There are a lot of arguments as to why people should live on campus. There are no utility bills to pay for, a meal plan, and you’re right there on campus so it takes a few minutes to get to class. At the University of Oregon (UO), the least expensive option that one has a chance of getting in to is over $11,000 per academic year. That’s over $1,200 per month and then there’s a fee to stay over winter break. There’s gotta be a better way to do this. You know what? There is!
Off Campus Housing Has Perks
You have a lot of perks when you live off campus. For one, if you find a cheap apartment that you like, you can choose to live alone and focus on your studies. There’s a lot of stuff to buy when you live alone, but you’ll be prepared for when you move elsewhere, too. The stuff you buy is usually bedding, dishes, pots and pans, and many other things you’d usually find. Luckily, a good deal of these things can be found at a dollar store. But rather than focusing on the what you would need to buy part, I’d like to focus on monthly costs as well as good investments for college students.
Other perks that come with living off campus include, but aren’t limited to: Not having to deal with campus rules, not having to deal with someone and choosing a roommate you actually like, more space than half of a tiny room, and you can make a lot of meals that you like and are inexpensive to make.
Monthly Living Expenses
I always use the UO because it’s the school that I attend. But it’s also a great example of high academic costs and great deals on off campus living that isn’t only meant for students. Let’s say you found an apartment for $600 per month. That’s already less than half of what it costs to live on campus. The standard meal plan at the UO is roughly 16 meals per week. What’s the problem there? If you eat three times per day, not including snacks, you’re going to find that you need 21 meals per week. We’ll get to this issue in a minute. For now, let’s move onto utilities.
Utilities are sometimes included in rent. Many college campuses, the UO included, will say that it’s great to live on campus because you don’t have to worry about utilities and paying them on time. If you shower only on the weekdays, and they’re short showers, you may find that you’re going to have a low water bill. For water and electricity, I would say to budget $100 per month and then work on keeping your consumption down. Be sure that garbage and sewer are included in rent before moving into an apartment. So far, our monthly costs are $700 per month. Now for every college kid’s dream: Food.
It sounds scary, doesn’t it? You hear about how expensive it is to live on your own. Learn to cook with real ingredients. It’s not as hard as it sounds and you save a lot of money. In fact, if you get a crock pot, you can make large amounts of food for yourself that will keep you full. It’s also not as expensive as it sounds. My wife and I used to budget $200 per month for food. Using these methods today, I’m sure I could keep my budget down to $100 per month.
Last Minute Tips
Altogether, living expenses have gone from over $1,200 per month to just $800 by living off campus. The UO has a deal with local public transportation, so your ID card becomes a free bus pass. See what your school offers. By walking to campus, you can avoid the freshman 15 and get a little help staying fit. If you need another incentive to hit the gym while in college, you can take your showers there and save a ton on your water bill at home. Lastly, it may sound obvious to save money this way, but few people actually do it: Charge your portable electronics on campus and try not to plug them in at home unless you need to.
Bonus Section: Great Investments for College Students Living Off Campus
The prices I give are for newly purchased items. If you want to save money on these things, look around Goodwill and other second hand stores first. My friends purchased a $300 portable washing machine for $30 and it works great.
Crock Pot and Rice Cooker
A Crock Pot (slow cooker) is $25 at Walmart. Rice cookers can be expensive, but you can get one at Walmart for $30. How does $55 save you money? If you learn to make a lot of dishes using rice, you can buy a 50 pound bag of calrose rice at Costco for around $20 or $25. For perspective, this lasted my wife and I at least five months. You can make onigiri (Japanese rice balls) to take as a portable snack with you or as pre-workout carbo-bombs. Use the Crock Pot to make large amounts of meat and you can even stuff your rice balls with it. Maybe you’d rather eat it on top of the rice at home. Rice keeps you full for hours. So does meat. Just be sure to get some multivitamins if you’re not going to eat very many vegetables.
Portable Washing Machine
It can cost a lot of money to wash your clothes at a laundromat. Stop that! You can buy a portable washing machine that hooks up to your kitchen sink for as little as $200 or as expensive as over $300. They also make small electric dryers for $300 or so. If you don’t want to spend that much money on a dryer, consider this: A drying rack can be as little as $15. $20 gets you a great one. A tabletop ironing board can be $20. A decent iron is $20.
Rather than spending $300, spend $60 for air drying and ironing equipment. A big bonus is that this can help cut your heating bill down in the winter months. How? Air drying your laundry puts moisture in the air. If you decide to buy an electric dryer, don’t put the vent in the window during winter months. You can get a vent that sits on top of the dryer. It will put moisture in the air and heat your home at the same time, making it a decent investment.