Quiz: Should you live on or off campus next year?

Living on campus vs. living off campus

Financial and lifestyle elements may help you make your choice.

Deciding to live off campus can be a welcome step toward independence, maturity, and freedom. But getting out of that bubble — even if you’ll be living with roommates — also can have an impact on your wallet, since you’ll suddenly need to start paying for stuff that was provided in the dorm — like furniture, Wi-Fi, and even toilet paper.

Here’s what to consider when it comes to paying for your own place.

  1. Determine what you can afford. If you’re paying your own rent, don’t get in over your head with your monthly expenses. Before you start apartment hunting, know how much you can afford to pay each month. And consider costs beyond rent — make sure you account for other living expenses, like utilities and food.
  1. Read the lease details. Advice for life: Read what you’re signing. Have a parent or even a lawyer read over your lease, so you know exactly what you’re on the hook for.
  1. Budget for food. Living off campus often means you eat fewer meals at campus dining halls. Where will your meals come from? According to the Huffington Post, in 2011, the average college student spent $765 dining out — a lot of money! As a college student, you can expect to spend $80 to $200 a month on groceries.
  1. Figure out how to split utilities. There’s no right way to split bills with friends. Some roommates like to each pay for one utility, while others find it easier to have one person pay for all utilities and have the rest of the roommates pay them back. Just realize that if your name is on the bill, you’re on the hook for paying it on time, and in full each month. If you fall behind, it could negatively impact your credit score.
  1. You may need renters insurance. When renting, the landlord’s insurance usually only protects the building itself. Renters insurance may cost around $20 a month — well worth it to replace your stuff if the worst were to happen (such as fire or theft).
  1. You can build your credit history. By paying rent and having bills in your name, you’ll help build your credit history. If you’re responsible and pay on time, you can potentially graduate with a higher credit score than you otherwise may have had — which can really help down the road when you’re applying for apartments, or a loan.

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