Dorm life and meal plans can get pretty expensive. That said, living off campus (unless you’re living at home) can be even more expensive than that. All of these costs are already on top of massive tuition costs and all the other expenses you need to pay to get a college education.
The difference is that you can exercise quite a bit more control over your living expenses than you can tuition. That’s why we’re going to give you some tips on living off campus on a budget.
Your largest and arguably most important expense is always going to be rent. I’ve got good news and bad news on that front. The bad news is that rent is going to be high pretty much everywhere in the area. You’re living in a college town. College town means constant demand for rentals. Constant demand for rentals means higher prices. Sorry.
The good news is that there are ways to offset some of those costs. First and foremost, you’re probably going to want to get roommates. It takes the sting off in some cases, and it’s a total necessity in others. Second, don’t think you need to live in a palace. Stay where you can afford to stay. You’ll appreciate it when you have more money for other things.
Another bonus of living in a college town, most of the real estate companies figure late-teens/early-twenties college students don’t know jack about bills. Because of this, they typically lump all the utilities into your rent (another contributing factor as to why it’s so high).
If you happen to be dealing with a company that doesn’t, you’ll want to make sure you set aside money for electricity, heating, and water. You really can’t do without any of them. That said, it is an opportunity to save some money if you use them sparingly. Candles can be your friend.
This one’s pretty simple. You need food. You don’t need steak and lobster every night. You can control how much you spend and what you eat. Just don’t go overboard on either end of the spectrum. Trying to go to class and all of your other activities on a grain of rice and the dew from a leaf is extremely unhealthy. Find a balance, be frugal; but also live a little.
Don’t forget the things you’ll always need to have around the house. Stuff like toilet paper, paper towels, soap, laundry detergent, toothpaste, etc. can put a real dent in a budget if you don’t plan for them. If you want to save some money, generic brands will usually get the job done just as well as name brands. On the other hand, you use fewer sturdy paper towels. Use your best judgment.
You need it. Moving on.
Whether you have a car that you’ll need to keep gassed up, or public transportation to pay for, transportation costs should be factored into your budget. Public transportation is often reduced or free for students in college towns, be sure to look into it.
Once you’ve accounted for all of these things in your budget, if you still have money left over, you can start thinking about second tier things. Second tier expenses are things like cable TV, streaming service subscriptions, and things of that nature. In this regard, streaming is probably going to be a better deal than actual cable. You can watch what you want to watch and not pay for what you don’t.
Realistically, it’s the incidental purchases that really add up and wreck your budget. Try to be mindful of that. Create a place in your budget for incidental expenses and emergency expenses. The more organized you are, the better.