Reprinted by permission of the authors, Kyle Prevost & Justin Bouchard, from More Money For Beer and Textbooks. Copyright©2013 by Young and Thrifty Publications.
While living in residence might mean having the time of your life, and getting an apartment with a couple of close friends may be the experience you planned all through high school, the undeniable fact as far as your wallet is concerned is that your mom and dad are the best roommates in the world. Regardless of the glorious lifestyle that college movies depict, the statistics simply don’t lie. The RateSupermarket.ca survey results mentioned in Chapter 1 vividly illustrate the huge difference that increased living expenses can make in the total cost of an education. The easiest way to save $45,000 while you’re going to university, or $11,000 while you’re at college, is simply to live at home.
We know this probably isn’t what most of you want to hear: If you’re lucky enough to live close to a decent post-secondary option and you and your parents can co-exist around each other without spontaneously combusting, it’s hard to justify not living at home if your folks are up to it. Even if you have to pay a little bit of rent in order to sweeten the deal, chances are it’s still a ridiculously good financial move.
Few students have any clue how much money their parents spend on relatively small individual purchases for the household and how quickly they all add up. Such things as toiletries, supplies for laundry and cleaning and the kitchen, food itself, and dozens of other incidental items that used to appear magically in the house when you lived with your parents can cost you a much bigger portion of your budget than you thought. This doesn’t even take into account such things as borrowing the family car a few times a week instead of owning your own vehicle; using Mom and Dad’s furniture, computer, and printer; and other one-time costs you’ll have to figure out how to pay for if you move away.
We loved the independence we each experienced when we’d moved out of our parents’ places for school. We believe the decision to move away from home and to live on campus played a large part in making both of us who we are today. At the same time, we didn’t have much choice, because we grew up in rural areas too far from any campus to commute.
Still, you can’t ignore the effect that your choice of where to live can have on your wallet. Remember, for living in residence, we’re talking about at least $5,500 for an eight-month year: that’s at least $687.50 a month, or at least $22.59 every single day, that you have to spend–or get to save–depending on the choice you make.
Ultimately, it comes down to your priorities and how much you are willing to sacrifice for them. “Complete” freedom and the experiences that can come with independent living are extremely attractive and valuable … but so is a stack of four hundred and fifty $100 bills (which offer another form of freedom).
On Campus vs. Off Campus
It’s tough for us not to be biased when it comes to discussing student housing options. Although we both lived off campus at some point while going through school, we agree that living on campus was essential not only to the lives we enjoyed as students but also to our futures. We first met many of our lifelong friends while living on campus–and Kyle met his better half there. In fact, we could probably write a whole book just on the benefits of living in residence. But, in the interest of keeping things short and sweet (two things we are decidedly not), we’ll simply refer you to Justin’s blog, MyUniversityMoney.com, in case you want to take a more in-depth look at what makes on-campus living so special for many people (and what to avoid if you want to graduate at some point!).
Much of the debate about living on campus and living off can be quantified in dollars and cents. But there are several important considerations that don’t show up on a balance sheet. Before we boil things down to the lowest common denominator (money), here are a few points to help you decide which type of housing is better for you:
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