Should You Move Off Campus?
If you attend a college that has student housing, you might have considered the possibility of moving off campus to escape the rigors of dorm life. Plus, the average college room and board could cost you $10,000 per year, so it might seem a great way to reduce your tuition costs.
But, before you take the leap, take the time to determine if you can really afford the move.
- Calculate how much you pay for on-campus housing and food for each term you are on campus. For example, you could pay $3,500 each time you’re on campus, and each term is four-and-a-half months.
- Research rental rates in the areas you’d like to live. If your school is located in a small town, this should be fairly easy as your options will be limited. If your school is in a large metropolitan area, then your choices will have to depend on how far you are willing to commute, and the reputation of the neighborhood. Generally, areas closer to campus will have higher rental rates than areas farther away.
- Determine which utilities are included in the rental price. You will be responsible for anything that is not included. Sometimes that information is included in the rental listing, but you might have to call the landlord or rental company to find out. Depending on where you live, you could be responsible for gas, electric, water and sewer, and even trash collection.
- Contact the utility companies to find out the average utility costs for the addresses in which you are interested. These companies are listed in the phone book, and you can also visit each company website for contact and rate information. The utility rates are important because you could find a place with cheap rent, but really high utility costs due to poor insulation or drippy faucets.
- Add together to projected cost of rent and your basic utilities to determine your approximate monthly cost. Multiply the cost by the number of months you plan to live off campus. If you plan to live with others, divide those costs by the number of people you intend to live with. Your share of the cost should be less than what you would spend for the same amount of time on campus.
But rent and utilities aren’t the only expenses. You also have to take into account transportation, food, and other utilities like cable TV, or internet.
- Your transportation costs depend on how far you have to travel and your mode of transportation. If you take public transportation, then it’s the cost of a monthly pass or daily fares. If you drive, then you have to include gas, and any tolls you might pay.
- Food costs are a little harder to determine if you don’t normally shop for yourself. One way to determine your budget is to go on a mock grocery trip where you fill your cart then add up the cost of everything.
- Cable TV, telephone, and internet costs depend on whether or not you wish to subscribe to these services. If you are already paying for a cell phone that has a robust data plan, you might not need your home wired for internet because you can use your phone as a hotspot. If you already subscribe to a service line Netflix, you won’t need cable TV. If you are already paying for these services, your expenses for these things won’t change much.
But if you have to add any of these things, your expenses will increase based on the type of service you subscribe to and any rates or specials they might have. A small thing like cable TV can really eat into your savings, so choose wisely.
If your off-campus expenses add up to more than your on-campus fees, or if you break even, then staying on campus could be the better financial decision.
But there are other reasons to move off campus that have nothing to do with saving money on college costs. Even if you move back home after graduation, you will eventually need to find your own place and living on your own, while in college, will help prepare you for that.