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How to Cut Expenses When Living Off Campus

If you’re finally moving out of the dorms into your own off-campus apartment, congratulations! That’s a big life move – at times it can be challenging and perhaps even overwhelming, but it’s never anything less than completely rewarding. However, living on your own means you will be faced with many responsibilities that you haven’t yet had to deal with, most of them financial. To avoid going bankrupt and having to return home after just one semester off campus, follow these tips for cutting your expenses. You’ll thank us for the advice!

Eat at Home

Ditch the college meal plan and just say “no” to eating out. Instead, put your new kitchen to use, and cook at home. Simply by buying groceries, you can save hundreds of dollars per year on food expenses. Additionally, you’ll have more say on what types of food you eat, and may find that your diet is healthier and more sustainable (assuming you don’t simply load up on sodium-rich instant noodles, of course). Plus, as a young college student, cooking and eating at home is a perfect opportunity for socializing – whether you cook with friends, a significant other, or simply a study group, you can enliven your meals with good company.

Take Public Transportation or Bike

If you can avoid it, resist the urge to buy a car until you absolutely need one. Remember, a car payment is only the beginning when it comes to paying for a car; you also have to insure the vehicle and pay for ongoing vehicle maintenance, which can add up to thousands of dollars over the course of a year. Instead, take public transportation or ride a bike around campus. True, some towns and colleges lend themselves to this more than others, but if you find that you mostly stick to one area, you likely don’t need a car of your own. Not yet, anyway.

Split the Utilities (and Rent) with a Roommate

Don’t take on the financial burden of living off campus alone. Instead, move in with a roommate or two. Not only will you be able to split the rent, but you can split utilities as well (assuming your landlord doesn’t cover these costs for you; be sure to inquire before signing the contract so you know what your costs will be). Simply make sure that your name isn’t on all of the contracts, because this makes you legally responsible in the event your roommate misses a payment or runs out on you. If you want to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share, use a rent splitting calculator to estimate each person’s obligation.

Do Your Shopping on Craigslist

Shopping for furniture? Find it on Craigslist. Looking for a commuter bicycle? Find it on Craigslist. Looking for some basic appliances? Find it on Craigslist. For all things discount shopping, Craigslist is your friend! Sure, there are some things that you’ll want to buy new – a mattress, for example – but for many of the things that you’ll need once you move into your new place, you will find that Craigslist has them! And at greatly discounted prices, too.

Cut Out Cable (and Other Needless Subscriptions)

If you’re in college currently, there’s a good chance that you’ve already cut the cord on cable television. But have you considered the idea that with subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and HBO Go (not to mention Google Play Music, Apple Music, and Spotify), you aren’t actually saving any money? Yes, each of these services unto themselves are incredibly affordable – often less than $10 per month, in fact – but they only represent a bargain if you stick to just one or two. If you sign up for every service that comes across your desk, you could quickly find yourself spending $100 or more per month on services that you don’t need. Cut back!

Get a Prepaid Phone Plan

With prepaid phone plans, you can get all of the data, talk, and text that you need at a fixed rate. This will help you avoid unnecessary surprises on your phone bill at the end of each month. Plus, you may find that going with a prepaid phone plan is simply the cheaper, more convenient, all-around better option. If you are on an existing plan that you have had for years, and are paying the monthly bill without question, it may finally be time to start questioning it. Do a little bit of cross shopping and price comparison, and you might just find that there are terrific deals available. Stop paying as you go, and sign up for a prepaid plan today.

Watch What You Spend

One of the simplest ways to cut expenses when living off campus is to cut back on spending. Going to the bar, eating out with friends, buying new clothes, hitting up the local clubs, and spending extravagantly on weekend getaways can cost a lot of money. And this is before ever spending a penny on your recurring monthly bills. Don’t pay attention to your expenses, and you may find yourself digging a deeper and deeper financial hole with each passing month. Don’t let that happen. Use apps like Mint to budget accordingly, and embrace free (and affordable) pastimes and attractions, and you can take charge of your finances.

