By Jillian Fikkert and Lola Zimmerman

As a first-time college student, it’s likely that off-campus housing will serve as your very first apartment. Moving into your own space can be exciting, but it comes with a new level of fiscal responsibility. Though it may seem like never-ending bills at first, living off-campus can actually help save you money in the long-term. Below are just a few tips to set you up for future financial success in your new apartment:

Choose a fiscally responsible roommate. Unlike dorm living at most universities, you will have the option to choose your roommate with off-campus living. When it comes to finding the right roommate, you want to make sure that aside from having compatible personalities and lifestyles, you are able to equally split the costs of household bills. Choosing a roommate who is both capable and reliable when it comes to paying living expenses is a choice that leaves your pockets happy and your mind at ease. You should also inquire about flexible and independent lease terms to add another layer of protection in case you and your roommate run into unexpected circumstances.

Build your credit. Speaking of household bills, it’s important that you pay them on time. Keeping a calendar of who is responsible for which utilities and when payment is due is bound to keep you on track. Consider getting a low-limit credit card with a low-interest rate to pay some of your monthly bills. Doing so will allow you to build good credit, setting you up for larger purchases and financial success as you grow into the next phase of your life following graduation. Not to mention, automatic bill pay is available from most major providers, ensuring you never miss a due date.

DIY room decor.  Unlike living in a dorm, you have more leeway to personalize your living space in an apartment. For a budget-friendly decor alternative, we recommend you do it yourself (DIY). Personalized doormats, string and embroidery wall art, desk organizers, headboards, makeshift shelves, and bookcases — you name it. You would be surprised by how you can upcycle old items with a little time and creativity. This fun-filled way of creating furniture will leave you with one-of-a-kind decor that costs a fraction of what new furniture would.

Enjoy eating at home. We all know as a busy student it’s convenient to purchase ready-to-eat, on-the-go food options on campus or at nearby fast-food restaurants, but that’s neither frugal nor healthy — regardless of if you have a meal plan or not. In fact, according to a survey published on affordablecollegesonline.org, the average college or university charges $4,500 or more per year just for a meal plan. When you live off-campus, you can take advantage of your own fully-equipped kitchen where you can prepare fresh and healthy meals to last you several days. Buying your food in bulk and meal prepping can benefit your health and wallet. Plus, the options are endless!

Take advantage of building amenities and free events. A lot of off-campus housing offers amenities such as a pool, fitness center, business center, study lounge, clubhouses, game rooms, resident patios with grilling stations, and more included in your rent or for a small fee. Utilizing these can save you a lot of money on extracurricular activities. Additionally, be sure to take advantage of the free social events offered on the property. For instance, at The Villas at Bryn Mawr Apartment Homes, one of our Pennsylvania communities serving Villanova University and several other local college students, we host events such as the following: “Lucky to Live at The Villas,” a St. Patrick’s event at Kelly’s Taproom — a local bar; Back to School BBQ; March Madness during Villanova’s basketball season; Victoria Secret’s PINK event; Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday events featuring food trucks; and many more. Participating in these is a great way to meet new people while saving on the cost to go out.

Effective budgeting while living off-campus is one of the first steps to gaining independence. If you create healthy habits now, post-college life will seem far more manageable. Here’s to adulting.

Jillian Fikkert, Director of Property Marketing, and Lola Zimmerman, Regional Manager, both work for Morgan Properties, one of the nation’s largest apartment owners and operators with 300 apartment communities and over 75,000 units located in 15 states primarily in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Region.

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