You’re not alone in wondering if you can save money by moving off campus. However, it’s important to weigh the costs that go along with renting your very own place. Here is a list of factors to consider before making the big move.
Consider your monthly portion of the rent –whether you’re living alone or sharing with roommates. How does that cost compare to your current housing contract? For example, let’s say you and your roommate lived in a double Buchanan suite and you’re looking to find a cheaper off campus apartment. The yearly rate for a double suite in Buchanan is $6,190. Dividing that rate by 10 (5 months in a semester x2) will determine your current monthly cost. ($619 a month). In this scenario, finding an off campus apartment and sharing with more roommates could very well be a lot cheaper, but it will depend on where you live on campus. If you're wanting more space but aren't ready to live completely off campus, consider an on-campus apartment through ISU like Frederiksen Court, or SUV. The cheapest apartment in Frederiksen Court (a 4 person, 2 bedroom shared unit) comes out to be around $484 a month. They come furnished, and tenants don't have to pay utilities or purchase a meal plan.
You will also want to keep in mind that most off campus leases are yearlong leases, meaning they don’t go by the semester and are not paid via your Ubill. If you don’t plan on staying in Ames over the summer, or will be on internship during the semester, be prepared to find a subleaser who can take your spot on the lease until you get back.
In addition to paying your own rent each month, each rental agreement will most likely require you to pay some sort of utility bill –whether it’s gas, electricity, water, internet or cable. Depending on the utility company, you may need to pay a deposit if you’ve never held an account with them in the past. There may be some extra costs that come with paying for your own internet service, such as buying a router or paying a wiring fee if your apartment doesn’t come with sufficient hook ups. Don’t be afraid to ask the previous tenant or the landlord themselves to get an idea on how much utilities typically run for that specific unit.
Financial Aid & Food
With typically signing a year lease, you will need to make sure you get August and January's rent paid in advance because you won't get your financial aid in time to pay by the 1st of the month. Our financial aid office only disburses financial aid the Tuesday before your classes start each semester, which is not in time to make rent if it's due the first of the month. It's really important to start budgeting that financial aid refund properly so you're not shorted on rent money by the end of the semesters! Also, now that you won’t be having a meal plan that provided 2-3 meals a day (or unlimited meals for some), you will need to factor in the cost of buying groceries and preparing your own meals. While ramen noodles may seem like the perfect college staple, learning to cook also can be a valuable skill! (Even if your version of cooking just means plugging in the quesadilla maker!)
When you sign a lease for a new apartment, you will need to be ready to put down a security deposit. This is money you pay the landlord at the beginning of the lease, and is usually the equivalent to one month’s worth of rent. This is money your landlord will keep as collateral to cover any damages to unit they may find when you move out. As long as you keep your apartment in tip top shape and honor the other agreements on your lease, you should receive your entire security deposit back at the end of your lease.
In order to protect yourself and your possessions in the event of an apartment flood, fire or theft incident, it is a good idea to get a renters insurance policy. This can usually be added on to any existing policy, such as your car insurance, and is very inexpensive. The average renter’s insurance premium is $12 a month! Check out this guide that explains everything you need to know about renters insurance.
Transportation Depending on how far away your new digs are, you'll want to consider any transportation costs. With limited parking availability on campus for students, it's best to find a plan to walk, bike or take the CyRide bus. All routes in Ames are free for ISU students with their ID card! To get an idea of your nearest CyRide bus stop, click here.
If you’re moving to an apartment off campus, you’ll need your own furniture, dishes, cooking utensils and other household items. The list of needed essentials can be long, so it’s always a good idea to check with your roommates first before you commit to buying anything. Thrift stores and sites like Craigslist are a great places to look for affordable furnishings. Here's a handy list of the things you may want to split up with your roommates!