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Making The Move To College: Bargain Budget Must-Haves

There is no shortage of college preparation checklists and must-haves available on the internet. But as a soon-to-be college student who is preparing for an impending move on a tight budget, it’s a different story. With that in mind, here are some of the bare essentials you’ll need to live comfortably in college:

A Cozy Place to Sleep

After an all-night study session, there’s no place more comfortable than your bed. And since quality sleep has a strong correlation with academic performance, it is worth it to spend your hard-earned money on a quality mattress and bedding that you love. When it comes to buying a mattress, shop around and compare prices. Be sure to check online as well. While one may assume that it would be more costly to buy such a bulky item online due to shipping, it can actually be more affordable.

When it comes to bedding, you’ll need at least one set of sheets (or two if you have room to store a spare set), a down comforter, a duvet set and pillows (at least one for sleeping and a few decorative ones). If you’re going to splurge on one thing, it should be the pillow that you’ll sleep on. You can often save big on sheets with a set by Amazon Basics or find some at a discount chain like Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. When shopping for anything bedding-related, be sure to shop around, as there are many great deals to be had if you have time to seek them out.

Homey Flourishes

Finding decor items that you love can make your dorm room or new apartment feel like home and help ease the transition into college life. Start by getting a few nice picture frames that you can use to frame some of your favorite photos of friends and family back home. Opt for a collage-style frame that can hold multiple photos if you have minimal wall space to hang pictures. Find knick-knacks like quirky bookends or colorful candles to infuse a little more personality into your new living space. Add a cozy throw blanket to the end of the bed to add a little more warmth, both literally and visually.

Additional Storage

Few college living arrangements are known for their ample storage space, so be prepared to invest in storage solutions. A plastic three-drawer storage chest on wheels is ideal for storing everything from socks and t-shirts to dry food goods, like macaroni and cheese and canned soup. If floor space is especially limited, use one of these storage chests as a nightstand.

Cooking Essentials

The stereotypical college student of years past may have lived off of instant ramen noodle soup, but today’s college crowd is more health conscious. While you may eat most meals in the campus dining hall, it’s still worth spending a little money to outfit your new place with a few cooking essentials. All you really need is a mini refrigerator, a small microwave and a few bowls, cups, plates and cutlery. You can find the small appliances available at steep discounts during back-to-school sales or even on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

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4 Affordable and Relatively Easy Ways to Improve Your Campus Rental

After a year or two of living in the dorms, or commuting back and forth to college from your folks house, you finally have an apartment or rental home near campus. While you are excited to have your own place, you can’t help but notice that your new digs are pretty average looking. Fortunately, there are a variety of things you can do to jazz up your new home that won’t break the bank. For example, check out the following ideas; some you can even take with you when you move:

Change the Shower Head

If your shower head looks like it has seen better days, or perhaps about 20 tenants before you, you might consider switching out the shower head for a new and snazzy model that actually has a nice steady stream of water coming from it. As HGTV notes, head to your local home improvement store and pick out a nice-looking model maybe one with a bunch of settings. Then, when you are ready to move out, simply reattach the original one and take your shower head with you.

Install Security Cameras

A great way to set your mind at ease in your new place is to install security cameras. This way, when you are busy on campus and/or at your job, your home will be monitored 24/7. For example, Lorex offers an HD security camera that is weatherproof and budget-friendly. Unlike other companies that require you to sign up for endless contracts, you can buy Lorex cameras outright and install them around your new apartment or home. The cameras store a large amount of HD security footage that you can access remotely at any time, so if you head back to your folks’ during school vacations you can still check on your college home.

