How Not to Move Back in With Your Parents

Affording Your Social Life Podcast Episodes

Making Your Housing Decisions
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Listen to this week's episode where Pete and Alex help you determine what factors are important in your housing search

Read the Show Notes

It’s strange to think that your housing decisions for next year might be in full swing early in the second semester. And if you’re thinking about living off-campus (and for some campuses, off-campus is all there is), there are certainly a lot of things you need to think about to make sure that:

A) You don’t spend all of your money

B) You still are friends with your housemates after the living arrangement is up

C) You have a good time

Of course, our job at MoneySmarts is to make sure that part A is taken care of. But rest assured, if you take care of A, B and C will follow.

The Benefits of Roommates

The first thing to know is that if you’re trying to save money while in school, having a roommate or roommates is like having one of the best coupons around. One roommate is like having a 50% off coupon, 2 roommates are 66%, 3 roommates are get the picture.

While the idea of having a place to yourself might sound appealing, think about the cost savings of living other people (and the side effect of having a great social life). And it’s not just the rent where you save money, utilities are also significantly cheaper for you when you have roommates.

Utilities: The Forgotten Housing Expense

Speaking of utilities, their costs and how you go about paying them can often stand in your way of B & C.

Of course, the first thing you should do when getting a place (with or without roommates) is to find out what, if any, utilities are included in your rent payment. If there are some that are not included, ask the landlord or the people currently living in the place how much their utilities are on average (even if they don’t have them readily available, they should be able to get the numbers fairly quickly).

Add these utility costs to the rent payment as you’re comparing place to place so that you’ll have a much better idea of what place is the most/least expensive.

The Secret To Keeping Your Place and Your Friendships

Just as important as the cost of utilities and rent is the decision on how to make sure payments are made on time to where they need to be made. In our opinion, this is where B & C face their biggest challenge.

If possible, ask your landlord if each person in your place can co-sign the lease and pay the landlord directly, instead of the entire place giving one check to the landlord and only one person signing the lease. This can significantly reduce the chances of problems in your place because nobody is responsible for giving money to each other and you can’t be evicted should somebody in your place decide to not pay.

If your landlord indicates that’s not possible and/or you still have utilities to account for, the best thing to do to protect yourself is to document in writing your payment structure with your roommates so that if a situation should arise, you can be protected.

If you need help drafting something or are not sure what to include, contact Student Legal Services (if in Bloomington) or a faculty or staff member on your campus to see what advice they might have.

It's Not About the House: It's the Experience

Aside from this, remember that there is not a big correlation between the amount of money you spend on your place and how happy you are with your college experience. In fact, some could argue that if there was a correlation, it would be a negative one because the more money you spent on a place, the less money you’d have to do outside of your place (where we think the majority of fun happens).

So make sure that you set a budget on how much you can afford before searching for a place. And as Pete says, just because you can spend a certain amount of money on a place, doesn’t mean you have to spend all of it. Your budget tells you what the maximum amount is that you can spend on something, not how much you have to spend.

We’re confident that if you follow these tips listed you will maximize the amount of money you can save on housing while in college. And hopefully we’ve also convinced you that saving money on housing will cause less stress in your life and will lead you to having a better time with your roommates/friends.