Many college students want to try living off campus during their time at school, and that can be expensive. After all, there are numerous expenses involved with living off campus and setting up a new apartment or house, such as buying furniture, getting groceries, hooking up internet service, paying utilities and more.

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Despite having to handle these additional complexities, living off campus often can be more affordable than you might expect. Here are seven ways to save money while living off campus:

1. Live with roommates.

One of the best ways to save money living off campus is to share your housing with one or more roommates. This can immediately reduce your rent by half (or more) and you may also save money on utilities when you’re splitting the bill with a few other friends. Living with roommates is often a more efficient way to run your household expenses than supporting yourself in your own place, especially if you’re a full-time college student with only a part-time income.

2. Create (and stick to) a budget.

Living off campus is a great opportunity to start living like a “real grownup” with a higher degree of independence — but that means it’s time to create a budget. For example, your monthly household budget should add up to these approximate percentages in each category of spending:

  • Housing and utilities: 30%
  • Food: 10%
  • Clothing/entertainment: 10%
  • Transportation (car loan and expenses): 10%
  • Insurance/Personal Expenses: 20%
  • Loan Repayment/Savings: 20%

So long as you can keep your housing and food costs within these suggested limits, you can feel comfortable living off campus.

3. Save money on groceries and entertainment.

Another way to help make living off campus more affordable than living on campus is to save money on food and entertainment. The cost of entertainment may not be different dependent on your choice of housing, but if you can adopt a mindset of saving, such as through the deals on groceries or restaurants you may be eligible for through your credit card, you may find more opportunities for savings in other areas.

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4. Sublet your apartment over the summer.

Most off campus apartments require a 12-month lease, and this can create challenges if you plan to be away from school during the summer months. Instead of paying rent for time in an apartment you aren’t using, you may want to consider subletting over the summer. Find a friend who will live at your place during the summer months; many students are looking for summer housing near campus, but be sure to check with your landlord and read the fine print in your lease first. Even if you have to pay some extra money or can’t cover the whole duration of summer with a sublet, you may still save a little money while living off campus.

5. Take Advantage of Family Plans to Save on Phone Costs.

If you haven’t already done so, you should consider signing up for your family’s Family Plan for your cell phone service. While your parents may require you pay your share, family plans are often cheaper per phone and can help reduce costs pretty significantly, especially over the course of a year.

6. Travel light.

One of the biggest expenses for many students living off campus is the cost of owning a car. When you add up the cost of a car payment, car insurance, gasoline and car maintenance, as well as campus parking, owning a car could cost almost as much as your rent.

Here are a couple ways to either avoid or at least reduce these costs that you may want to consider:

  • Live close to campus or near public transportation options. You may still want to own a car, but living close enough to campus to walk to class can save money on daily parking and gas.
  • Ride your bike to class. University campuses are often pedestrian and bicyclist friendly, so don’t assume that you need to have a car in order to survive off campus.

7. Consider getting a limited meal plan.

If you don’t love to cook and want to avoid spending lots of money on restaurant meals, you may want to consider getting a campus meal plan while living off campus. Check with your university dining centers to see what options are available: many schools offer a limited meal plan for off campus students. For example, you could choose a five-meal-per-week plan that lets you eat lunch on campus between classes, and then eat breakfast and dinner at home.

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Living off campus is a great way to expand your horizons, enjoy more independence and gain greater control over your home environment. If you’re tired of the dorms and want to spread your wings, living off campus might be the right way to go. Just make sure to set a budget, plan ahead and prepare to shift your spending routines a bit to manage the new realities of life away from campus.

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