Paint the Walls

Many rentals tend to be painted in fairly neutral colors, like off-white or tan. To help make your new place feel like home, consider adding a fresh coat of paint to at least a couple of the walls. You should definitely check your lease first to see what the rules are about painting, but in many cases the landlords are fine with it if you agree to paint the walls back to their original colors before you move out. Start with an accent wall in the living room and if you like the way it looks, move on to your bedroom and bathroom; you will need to take the time to properly prep and wash the walls, but the end result will be worth it.

Add Throw Rugs

In a perfect world, your landlord should have had the carpets in your rental home professionally cleaned before you moved in. If this didn’t seem to happen, or if the carpets are still stained and torn in some spots, spring for some colorful area rugs. You can use the colorful small rugs to strategically cover high traffic areas of the home, and they also do a great job of hiding scratched hardwood – just be sure to get a slip proof mat for underneath the rug. Like the shower head and the security cameras, you can roll up the rugs and take them with you when you move. As a bonus, some area rugs are machine washable so if you spill your soda or coffee on them, you can take them to a laundromat and clean them up.

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Top 9 Money-Saving Dorm Room Essentials

studentdormFour blank walls, small closets, communal bathrooms and a stranger sleeping in an identical bed three feet from you. Yep, your first dorm room can feel more like prison than an awesome college experience. That’s why it’s essential to transform your dorm room into a nurturing and organized living space where your mind can thrive. Here’s how to invest wisely in dorm room luxuries that will save you money in the long run.

1. Coffee Maker

Kick your brain into high gear with premium coffee made fresh from your dorm room at a fraction of the coffee shop price. Get a capsule espresso maker and automated milk frother that will automatically create delicious espresso and microfoam. This will save you massive amounts if it helps you forgo visits to the coffee shop.

2. Storage Furniture

Furniture that doubles as storage will help you stay organized and comfortable. Storage cubes from Ikea are great for corralling everything from textbooks to clothes to hair products. Knowing where all your stuff is will discourage you from wasting money on duplicate items, and it may even lower your stress level.

3. Clothesline

Air-drying your clothes will save you quarters at the laundromat and reduce wear and tear on your clothes over time, saving you money on replacements. Invest in a foldable clothes drying rack or a portable clothesline from The Container Store that doubles as a cool display for photos, cards or artwork.

4. Refrigerator

Having a mini-fridge is handy for saving leftovers from dinners out. Plus, you are more likely to keep staples like yogurt and milk on hand for quick breakfasts rather than splurging at the corner bakery on your way to class.

5. Rice Cooker

Beside making rice quickly and easily, a rice cooker can be used to make oatmeal, soup, steamed vegetables, and a ton of other things. At just $1-3 per serving for a filling and nutritious meal compared with $10 or more at Chipotle, a rice cooker will save you money on eating out. It can also be a great way to heat up leftovers, and can be stowed away in a closet when not in use.

6. Lapdesk

Extend the life of your laptop by keeping your laptop’s battery cool as you study. Rather than propping your laptop up on a pillow or blanket, stay comfy and cool with a lap desk. Check out Pottery Barn’s selection that includes an internal storage compartment starting at $59.

7. Printer

The long line at the library printer won’t be an impressive excuse to your composition instructor when you turn your paper in late. Avoid stress and save money on printing costs by buying a wireless color printer/scanner/copier like the Canon PIXMA MG3520 or HP Envy 4520.

8. Alarm Clock

Avoid the harmful blue light from your cell phone late at night and early in the morning by opting for an alarm clock that gently wakes you with a simulated sunrise like Philips Wake-Up Light. Research indicates that waking up naturally to sunlight increases alertness, cognitive performance, and reaction times, meaning you could earn better grades, scholarships or work promotions. Say goodbye to that second senior year!

9. Water Filter

Filling a reusable water bottle with water from your dorm room will save you from buying disposable water bottles from the vending machine. In fact, you could save a ton, since some estimates state that people spend 10,000 times more on bottled water than on tap water. For better tasting and cleaner water than regular tap water, opt for an attractive filter like the compact Soma Water Filter ($29) or a portable water purifier like the Sport Berkey ($29).

