Everyone knows that living off-campus is usually cheaper than dorming, but I’m currently seeing that it’s certainly easily possible for that not to be the case. I have carefully calculated how dorming compares to my current off-campus living situation, and there are many hidden costs that stack up with living off-campus that have made it more expensive than dorming for me. There are actual monetary costs and time/effort costs.
This includes ALL supplies for cleaning. It doesn’t sound like much of a hassle to buy a bottle of windex and Lysol wipes at the beginning of the year, but having a house means cleaning every part of the house on a regular basis and not just when you’re tired of dusting your backpack off every time you pick it up off the floor. For my housemates and I, our one-time purchases included a broom, dustpan and brush, mop, and vacuum. Not bad, but our repeated purchases include toilet paper, paper towels, Lysol wipes, hand soap, Draino (four girls lose a LOT of hair), sponges, detergent, and salt.
Dealing with the weather is a depressing task. During the winter, we spend gas warming up cars while shoveling around them. (We brought them from home, but shovels could also end up being a potential purchase.) Salting the driveway is also a chore. On the other side of the weather spectrum, paying for air conditioning makes for a wallet-draining first and last few months of the year.
I didn’t realize how much furniture I actually use until I moved off campus. Dorms provide beds, desks, chairs, dressers, closets, couches, and eating settings. I’m lucky that my bed from home could easily be disassembled, there was a spare old rickety desk in my garage, and my mom was willing to part with the swivel chair at her vanity. But despite this luck, I still needed a dresser and we needed to buy a kitchen table set, couch, coffee table, and cooking appliances that weren’t included in the house.
Everyone knows they’ll have to start cooking. But some people overlook the fact that they have to initially stock up their kitchens. By default, most home kitchens have flour, sugar, salt, pepper, bread, cooking oil, butter, milk, and eggs. Chances are, you won’t be moving into your off-campus home with eggs and butter in hand. The initial stock is a necessity early in the year, so you don’t find yourself hungry in the kitchen at midnight looking at cereal and pickles as your only options during midterms.
Moving into a dorm takes a couple hours at most. Moving into my house took hours per day, about seven days in total spread out over a span of four months. I took furniture from my sister’s former off-campus house and our permanent home. That was an entire day’s commitment. Over the summer leading into the present year, I went shopping for furniture and kitchen supplies. It took a day to transport my bed and mattress from home. I went to an Ikea 40 minutes away, twice, to find the right couch. Cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping on a regular basis can take at least an hour out of your week. Looking for a house to move into in the first place took weeks of planning and coordinating with housemates. Paying bills takes mental effort.
I’ve definitely learned a lot about independence and responsibility by moving off campus. I know how to pay bills and put out the trash at the right times during the week. I’m more frugal with my time and money. And I’ve learned that tomato soup, five cans of beans, and select spices can make at least a week of breakfast chili. But considering the money and time costs, I’ve found that living off campus is not for me and I’m moving back into an on campus apartment. I still have some independence and responsibility, but a more manageable amount. Be sure to take into account all aspects of moving off-campus, and not just the rent.