need a crash course in college admissions. I...

Dear Roadie, My Son Returned From Orientation Hating the College He Chose. What Now?


Dear Roadie, My Son Returned From Orientation Hating the College He Chose. What Now?

Dear Roadie, I’m a bit freaked out. My son returned from his two-day college orientation and said he hated everything:...

Become a Member

At Road2College you’ll find everything you need to make the admissions and paying for college process less stressful and more transparent.


Explore R2C Insights™ — your source for finding affordable colleges and merit scholarships.


Get coaching on admissions and college financing.


Join Road2College where parents and experts work together to inform and inspire college-bound families.