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Creative Dorm Room Decorating Ideas For College

dormdecoratingLet’s face it, dorm rooms can be a very dull place. Cinder block walls, a plastic twin mattress and florescent light bulbs don’t scream cool or hip or have any of your creative flair. Consider the ideas and tips below to spruce-up this no-frills space into the room of your college dreams.

Hide the Floors

Add your personality from the floor up using decorative rugs, carpet squares or floor cushions. They can be eye-catching and bring texture and warmth to a white-washed bedroom. Just be sure to leave enough clearance for door swings and make sure you can navigate around the room safely. You’ll also need to purchase a small hand-held vacuum, especially for allergy victims. The last thing you want are allergens and dust mites building up!

Add Spice to Your Mattress

Make your standard dorm bed more luxurious with a headboard crafted from an old sheet or fabric and a sturdy piece of cardboard. It will add some punch to your all-white abode and can travel easily if you need to move rooms. When it comes to sheets, first check to confirm if your bed is standard or extra-long. Once you’ve determined the appropriate size, look for textured fabrics, which not only disguises any dirt or stains but also add interest to the room.

Be BFFs With Washi Tape

Washi tape, a colored paper tape, is an absolute essential when it comes to dorm room decor. Like painters tape, it can be removed without residue, meaning its a great temporary fix. Use it to line your shelves, to create make-shift frames for your poster collection, to add a geometric pattern to the back of your door or to customize storage boxes. If you really want to go washi crazy, A Night Owl has 100 ways to use washi.

Decorate Your Walls

You have nearly endless options when it comes to giving your dorm room walls a makeover. Accessories are typically reserved as gorgeous accents for your wardrobe, but consider displaying them in your room. Buy a few sticky hooks or a cheap bamboo ladder to add scarves, jewelry and head pieces. If you prefer to dress up your windows, add drapes or shades to bring pattern and color into your new space. Just use curtain rings and a decorative tension rod to stay within dorm room rules. Lastly, try removable peel-and-stick wallpaper in a bright, geometric pattern behind your bed or to line the sides of your standard-issue furniture.

Add Your Own Lighting

There’s nothing worse than those florescent fixtures. Eliminate the need for such harsh, overhead lighting with desk lamps or other task lighting. They will lend a softer glow to the room and reduce eyestrain, glare and mental fatigue, none of which are good for those late night study sessions. If you attend school in a city with a long, cold winter, consider adding a mood elevator light, which mimics natural sunshine. Lastly, for those night owls, respect your roomie and snag a compact LED lamp or focused reading light.

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How To Stay One Step Ahead Of Your Landlord

ForRentSignWhen you are a college student, it may be the first time you have an apartment of your own. This adult privilege carries adult responsibilities. When you make a point of not getting into trouble with your landlord, it can be a wonderful experience.

Read And Understand Your Lease

An apartment lease is not meant to be complicated. However, it is your responsibility to thoroughly read the lease, and understand the terms, before you sign your name. Do not make the mistake of glancing at the lease and signing it before you know its contents.

Everything you need to know about your rights and obligations should be clearly stated in the lease. If there is anything you do not understand, ask the landlord to explain.

Be Prepared To Abide By The Terms Of Your Lease

As a college student, never try to get away with violating the terms of your lease. Show your landlord college students are responsible adults by abiding by its terms. If it states you cannot have pets, do not hide a new pet in your apartment. If there is a specific time that renters and their guests are required to be quiet, do not have all-night parties.

When you follow the lease terms, you will avoid unnecessary difficulties with your landlord. You will also avoid eviction over a lease violation.

Always Pay Your Rent On Time

If there is one problem many college students experience, it is occasionally being short of cash. Paying your rent must be your priority. Landlords do not like tenants who make excuses, even if tenants feel the excuses are valid.

Whether you are working or receiving student aid, make sure to have cash in your bank account to cover your rent each month. You will avoid late fees, and not need to deal with your landlord.

