When you go to post-secondary school there are several things you should think about to make where you live, and how you get around, more affordable.
Consider your housing options
Living at home while going to school is usually the cheapest choice. But if that’s not possible, you’ve got other options. Your school might have student residences on campus, or you may rent a room, an apartment, or even a house off campus.
Living on campus
- Different schools offer different types of on-campus housing. A dorm room may be all you need. If you have a family of your own, apartment-style units may be available.
- Costs vary with the size, style, and special features like a private washroom. Consider whether the benefits are worth the extra money.
- Visit the residence(s) during the school year if you can. Explore the living space and get a sense for how it makes you feel. Could you live, study, and sleep here?
- Add up the costs you don’t see like parking, laundry, meals, privacy (if you’re considering a single room), and convenience.
- Sharing costs with a roommate(s) can make living on your own more affordable. Be sure to work out how you’ll share expenses ahead of time. Everyone living in the apartment or house should sign the lease. Meet regularly to talk about your shared budget and any concerns.
- Check the campus housing office and websites for listings of students looking for roommates and a listing of apartments and houses for rent in the area.
- The closer rentals are to campus, the more expensive they tend to be. Consider whether savings in transportation costs and travel time make the higher rent worthwhile.
- If you are relying on public transit to get to and from school, consider the distance to the nearest bus stop or train station. Can you get to the nearest grocery store or services via transit or walking?
- If you’re looking at renting a room or basement suite in a private home, ask if you can exchange household chores for a deal on your rent.
- Make a list of all possible expenses (such as gas, electricity, water, internet and cable) and ask the landlord if these are included in the rent. If they’re not, ask what the average monthly bills are, including through the winter.
My friend and I found a great place to live close to school and at a reasonable price. We signed the lease and moved in only to discover that utilities weren’t included in the rent. We hadn’t thought to ask about that. We ended up having to pay about $100 more each month than we had planned for. It kind of blew our budget.
Consider how you’re going to get around
Whether you live on or off campus you will need to buy groceries, pick up supplies, go out with friends, and, of course, get to your classes. Here are a few ideas for how to get where you need to go on a budget:
- Your school may have a universal transit pass (U-Pass) included in your student fees, which pays for public transportation for most students during the school year. Check with your school to see what is offered.
- If your school does not offer a U-Pass or you don’t qualify for one, some public transit systems offer lower-cost passes or tickets for students. Figure out roughly how often you’ll use transit and what it will cost each time. Will a monthly pass be worthwhile? If you only use public transit once in a while, buy books of tickets (which usually cost less) rather than single-trip tickets.
- Driving a car will cost more than any other option. Gas, insurance, maintenance, and parking are ongoing expenses. If you want to drive, carpooling can help offset your costs. Use word of mouth, campus bulletin boards, and online listings to share your ride or find opportunities to car-pool.
- Cycling is an excellent option. It’s healthy, cheap, and environmentally friendly. Make sure you have a helmet, reflective clothing, a bell, a light, and a good bike lock.
- Walking is free and easy.
Take time to look into all the choices you have for your school-year home, and for how you’re going to get places. There are many options geared to helping students like you.