College is a time for maturing and experiencing life on your own. With all the freedom and the fun comes a lot of responsibility as well, not the least of which is learning how to manage your finances. Although there are additional individual costs that fall onto you, depending on how much your university charges for a dorm room, you might end up paying less overall if you choose to rent an apartment.
With the right mindset and guidance, you can actually start saving money and have a safety net when you graduate.
Trying to put together a budget and be aware of your spending habits is a major step forward, so do not be scared. We are here to lend you a hand with this financial guide for renting off-campus.
Search for the right apartment
Deciding what apartment to rent can be overwhelming, but with a clear head, you can make the right call. Primarily, it’s important to find a secure and trusted source for renting an apartment where all potential apartments are verified. Usually renting websites offer you the possibility to customize your search with filters, so make sure to add a price range, a limit for the square footage, and refine the results to best fit your needs.
Location is extremely important in real estate, and it can dictate a lot of the price variance as well. Be knowledgeable about the real estate trends in your area and check to see how the prices near your university compare to the average in the rest of the city.
Additionally, renting with pets will be an extra cost, so maybe postpone adopting a furry friend until after college when you are more financially stable and you have the time to take care of them.
Prepare for moving in and living there
When you’re shopping for the big move, consider the pros and cons of renting a furnished or partially furnished apartment. Compare the prices of furniture with a short term as well as a long-term rental. The best choice is determined under precise circumstances, so do your due diligence and figure what works best for you.
You should also try to bring the necessities from home so you don’t have to buy them once you’ve moved in. Make a checklist with essential items beforehand and start packing early on. This is going to cut down on both your expenses and the stress caused by moving.
Cut down daily costs and reduce utilities
We’ve mentioned the right mindset before, but this is the area where it really comes in. By trying to be constantly aware of where your money goes, you’ll easily find places to cut down on. Some practical tips:
- make your coffee at home and fill your reusable mug to save a little every day;
- go grocery shopping on a full stomach and plan meals for a week in advance, since buying in bulk will definitely help;
- cook at home with your groceries and ask your friends over and split the cost for a nice, hearty dinner;
- stock your drawer with cookies or granola bars, snacks you can easily grab on the go in the morning to stop you from spending a little on pastry or other breakfast replacements.
Another area where the right mindset makes a difference is your energy and water consumption. Be mindful and turn off or unplug appliances when you don’t use them. Turn the water off after using it and take shorter showers. Don’t leave your laptop on sleep or stand-by, but rather save and close all our work and shut it down. These little habits are going to pile up over time and you’ll see a difference on your monthly bill. Plus, you’re helping the environment as well.
Design a budget
There are plenty of ways to design your budget. You can experiment and find the one that suits you best. Keep track of your money using an excel sheet, have a notepad in which you can write down your monthly income and expenses, or use a personal finance app that takes care of that for you. Knowing where you stand financially will give you a sense of being in control.
Reserve a chunk of your income for rent, utilities, and food, so you can make sure you always have the necessities covered. Depending on your spending habits, you might even be ready to save some money. When you strategize your budget, set aside a little every month and act as if you didn’t even have that money. Over time, it will pile up and you’ll have a little something to give you a head start.
In college, you learn a lot in class, but even more outside of it, so don’t be afraid to start the rest of your life. Hands-on experience with managing your own money is exciting, a lifetime skill, and will give you the independence you have craved.
About the author: Mihaela is a passionate reader and writer, with an affinity for language and linguistics, as well as the latest technological developments. She discovered her passion for real estate at RENTCafé, and you can read more of her articles on their blog.