Address The Subject Of Roommates

Some college students enjoy having roommates, while others prefer to live alone. Regardless of your preference, it is something you must decide before you sign a lease.

Landlords generally specify how many people can live in an apartment. If you intend to have one, your landlord must agree to this arrangement. Do not sneak a friend in, thinking the landlord will not notice.

Some roommate arrangements work better than others. If you decide you want a roommate, choose someone who is appropriate. The roommate should be as responsible as you are, and easy to get along with on a daily basis.

Do Your Part To Be A Good Tenant

When you attend college, you are ready to become a good tenant. Whether your apartment is near the college or you need to travel a short distance, the time you spend in your new apartment can be a pleasant experience.

Keep your apartment neat and clean, and avoid activities that disturb your neighbors. Do not leave your personal property in outdoor areas. Always lock your doors and windows when you leave your apartment. If you can be on friendly terms with your new neighbors, everyone will benefit. Your neighbors will like you, and so will your landlord.

College can be the best time of your life. While you are gaining an education and making new friends, it is also your first step toward independence. You can stay one step ahead of your landlord by being the kind of tenant he will appreciate.

College only happens once in a lifetime. This is also true for your first apartment. When you take your responsibilities seriously, you can avoid unnecessary problems. Attending college and renting your first apartment can be an experience you will always remember.

About The Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Joshua Turner. He is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to business. In this article, he offers real estate advice to students and aims to encourage further study with a real estate degree from Marylhurst University Online.

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5 Things You Need to Know When Moving Off-Campus

Young men moving houseYou just survived a long day of classes and your part-time job. You feel like collapsing, but there’s a pile of homework the size of Mount Kilimanjaro in your backpack, and you haven’t eaten supper. The last thing you want to do right now is walk back through the door of the dorm room you’re sharing with your randomly-chosen roommate and eight of his or her closest friends, who may or may not be having a jam session all evening. Steel guitar, anyone?

Moving off-campus definitely has its advantages: privacy and peace among the most valuable. But it can also be a bigger hassle and an extra load of responsibility. If you’re looking into moving out of the dorms and into your own digs this semester or next, here’s what you need to know.

1. There’s more to an apartment than meets the eye (or the price tag)

The price may be right, but if you’re renting an apartment in an older building, you might find out the hard way that it was insulated poorly and costs an arm and a leg to heat and cool. Research the cost of utility bills in the area before you sign a lease. You can do this by asking the owner or other residents who live in the same building or in similar units.

2. Research the parking situation

If you’re using a car to get from your new home to campus and back, you’ll want to make sure there’s adequate parking for your car. This might seem like a given, but not all apartments in college towns come with free, guaranteed parking. If you’re going to have to buy a parking pass or park on a long, narrow, crowded driveway, now is the time to find out.

3. Learn to cook

Up to this point, you’ve probably relied more on the cafeteria’s cooking than your own culinary abilities. But if you’re not much of a cook, now is the time to learn some basics — along with how to buy groceries effectively (and inexpensively). If you end up eating out all the time because it’s more convenient than buying your own food, you could end up breaking your monthly budget before the first 2 weeks are up.

4. Research the monthly bills you’ll have to pay

In the dorms, Wi-Fi was a given. So was heating and cooling, and maybe even cable in the student lounge. When you live on your own, though, you’ve got to handle all these details yourself — from paying for water and power to paying for Internet and cable TV. To lower the cost of your utilities, you can take steps to use them as wisely as possible. To ensure an affordable Internet connection and TV, compare cable and satellite providers to dig out the best deals in your neighborhood.

5. Dealing with Landlords 101

It might not be on your schedule of classes this year, but it’s something you need to learn: how to deal with your landlord about the property you’re leasing from them. The first step here is making sure you understand your lease. Read it, and ask questions. Get in touch with your landlord immediately if there’s a problem with the apartment like a broken plumbing line or another problem only an expert can repair.

