Money Saving Tips for College Students Living off Campus
by CashTime Loan Centers
Did you know that the majority of college students live off campus? While you might think living in a dorm is the norm, living on campus can be cramped, noisy, and expensive, and although some consider it part of the college experience, it’s not a practical choice for most students. Some colleges do require freshmen to live on campus, giving upperclassmen the choice to live wherever they like starting in their second year, but not all colleges require students to live in a dorm during their first year. If you’re looking for ways to save money as a college student while living off campus, we’ve got some excellent money saving tips to share that will help keep more of your dollars in your pocket.
1. No job? Take advantage of your student loan! If student loans are the only source of money you can tap, there are ways to pay for housing with that money. Check out private landlords rather than apartment complexes, which can have stringent criteria for approval, including minimum income and a credit check. If you can rent a room, apartment, or duplex from an individual instead of a property management company, you’ve got a better shot at being approved once they understand your situation. You can always offer to put a little more money down upfront (two month’s rent if they’re asking for one) to help ease any concerns. You can also have a cosigner on the lease, just be sure you can handle the monthly payments and don’t risk that burden falling to the cosigner, as that could be detrimental to your relationship. It might be more feasible to get a roommate to share the cost; just be sure the roommate you choose is dependable.
2. Economize on transportation costs. Not living on campus usually means losing the convenience of walking to class, but you can still save on transportation costs. Many colleges offer free transportation for students, but if your college does not, public transportation is usually the next cheapest option. If you opt to take the bus to campus, purchasing a monthly or yearly pass will save you money in the long run. If you’re close enough to bike, you can kill two birds with one stone by getting your daily exercise and saving money on transportation. If you drive a car to campus every day, you’ll need to factor in parking expenses along with gasoline, car insurance, maintenance and repair costs. If possible, avoid parking garage fees by ride sharing with another student, switching off days or weeks so that you don’t drive to class every day. If you’re the only one with a car and there are students who live nearby, consider being their “taxi” for a small fee. This is one way to get help paying for those transportation costs and doing a good deed at the same time.
3. Lower entertainment costs. Although you may be spending most of your time studying, you’ll need a way to relax. You can find episodes of your favorite shows on a specific network’s website at no cost to you. If your parents, an older sibling, or another relative or friend has cable or a subscription to a streaming service, they may be willing to let you use their account to watch TV online. Consider buying an HDMI cable to connect your tablet or computer to a television so you’re not limited to watching TV on a small computer screen. When you really need a night out, check out your campus newsletter or campus center for announcements of free events like concerts, movie nights, and other activities that you can enjoy with friends, without spending any money.
4. Save on food. Although a campus meal plan may seem like the way to go, you can save money by shopping for yourself and packing snacks to go. A small insulated container that fits in your backpack can mean the difference between paying $1.50 for a small yogurt at the store or $3.00 for that same yogurt at the cafeteria. Snacks and drinks that cost pennies at the store will run you $1-$5 at a vending machine. A frozen pizza from the grocery store might run you $5-$6, while that same pizza will cost three times as much at the local pizza joint. A taco meal combo that runs $5-$8 at the store can be replicated in your kitchen for a fraction of the cost, with leftovers to boot. These small costs add up over time, and shopping for yourself means you won’t have to search for those foods you like, because you’ve already got them in your kitchen.
If you don’t know how to cook, consider signing up for a meal delivery service for a few months. These services can be scheduled to arrive once a week or every other week, and come with all the ingredients you need to prepare a meal for two or three (share the cost with roommates and it’s super cheap), and recipe cards with thorough step by step preparation instructions. Once you’ve got a collection of recipes cards for those meals that were a hit, you can stop the delivery service, shop for the ingredients you need at your local grocery store, and save money while you recreate the meals using the recipe cards you’ve saved.
5. Learn to live on a budget. One of the best ways to make your money work for you is to tell it where you want it to go with a budget. The process is simple but drawing up a budget and sticking to it will reward you in many ways. Use these percentages when setting up your budget:
a. Housing and utilities: 30%
b. Food: 10%
c. Clothing/entertainment: 10%
d. Transportation (car loan and expenses): 10%
e. Insurance/Personal Expenses: 20%
f. Loan Repayment/Savings: 20%
Living off campus is a great way to enjoy more independence, have more control over your home environment, and get ready to make the transition to living independently once you graduate and enter the work force. Just think of how prepared you’ll be after living on your own off campus, living within your means on a budget, and learning how to shop and prepare meals economically. If you’re tired of dorm life with its cramped quarters and noisy neighbors, living off campus might be the right choice for you. Just make sure to plan ahead, get that budget plan on paper (there are lots of apps for your phone to make it easier to track your spending) and get ready to change your spending habits a bit to make your money work for you when you’re enjoying the benefits of living off campus.