Hello fellow personal finance readers. I go by the pen name “Teacher Man” due to the fact that I recently graduated from university and am in my second year of teaching high school. About 9 months ago my partner and I started a website called My University Money. It is aimed at helping young people (with a specific focus on post-secondary students) and just talking about financial and student lifestyle issues in general. Young & Thrifty was one of the first bloggers to really reach out to us and give us a little recognition when we were just starting off. When I read that Y & T was hitting a busy patch in life I offered to do a little staff writing for her, and she graciously accepted. Hopefully you readers don’t notice THAT much of a drop-off from the typical high quality posts you’ve come to enjoy here!
Y&T’s Note: Thanks Teacher Man! Haha, are you being sarcastic about the high quality posts? LOL. Hey, when I first noticed your site, I was blown away by the amazing content. Thanks for being my new staff writer as I plug away at post-grad university life 🙂 My dear readers, you’ll probably see Teacher Man here on Y&T.ca a few times a month- I’m looking forward to reading more of his great writing.
There are few bigger decisions for prospective post-secondary students than choosing where they will live while they attend school. Will you live on campus or off? Will you find an apartment with a friend, or search for a house to rent with buddies? Are your
parents going to be able to help you financially? What can you afford, and what is the cheapest option? These are all questions that swirl around the head of many high school graduates, and people returning to school from the workforce every year.
For individuals that are focused on doing the economically responsible thing, there is little doubt that going to the local school and living at home is by far the best route. Even if your parents ask you to pay rent (entirely reasonable) I can almost guarantee that you will save bucket loads of money on everything from toilet paper, to internet bills. For the many students that live far away from a post-secondary institution, this option does not exist. Many other students feel the social need to “branch out” a little and live independently, while still others wish to travel to go to school. How you approach this task can greatly determine what path your life will take within the realm of post-secondary education.
Advantages of On Campus Life
For the majority of students who decide for one reason or another to leave the nest and live away from their parents while going to school, the main choice becomes to live on campus or off. There are certainly arguments to be made for both. I personally would strongly recommend living on campus for a year or two to begin your post-secondary career. The social advantage alone is a strong enough factor that it almost outweighs any other considerations. Living on campus is simply the best way to meet new people, get involved with a nearly infinite amount of groups activities, grow comfortable with the campus, and build an endless network (both social and professional) that will be invaluable to you for the rest of your life. Being close to your classes and all the resources that are centered on campus are also a key consideration.
Off Campus Options
Some students decide that on campus life is not for them. There are a few different options for students that live off campus. Some key considerations include how many roommates (if any) you would like to live with, how far away from campus you wish to live (generally rental units close the university are fairly pricey), whether you would like to move into an apartment or a house, and whether you will own a vehicle or not. The ability to customize your living arrangement to a more personal level comes with the added pressure of making the right choices. One interesting strategy I have seen successfully pursued is for the parents of a student to purchase a house close to a post-secondary area, and then have their child and their friends rent it from them. The rent provides a nice income stream (more than enough to offset the mortgage) and when the post-secondary career wraps up the parents can choose to sell it (houses close to schools are always in demand) for a healthy profit, or continue the arrangement with their child if they want to keep the house.
Isn’t On Campus Living More Expensive?
For a lot of students choosing where to live will come to down to a matter of cost. While we established that living at home is probably more economical by a wide margin, things get a little more grey when we compare on campus housing options to those available off campus. In my experience, most people believe that living off campus is substantially cheaper; however, when I crunched the numbers I found them very comparable. It is very difficult to do a direct comparison because housing costs and on campus living expenses vary from region to region. When I looked at all the major universities across Canada, on campus housing ranged from $4,5000-$9,000, with of an average of around $7,000 when meal plans were included (this includes extra costs of internet hook-up etc, that were standard at some places, but not others). This comes out to $875 per-month. When I calculated out my rent, hydro, water, internet, TV, and grocery bills, and then added in the extra gas I burned going to and from university everyday, it came out to about $800 a month. I’m a big guy who eats a lot of groceries, but Winnipeg was also a fairly cheap place to rent in, so I figured it balanced out. In any case, I’m fairly certain the per-month premium you would pay for living on campus is between $50-$100 in the majority of cases. For people that move for a summer job, or back home for the summer, this is easily cancelled out by the fact that most rentals require you to sign leases for 12 months at a time, whereas the on campus housing is usually purchased in 4-month terms.
What Option Is Right For Me?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of where a specific person should live while going to school. For students who have families, or want to live at home, the decision is fairly straight forward. I would definitely recommend paying the small premium to live on campus for young students as I believe the incalculable hidden benefits are well worth the price tag. I met my significant other while living in residence though, as well as nearly all of my best friends, so I am definitely quite bias!
What were your top priorities when looking for housing accommodations while attending post-secondary education? When I moved off campus with a couple of friends, our house was 20 feet from a beer vendor… can you say, “Location, Location, Location!”
Readers, what would differently you do if you could re-live your college accommodation experience?