When I told my parents I was going to move off campus my junior year of college, I saw dollar signs flash across their eyes in a worrisome way. They were concerned that it would cost significantly more than living in the dorms. However, once we worked out the details, it was obvious that living off campus would be the most cost effective option. Here are some tips on how to save money living off campus:
- Live with roommates: You do not have the true “college experience” until you have lived with a roommate. Or in my case, seven roommates. Having a roommate(s) to split the cost of rent, utilities, and maybe even food is a huge help financially.
- Transportation: When moving off campus, you often lose the convenience of walking to class. However, many colleges offer their own bus system that is free for students; you should use this as much as possible. Public transportation is also a money saving option. If you are traveling to campus every day, a monthly pass will save you money in the long run. Parking costs can be tremendously expensive; if you must have a car, look for apartments where parking is included in the cost of rent. If you have the option, do not drive to class every day; on-campus parking garages and meters can charge outrageous fares. At my undergraduate college, a quarter only bought you 12 minutes at a metered spot.
- Cable: Today, there is less and less of a need for a cable package. You can find episodes of your favorite shows for free on Hulu.com or on the network’s site. Also, if your parents have FiOS or Comcast, you can access their account and watch on demand online. Invest in an HDMI cable, which you can purchase for only a few dollars online, to avoid watching TV on a small laptop screen.
- Be aware of the cost of utilities: Although it might sound obvious, be sure to turn off lights, TVs, electronics, etc. when not in use. The cost of utilities can come as a shocking cost for students when they first move off campus because they never had to pay these bills in the dorms.
- Food: The cost of a meal plan at my undergraduate school was $2,150 for the year. By using coupons and shopping at discount retailers, you can easily save a great deal of money on groceries. Also, pack a lunch, coffee, and snacks for long days on campus. Campus food is usually overpriced and quick bites to eat can quickly add up.
- Entertainment: You moved off campus for a reason–more space. Utilize this space and have friends over instead of going out. Also, be sure to take advantage of free events that your school offers such as movies and concerts.
- Sublet: Many students migrate back home during the summer. Sublet your apartment to avoid paying rent when you are not living there. Try your college’s classifieds, Craigslist.org, or Sublet.com to find prospective subletters.
As an undergraduate, I paid $6,000 in rent yearly for off-campus housing compared to the $11,046 room and board charge. With an initial savings of $5,046, I was able to pay for utilities, groceries, etc. and still have money left over for books and other necessities.
Did you live on campus or off campus in college? Which do you think is a better deal?