The transition from living at home to life on a college campus can be difficult on many levels. Getting into the right housing situation smooths several bumps in the road and can help a student gain independence as well as a measure of financial responsibility.
The first step is deciding what kind of living arrangement works best: commuting, the cheapest if it's an option; on-campus housing, which in many cases can be more expensive; off-campus rentals; and buying a condo or house.
If you decide to go the apartment route, here are ways to save money along the way:
A survey presented at the National Apartment Association's annual Student Housing Conference and Exposition found that when it came to choosing an apartment, 47% of students cited rental rates and price as their leading factor.
Parents, on the other hand, had security (34%) as a priority. Rental rates were only third (20%) among parents, while location/proximity to campus was second at 29%.
Swimming pools and Internet cafes are great, but they shouldn't be a deciding factor in where you live. Convenience and safety are more important than whether your apartment complex has a fitness center.
If you can find housing close enough to walk or bike to campus, or along a bus route, consider leaving your car at home. Auto expenses add up quickly — monthly payments, insurance, routine maintenance, parking and gas.
Look for a place within walking distance of a grocery or a convenience store.
Even buying at an overpriced convenience store is better than eating out every night. Set aside a certain amount for dining out, grabbing McDonald's on the way home. But don't go over that amount. Make your own meals at home.
Before signing a lease, give the apartment a thorough inspection. Document and photograph any damage or flaws so you can get back your security deposit.
You might be able to save on the most basic expense: rent. Look for incentives to get more for your money such as a month's free rent or free utilities.
Make sure everyone signs the lease. Roommates who drop out after a month would then be liable for their share of the rent.