A few tricks to make your money last longer…
- Use a CASH envelope system. Put your cash in different envelopes for different things; when there is no money left in that envelope, no more spending! This will also help you pay for some of the larger things you may want to do.
- Get rid of your landline phone. Let's be honest, you use your cell phone anyway!
- Get rid of your cable television. With all of the options to watch your favorite shows online (or with Netflix) who needs it! Plus, let's face it, you should be studying anyway!
- Reduce your entertainment costs. Use Redbox or Netflix over renting a video at your local store; stay home and watch a movie with popcorn instead of going to the movies; check out a book at the library instead of buying it the day it comes out; even rent your video games online instead of buying them!
- Reconsider your memberships. It may be more convenient and social to work out at your local gym, but as a student you already have a membership to the Student Recreation Center. Also, your apartment complex may have a community gym/pool for your use anyway!
It is important to plan ahead when you are living off campus to ensure that you have enough money to cover expenses. The resources on this page will help you prepare for life off-campus and provide you some information to consider.
Will my financial aid cover my off-campus expenses?
This is not a simple yes or no answer as it depends on you. When you live on-campus, all of your housing charges are put on your student account and financial aid is applied towards that balance. Students who live off-campus are responsible for making any associated payments independently as they will not be charged to your student account.
If you are awarded financial aid and receive a refund check, you may use that money how you see fit. If you live off-campus we encourage students to save that money and use it towards rent and utilities. These charges are often billed monthly, so you will need to budget accordingly to make the money last. You may want to talk with your landlord to see if you can pay for additional months of rent at once so you are not tempted to use the money on other things.
How are utilities billed?
When living off-campus it is important to remember that you will be responsible for paying all utilities associated with your apartment. These can include Internet, cable, phone, electricity, gas, water, sewage, and trash. Some landlords will absorb these costs in your rent, so it is important to ask what is included before you sign your lease.
Most utilities are billed monthly to one individual, so if you are living with friends you will have to decide whose name the different utilities will go in. When thinking about your utilities, also make sure to take into consideration that activation fees, late fees, early termination fees, and deposits may be hidden so make sure you fully understand what your obligations are. You will want to make sure that you pay all of your utilities by the deadlines as these could hurt your credit score if you become delinquent on payments.
Budgeting for life is a very difficult endeavor and has a lot of unknown variables that may come into play. Here are some important factors you will want to consider:
- Some utility costs may fluctuate throughout the year and will not be a fixed cost. For example, you will need to anticipate that your electricity or gas costs will increase during the winter for the cost of heating; sometimes your bill can be more than double what you normally pay.
- Think about your habits. If you have a tendency to leave your lights on all day when you are not home or your television on while you sleep this will have an impact on your electricity bill.
- Travel can get expensive! Keep in mind that you will have to get to and from campus for classes. If you have a car you will need to budget for gas prices (which always fluctuate) or taxi/bus fare.
- Furniture and household items are generally not included. Often, you will be required to completely furnish your own apartment (bed, couch, etc.). If you do not have these items or day to day cooking ware, cleaning supplies, etc. you will want to make sure you budget for the lifestyle change of moving off-campus.
- Live within your means! You are a renter now and need to ensure that you are prepared for future costs. Spending $5.00 a day on coffee or always eating out may no longer fit your budget now that you are responsible for rent and the general cost of living.
What’s the worst that could happen?
There is a fundamental difference between living on-campus or at home versus living off-campus in an apartment. At home your family is probably not likely to evict you because you missed a payment; even when you live on campus there are extensions and staff members who can provide you assistance with your circumstances. When you live off-campus you are not going to get extensions and exceptions. If you miss a bill the consequences could be having your electricity turned off, hits on your credit score, or even worse, eviction!
Your should plan to have enough money on hand to pay for your living expenses for at least 6 months in advance; while this may be an unrealistic goal for a lot of students, it is something to consider. If it comes down to tickets for a big concert at the TED or paying your electric bill next month, we hope you make the right choice.