When you are budgeting for college expenses you may be trying to decide on areas where you can save money. The cost of tuition goes up every year, as do the costs of books and other school supplies. It is important to consider other expense that you may incur and find less expensive ways to pay for them. One of the most expensive aspects of attending college is paying for your living expenses. Depending on the area that you live you may be able to find a better deal off campus.
Compare Rent Off and On Campus
In some areas of the country, the dorms may be a much cheaper option than renting an apartment with your friends or by yourself. It depends on where you live, and how close you live to campus. Take the time to look around the city your college is in to find the best areas to rent and to find out how much an apartment is going to cost you. You should also find out how your lease will work. Some apartments that cater to college students will have each roommate sign their own lease and you may rent with strangers. This may be more affordable than renting your own apartment or it may be more expensive. Some colleges may also have restrictions that require you to rent from university-approved apartments. In addition to the cost of the rent you need to consider the other expenses you will incur.
Consider the Costs of Extras
Another thing to consider is the costs that you will be responsible for when you are living off campus. Generally the dorm will cover all of your utility costs and Internet fees. Your off campus apartment may not do this. You need to consider how much each of these expenses will cost. Additionally you need to decide if you will need to pay extra for transportation if you are going to live off of campus. If you have a car, you will need to pay for gas, insurance, and parking costs. Otherwise you may need to pay for bus fees, unless you are within walking distance of the campus.
Look at Your Meal Plans
Another thing to consider is the cost of food and meal plans. Often the meal plan is one of the more expensive aspects of university housing. However you may be able to save by choosing a plan with only two meals a day or one that has more limited dining options. You can usually purchase breakfast foods at a convenience store and store them in your room to save money. Additionally you may be able to purchase a meal plan for lunches on campus, which may save you money. If you live off campus you can brown bag your lunch to save money as well.
Choosing the Best Option
As you look at all the options available to you, you need to take into consideration the cost of the plans as well as the convenience. In many cases it is easier to live on campus, because you can spend most of your time focused on your schoolwork. Your lifestyle and the things that are the most important to you will influence your decision. If you are paying for school by yourself you may need to choose the most inexpensive option. If you are working while attending school, your job may influence where you work, and what type of plan will work the best for you. The costs may be close enough that you can make the decision based on convenience. Additionally, it is generally a good idea to live on campus your first year, because it will help you form friendships, and it is easier to adjust to college life that way.