Moving off campus: What you need to know
Daunting yet exciting, that’s how I felt about making the transition from dorm to oﬀ-campus life. Yes, the cliche is true, with more freedom comes more responsibility. With greater space comes utility bills, with your kitchen and fridge comes shared chores, and with that sweet living room comes negotiating parties with your landlord.
Moving oﬀ campus means outlining more of your own rules and boundaries. Let’s think about some of the big issues at stake here:
1. The Lease
4. Safety: How Not to Piss oﬀ your Landlord!
5. Cooking and Cleaning
6. What do you need?
- The Lease
I want to recognize the myriad of lenses we’re all coming from in college, and depending on your background, you may or may not have faced paying your own expenses and budgeting before. If you haven’t, this is a great learning experience. Talk to your parents or guardian (if applicable, if not, seek out the help of your student advisor or residential life). Before you hop on board with your dorm BFFs for that sweet house next year, make sure you understand the terms to which you are agreeing. Is the rent within your housing budget? Is there is a lease, and what are the terms of this lease? Do you need to provide a security deposit? How can you ensure your deposit is returned to you? How will you be dividing utilities if they are not included?
If utilities are not included in your monthly rent, you will need to divide them up (heat, cable, etc.) between roommates. Many utility companies require someone with a line of credit to be the account holder, others are more ﬂexible. Keep in mind that although everyone pitches in for the utilities, the account holder’s credit score is the one aﬀected if a utility is late or unpaid. You can place the bill on the fridge as soon as it comes with a note about how much per person is owed. That way, you are less likely to forget it! If the utility is in your name, put out a friendly reminder to your roommates a few days before it is due, to make sure they all give you their share before you have to pay. You can also set up automatic payments with most companies to avoid being late.
So, you were BFFs in the dorm, right? Moving into together brings with it new chances to grow even closer and have a great time with your newfound freedom. However, with no resident advisors or boundaries, it’s important to think about boundaries and respect within your new pad. Before you move in, what are your expectations for your living space and roomies? Don’t assume everyone wants the same things you do. Do you want a TV in the main space? Are you comfortable having big parties? Staying up until 2 AM on weeknights? Make sure you all are on similar lifestyle pages before taking the plunge. Are boyfriends or girlfriends okay staying over a lot? How are you going to divide chores? Remember, no one is cleaning the bathrooms for you anymore! And remember, just because someone was your dorm BFF, make sure you aren’t a library bug moving into a party house or vice versa! Balancing studying and socializing is something you have to negotiate for yourself off-campus.
Not pissing oﬀ your landlord or roommates is a convenient byproduct of general off-campus safety. Planning on throwing a big party? Run it by the landlord, what are her noise violation policies? Check with the close neighbors, noise violation ﬁnes can run high if someone reports you. Living oﬀ campus means you are now most likely no longer under campus jurisdiction, but rather city or town jurisdiction. Therefore, it’s not going to be the campus police coming by. If you are serving alcohol, putting a little sign by the door indicating that everyone should be over 21 who comes in your house can help protect you against underage drinking violations. You want to have an awesome party, which doesn’t usually include ﬁnes and being charged with minor alcohol distribution.
- Cooking & Cleaning
How are you going to divide chores? Are you going to cook any meals together? Chore charts can be helpful so no one ends up being “the maid”. Also, cooking for many can be less expensive than cooking for one! Dividing the chores by “weekly dinner”, “kitchen”, “bathroom”, and “common spaces” can help everyone evenly pitch in.
- Shower Curtain
- Shower Mat
- Plastic Trash Can
- Toilet Cleaner
- Large toilet paper pack
- Kitchen Towels
- Basic Silverware & Tableware
- Large paper-towel pack.
Think about what you use in the dorm or dining hall! A water ﬁlter? A coﬀee maker? Ice cube trays? Make a list to avoid double-purchasing and save money.
Living Room Essentials
- A comfortable couch
- A small table
- Comfy chairs
Beauty is not an essential here! Check out craigslist, used furniture or antique stores, and goodwill. You want it to be comfortable and versatile. Even if you have a sizable budget, you don’t want to be heartbroken to see someone spilling crackers or soda on your cream colored couch. You can have one of those later in life! Other essentials can include a small table, rug, comfy chairs, and a TV.
- A bed
- A dresser
- Desk and chair
Remember that uncomfortable twin-bed in your dorm-room? It’s time to think about your own bed, awesome! However, this time, it’s not supplied for you. Sometimes you can get in touch with the current tenant before you move in to see if they would sell their bed to you. Otherwise, again, checking craigslist and goodwill can be a great option. Particularly at the end of the semester, you can ﬁnd a good deal! Resist the urge to be grossed out by a used bed. Washing down the mattress and putting a nice cover on it will make it look good as new, with a signiﬁcantly lower price tag. You will also need hangers, some kind of dresser, and desk and chair. Look out of end of semester student deals.
If you are getting a new place next September, capitalize on the desperation of other students moving out of off-campus housing in May. Many of them will leave terriﬁc ﬁnds for free on the curbs or list them for very low costs on craigslist. Now, get planning and chatting with your new roomies! And get ready for some serious responsibility…and fun!