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Staging The Graceful Exodus Of Your College Rental

animalhouseHave you ever tried to take a poster off of a wall, only to discover the pushpins left dozens of teeny holes all around? In hindsight, that probably wasn’t the best way to decorate your temporary space – but you longed to make it reflect your personality, even as a short-term home during college.

Recent statistics show that more people than ever are choosing to rent homes, particularly in well-populated cities. If you are one of them, you’ve probably questioned just how much effort to put into home decor, or how much you can get away with. A rental home deserves your attention and deserves to reflect your tastes just as much as a home you own. But how can you make that happen without possibly getting fined when you finally move out? Actually, there are plenty of ways to decorate a rental and leave it just the way it was – or better – when it’s time to leave for summer break.

Color Now, Chameleon Later

So, you don’t want white walls that look like a hospital room? Frankly, we don’t blame you. But remember that blood-red walls, floral wallpaper and psychedelic stripes won’t work, either. Instead, choose neutrals and lighter shades that are easier to paint over later – or even leave on the walls if your landlord likes it! Here are some shade suggestions:

  • Light blue
  • Eggshell or beige
  • Yellow
  • Light green

Keep in mind that the more neutral you go, the more likely it is that you can leave the walls painted (If you do a good job) upon your exit.

Accents Matter

Let’s say you aren’t going to paint the walls but you crave a splash of color in your rental. Don’t let white walls slow you down – get to work adding color with furniture, pillows, throws and other home accessories. In truth, your visitor’s eyes will be drawn to whatever you intend for your focal point of the room to be – and it does not need to be a wall. Here are some ideas regarding home furniture and furnishings.

  • Solid colored sofas and chairs – Pick a color palate for the sofas, chairs ottomans or other main furniture in your home. Whether they are brightly colored or more muted, remember that colors will offset the plain walls and give you a canvas to work with.
  • Patterns for pillows – Once you have your “canvas,” you can add patterns with area rugs, decorative pillows and cozy throws.
  • Other knickknacks – In addition to the furnishings of your home, try adding character to the room with colorful houseplants, books, candles and other fun accessories. They are easy to pack up when you leave and they can make a rental house feel more like a home.

Hang Time

So, you can’t make holes in the walls. What now? There are alternatives that don’t leave your walls looking like a slab of Swiss cheese.

  • Poster Putty – This sticky stuff is a fine alternative for hanging lightweight artwork, including posters (of course), unframed photos and small canvases.
  • Mounting tape – Most brands of mounting tape work fine to hold up art, and won’t damage the walls when you peel it off.

A Graceful Exit

When the time comes for you to move from your rental property, ensure that you will receive your deposit money back in full by leaving the home the way you found it, or even better. Here are a few things to take care of before you hand the keys in.

Clean the baseboards.
Have you ever looked down at the baseboards in someone else’s house and noticed how grubby and dusty they were? Well, imagine how much more the baseboards stand out when you remove your furniture and they are in plain sight. Dust and clean the baseboards before you leave the rental, and the whole place will look cleaner.

Plaster any holes.
Oops – you’ve got a hole in the wall. Luckily, you can fix it with a tube of spackling and some sandpaper. Simply fill the hole and sand it down. A little dab or two of paint and the wall will look like new.

Repaint if necessary.
If you painted the walls, make sure to find out whether you will need to restore them to their original color before you move out. Regardless of your landlord’s feelings about it, you may need a fresh coat anyway if the walls are marked and scuffed up.

Rental properties have plenty of potential when it comes to decorating – you simply have to be creative and willing to cover your tracks at the end.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Chris Long. He is a Home Depot store associate and has been helping renters, homeowners, and other property owners in the Chicago area since 2000. Chris also contributes advice on furniture decor for Home Depot’s Home website. His interests range from providing tips on living room furniture to information on closet storage, room dividers and end tables.

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