Living off-campus is something most university students look forward to. For many, it’s the chance to live like a true adult without being under the watchful eye of mom and dad, or the dorm’s RA. It’s the time to prove that you can live on your own, cook for yourself, pay your own bills and create your own household ground rules. It is truly a turning point for many students; one that has second, third and fourth years running from the dorms to the nearest available apartments.
However, living in a home or apartment independent of the quarters offered by your university comes with a variety of challenges and expenses that may or may not already be on your radar or factored into your budget. Moving off-campus may have its money-saving opportunities, but it also requires that you cover things that you don’t have to worry about while living in your furnished, well-lit dorm.
Before you consider moving off-campus, be sure to keep these 7 expenses in mind so you are not caught off-guard!
Security Deposit + First and Last Month’s Rent
No, you don’t get to just move into the apartment and pay your rent month-by-month. Most often, your landlord will require that you pay (at minimum!) first month’s rent and a security deposit before you are given the keys. But, did you know that some will request both first and last month’s rent? This means that you and your roommates will first need to determine what the monthly split is, multiply it by two and pay it all upfront. Depending on rental costs and how many people you are living with, this could amount to well over $500 a person! And that’s being conservative! You will hopefully get your security deposit back upon the conclusion of your lease, but it is still cash that you will need from the get-go. Read our article about 8 Money Management tips for Students.
You never had to worry about that kind of bill on campus, did you? Well, sadly, WiFi is NOT free and will be another bill added to your monthly expenses, if your landlord doesn’t factor it into your rental price. You may be able to manage with the university’s internet services by doing all your work at the library, but realistically, having WiFi at your apartment is a must.
Unless you have a friend or family member with a truck, you may be stuck renting a U-Haul and/or movers to get all your belongings from your dorm room to your new digs. Or, maybe your break schedule requires that you move your things all the way from home to your new apartment. Wherever your stuff may be… it’s going to need to be transported from one place to another, and chances are that will include more big-ticket items than you had to provide when you moved into your dorm (bed, desk, kitchen table, etc). Moving trucks, services, and packing boxes add up!
Kitchen and Bathroom Necessities plus Furniture
Some apartments come furnished, but don’t bank on having everything you need. Living in a dorm, you get a bed, a desk, a desk chair, and a place to store your clothing. When you’re hungry, you go to the dining commons where you are provided with plates, utensils and a place to sit and eat your meal. When you’re dirty or need to use the restroom, toilet paper is provided and you’ve got a curtain to shower behind. Your dining area is cleaned for you, your bathrooms are tidied up by campus maintenance employees and if you’re lucky, your dorm may even get a cleaning from time to time.
If your new apartment isn’t furnished, you’ll need to purchase a bed, a mattress, a desk, a desk chair, a dresser, living room furniture, kitchen furniture, lamps and more. You’ll need to buy your own toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, pots, pans, utensils, plates, bowls, glassware, dish soap, hand soap, trash bags, a shower curtain… the list goes on and on. Think about all the things you rely on at your parent’s house and add them to your to-buy list!
You may be able to stick to an on-campus meal plan while living in your apartment, but if we are being at all realistic… you won’t use it as much as you think you will. You may very well eat your primary meals while on campus, if you intend to spend the majority of your day there, but what happens when you are home over the weekend? Or when you get hungry when you aren’t on campus? Chances are you aren’t going to want to walk or drive to the university dining commons, especially when you’ve got a working kitchen down the hall.
Most students who live off-campus opt out of a campus meal plan and do their own grocery shopping. In some cases, this can be more cost effective than some of the plans offered, but that’s entirely contingent on your eating habits. Chances are, it will end up costing you a bit more than the free-for-all dining hall. Who’d have thought that buying all the ingredients to make your favorite salad or smoothie could add up so quickly?
You’ve got to cover yourself, and so does your landlord. Plain and simple.
Water & Electric/Utilities
If you plan to take a shower or to keep warm during the cold winter months, you’re going to need water and heat. This is most commonly NOT included in your rental price because it’s based on usage. It will be up to you and your roommates to determine how high you’re willing to turn up the heat or air conditioning, and if you want to set shower time limits to avoid a huge water bill. It’s inevitable to see higher numbers over the summer and winter months, but if you’re smart about usage you can keep those bills down.
It is so exciting to make the move from a busy dorm to your own private space, but don’t do it unless you fully grasp what it’s going to cost you!