As a college student, you have the possibility to leave the familial house and start living on your own. Regardless of the reason–whether it is because of personal reasons or to seek independence–, choosing a student accommodation is a careful process that must not be taken lightly. It is even more true for students on a budget.
You will find below 5 questions you need to ask yourself to choose the accommodation that suits you the most, physically, emotionally, mentally and financially.
1.A small place or a big one?
It may seem to be a trivial question at first, but it does play in a big role in your choice. If you’re claustrophobic, you won’t waste your time looking for a small student room like those you get in dormitories. If you are the type to feel lonely in a big place and be scared every time you hear a suspicious sound, you won’t waste your time looking for a big apartment.
But it’s not just a matter of size preference. The size of the place will impact heavily your future way of living, choices and expenses.
No need to lie, small places will be cheaper than bigger ones in general (unless you live in one of the most expensive cities of your country). Moreover, if you live by yourself, you may end up wasting a lot of money by renting a big place.
How are you wasting money by renting a big accommodation, you may ask me? Through unused and unnecessary space.
Try to imagine for one minute how you could easily waste money on space you don’t even used. Living with our parents in a house or apartment pushed us to adopt the “each place has a specific role” mindset. Yet if you’re on a budget, you need to get rid of said mindset; you will save money.
Ask yourself whether you really need an apartment–with a bedroom, a kitchen, a living room and a bathroom–or not. If the only time you use the living room is when you watch tv, you don’t need one. Maybe you don’t even need your own kitchen.
I live in a dormitory, where I have to share a kitchen and communal bathrooms with other students. But hey, I don’t really have to use the kitchen at all. From my small dormitory room (which is pretty cheap), I can cook my own food with a small hotplate I bought for myself. I can also watch any movie I want without feeling the need for a living room. Even better, I don’t have to worry about an electricity or water bill.
You can do a lot from a small room, almost as much as what you can do in a bigger place, for way less money. So be sure to think carefully about what kind of place you want.
2.Do you mind sharing a place with someone else?
Sharing a place with other people can be a great way to save money by sharing the rent. However, it’s not an option for everyone. If roommates/housemates are way too different or completely incompatible, life will be hell.
You shouldn’t share a place with someone based on financial reasons alone. I talk from experience. I can’t tell how many times I’ve seen the kitchen and the bathrooms in a horrible state. Of course, the offenders never showed themselves but kept being disgusting all year long.
It’s a good thing we have cleaning ladies, but it doesn’t excuse their behavior. Don’t even let me start on how noisy some students are late at night. It made me realize that if I had been living in an apartment with them, I wouldn’t have been able to last a week.
So if you want to have roommates/housemates, be sure to choose someone who is compatible. If not, you would be better off alone. You may have to pay more, but you won’t have to deal with useless drama and unnecessary stress (which is what you definitely want to avoid in college!).
3.How far is it from your college?
When choosing a student accommodation, calculate how far it is from the college you enrolled in.
Prioritize accommodations which are close to your college over those which are far away. To save money, try to find a place close enough to be able to walk to your college.
The farther you are from your college, the more expensive it will be. You will have to spend money on means of transports (you may have to take more than one mean of transports). Moreover, you will have to arrange your schedule accordingly, which could become bothersome on the long term (if you end up lacking time because of long trips between your place and college).
Meteorological conditions are also a criterion to take into consideration. Living far away from college during winter–especially in countries where it snows–can become troublesome and may even prevent you from going to class.
Lastly, I would just like you to remember that living close to your college means getting more sleep.
4.Where is your desired accommodation located?
If the distance between your college and your student accommodation matters, your accommodation’s location matters as well.
You will preferably choose a place as close as possible to stores; this will prevent you from having to spend tons of money on gas or public transports, or waiting who knows how long until the next bus comes.
However, you should also make your own research on the city where you will study. Prices may not be the same depending on where you live in the city. Some areas will be cheaper than others, even though they are located in the same city.
It reminds me of the times where I used to make my own research on Montreal (I wanted to study there but never had the money to do so). I found a useful map on which the city was divided into several areas with different prices attached to them.
Those prices where averages of each area’s cost of living. I was surprised to see how you could unknowingly spend a lot of money for the basic things, when you could have spend much less in the area next to it.
Whether it is about accommodation or stores, make sure to make your own research. That way, you won’t have to explode your budget because of a lack of information.
5.Can you afford it?
This is the real question. This is the question you must ask yourself after you’ve answered the previous four questions and selected a few accommodations.
Remember that your expenses will vary greatly depending on the type of accommodation you live in and its location.
Remember when I told earlier that I didn’t have to worry about paying the electricity bill? It’s because I chose to live in a dormitory. That’s right, I made that choice knowing that I wouldn’t have to pay the electricity bill, although I have to bear the presence of some annoying students from time to time. I weighed the benefits and risks, and decided to go with it.
I have to pay €123.40 per month, and I don’t have to worry about charging my laptop from day to night or leaving my lights on for days. A pretty good deal, if I may say.
If you opt to live in an apartment, however, you will have to be careful about your bills (electricity, water, etc.). Moreover, you must not forget that not all your budget will go into your accommodation. You also have to buy food, pay the gas for your car (if you have one), pay various insurances, etc.
Luckily, each country usually helps their students. Your rent may be reduced due to your financial situation. You may also receive the help of external factors such as your parents.
Take all those factors into consideration and think carefully. If you believe you can afford the desired accommodation, go for it. If not, go to the next choice.
If you are now looking for your own accommodation, I wish you the best of luck and hope you can get the type of accommodation you wish for.