Students often ask whether it is less expensive to live on campus or off campus. The answer to that question is very individual. It depends on the information that is specific to you. However, we can provide you with information about costs you should consider when moving off campus.
Whether you are just thinking about moving off campus, or have already made the decision, the information that follows is designed to help you anticipate, plan, and manage the costs of living off campus
Money Saving Tips and Advice
When you’re shopping around for an apartment, be sure to ask what utilities are included – heat, hot water, electricity. The more that is included, the more expensive the rent will be, but you also won’t have to worry about paying for these things separately. The average price for a 2 bedroom apartment in Bridgeport or the surrounding area is $800-$1000 per month, not including utilities.
Also ask if the apartment includes any off-street parking. If you’re planning to have a car, you’ll need to make sure you have somewhere to park. Some apartments charge an extra fee for parking. Other costs may include electricity, gas, cable television, transportation, and groceries.
It is a good idea to protect your security deposit by taking lots of pictures or a video of your apartment BEFORE you move in, while the apartment is empty. This will serve as evidence of the condition of your apartment before you lived there. You should also take similar pictures or a video when you move out.
Consider signing up for a budget payment plan. It will spread you bills out evenly over the entire year so you’re not stuck with large bills during the winter months. The follow are some money saving tips:
1 – Turn down your thermostat. For every degree you set your thermostat back, you can save up to three percent on your annual heating costs. A change from 72 to 68 degrees could save you up to 12 percent!
2 – Set your thermostat lower when you are not home and when you are sleeping. It takes less energy to warm up a cool house than it does to maintain a warm temperature all day and night. Put an extra blanket on your bed and wear an extra layer of clothing to stay warm without raising the thermostat.
3 – Install a programmable thermostat which allows you to set up heating programs that will automatically change the thermostat’s set temperature between comfort levels and energy saving levels at specified times. A programmable thermostat can save you up to 35 percent in heating costs.
4 – Keep curtains and shades open during the day to capture daylight warmth and close them at night to prevent heat loss through windows.
5 – Keep doors of unused rooms closed and use a towel to eliminate drafts under doors.
6 – If you use a space heater for extra warmth, be sure to keep it AT LEAST three feet from other objects and turn it off when you leave.
When you move to an apartment, you’ll have many separate bills. Each bill will need to be in just one person’s name. If you have roommates, split the utility bills between house members. This way, one person is not responsible for all of the bills. Communicate with your roommates about what you owe. You do not want your phone disconnected because someone forgot to pay the bill.
Furniture and Kitchenware
Setting up your first apartment can be expensive. You’ll need a lot more furniture and kitchen supplies than you did in the residence halls. Ask family members for extra household items they may not be using again. You can also buy inexpensive kitchen and cleaning supplies at a local dollar store.
Keep in mind that when you move off campus you’ll be responsible for keeping your entire apartment clean. Make sure you have appropriate cleaning supplies and equipment, such as a vacuum cleaner for carpets or a mop for hardwood floors. You may also want some small rugs to protect the floor from snow and salt in the winter.
Food and Groceries
It’s important to budget enough money to maintain healthy eating habits off campus. Save money by buying in bulk or using coupons. Store brands are often a better bargain than national labels and the quality is just as good. When comparing costs, keep your eye on unit prices. Another way to eat well on a budget is to purchase a small campus meal plan so you have the option of eating some meals on campus. You may be excited about the flexibility of cooking your own meals, but the dining centers can help you manage costs by offering a selection of such items as cereal, fruits, and vegetables you may not be able to afford once you live on your own.
One advantage of living off campus is that your apartment may allow you to have a pet. While this seems like a fun benefit, having a pet comes with many costs and responsibilities. It costs a lot to take care of a pet—including food and veterinarian bills. It is illegal to abandon pets once you move, so make sure if you get a pet you’ll be able to take it with you when you move out.
Will you be driving more now that you live off campus? Maybe not, but it is an important cost to consider. You should also consider whether you’ll need to pay for parking. If no parking spot is included with your apartment, will there be sufficient off-street parking? Parking tickets can be costly and parking illegally could get your car towed.
Resist the urge to use a credit card to pay for living expenses; credit cards aren’t free money! Credit cards typically have very high interest rates. Not only will you be paying for your purchases well into the future, you will actually be paying much more for them than if you just paid cash. It’s a good rule of thumb that if you don’t have enough cash to buy a certain item, you shouldn’t be buying it at all.
It is important to make a budget if you are considering moving off campus. Working through a budget will help you identify and estimate the costs of living on your own. Once you estimate how much it will cost to live off campus, compare this to the cost of living on campus to see which option is better for you. Make sure you use consistent measures; for example, to get an accurate comparison of income and expenses, you must list them all in the same units (per month, per semester, or per year). This will require you to multiply or divide certain income or expenses to be consistent. Also give some thought to one-time or occasional expenses—things like car repairs and registration, gifts for friends and family, vacation and travel, and other expenses that might occur just a few times a year, or maybe not at all. It’s good to set some money aside for these unexpected expenses.