Student living Options – Part 1

For many students graduating high school the most pressing matter is where they will go to continue their education.  This decision will inevitably have a huge impact on not only their financial status, but probably how they will continue to grow as an individual.

“Should I stay or should I go?” The question every university student inevitably asks themselves.  Do you stay home and continue to prosper under the nurturing support and stability of your family?  Or do you bravely step forth into the Brave New World, ready to take on challenges as an individual?  While this decision making process includes weighing a lot of different pros and cons, it would be foolish to discount the affect it will have on your financial situation.

If you have never lived on your own before you are likely unaware of just how many advantages living at home has for your pocketbook.  Sure there are the obvious things like rent, but there are numerous other black holes of money you have probably never considered.  For example: laundry detergent, TV programming, internet bills, hydro bills, cell phone bills, parking, insurance, toiletries and most importantly groceries.

student living options
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Trust me, in terms of traditional home cooked meals kiss the good times goodbye.  If you leave home it will be a long time before you have access to the bevy of culinary activity that you have taken for granted for so long.  Most students have nowhere near the time, money, or motivation to make the variety of tasty meals they were used to at home.  Hello tomato paste on cardboard (also known as Dominoes Pizza)!   Don’t worry, it isn’t all bad.  The silver lining is that you will enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners all the more now.  You will also quickly learn the key phrases that will get mom to not only send the leftovers home with you, but bake an extra dozen cookies as well.  Stuff like, “I’m doing ok, but sometimes I’m a little lonely and I’m too busy to make myself many meals…don’t worry about me mom, I’ll be all right.”  And then break out the puppy dog look.  If you don’t have this look perfected yet, start practicing it in the mirror.

I personally chose to live away from home, and in an upcoming article we will be looking at the different options available to students if they do choose to leave the proverbial nest.  For me, the freedom was worth the price tag.  But make no mistake, that price tag was and continues to be considerable.  When you add up the expenses mentioned above it can quickly grow to a base number of something like $800-1K a month depending on your number of roommates (another variable to consider).

How far away from home will you live?  Sure those high class schools in exotic locations have great pamphlets and websites, but are you sure you want to introduce all of those new things into your life during a time that is notorious for being turbulent and challenging?  Beyond the emotional considerations, the farther you live away from home the more it will cost in terms of transportation back and forth.  Whether you are talking gas in a car or plane tickets home, the farther you move the more expensive it will be both in terms of time and money.  I personally went to university about 200km away from my hometown and it was a nice comfort zone for me.  I was far enough away to achieve the true level of independence that I wanted, yet close enough that going home on a weekend was not a major hit to the pocket book, or a sacrifice to study time.

I know people who wanted the experience of going to school in a sunny location, close to a beach, as far away from mom and dad as possible.  They usually have a lot of fun, but I had plenty of fun myself, and the key difference is that my good times cost a lot less.  Maybe that sort of university experience is worth that much to you; just remember how much those student loans will set you back.  Compound interest really begins to suck once you leave those protective walls of higher education.

On the other side of the coin, if my parents would have lived closer to Winnipeg, Manitoba where I attended school, my choice would have been much harder.  I still believe in the end I would have chosen to live by myself in residence and then with roommates, but the financial benefits of staying with the ‘rents cannot be ignored.  Even if your parents decide you should be paying a little bit of rent around the house you are still way further ahead, probably to the tune of $600 or so a month.  That adds up quickly over the 40+ months you will be in school.  A degree without the heavy student loans makes it so much easier to begin building wealth quickly as compound interest works for you in various savings and investment accounts, instead of against you in loan interest.

So is the allure of coming home whenever you want, eating whatever you want, and having friends over at all hours worth the cost of admission?  Is the adventure of moving to completely new surroundings worth the bills it will rack up?  Ultimately each student must weight the pros and cons for themselves and decide what will provide them with the most happiness at a price they can live with.

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