Everything in life has a flip side. Living in a dorm room takes care of many things, from meals to room maintenance to bathroom cleaning, giving you the space you need to do other things. But there are some prized things you don’t get when you live in a dorm: freedom and privacy. Freedom to live life as you see fit and privacy from people nosing around in your business are two things you get when you live in a rental room. Regardless of whether your school has accommodation for you throughout your graduation years or not, it makes sense to become more self-sufficient by living on your own. However, since this is the first time you’re going to be living independently, keeping in mind the following 10 things can help make the shift from on to off-campus a learning and rewarding experience:
1. Be prepared for more responsibilities
As mentioned earlier, when you live in a dorm room, you have fewer responsibilities to think about because the school takes care of them. For instance, do you think about what you’re going to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Or how you’ll replace the showerhead or the broken lightbulb in your room? No! Meal plans take care of all your meals while the maintenance staff takes care of things in need of repair.
But expect things to turn completely around when you move into a rental room. You’ll have to scout your neighborhood and make sure you find basic amenities, such as grocery stores, banks, post offices, dry cleaners, diners, and so on. Not just that, making your meals, paying your bills, and cleaning the rental space you live in will be solely your task. Are you up for it? We’re not trying to scare you, but you need to ask yourself whether these additional tasks will help you balance your personal life with your school life or add more stress to it.
2. Look forward to privacy
The rental space you choose will include a room you call your own, and you might have access to a bathroom if you’re the only one living there. Living in a rental room gives you the freedom (with restrictions) to customize the space to your liking because certain things may not suit your tastes. Adding carpets, dual-purpose furniture, and a few portraits, can transform the space from a room to a home, and give you the much-needed privacy to do your own thing without anyone’s prying eyes or judgment!
So, look forward to a private life, depending on who you allow into your life and home.
3. Expect to spend more and set a budget
As far as essential furniture items such as closets, dressers, tables, and beds go, dorm rooms have most of them, so you have a big responsibility taken off your hands on-campus. You might be pressed for space, but you have everything you need to live comfortably. In other words, your expenses are minimal.
The situation’s very different for a rental space because you need to set up your new home with basic furniture items and have a few utensils for the kitchen. You may want to consider making your meals at home because eating out regularly will exhaust your funds.
Therefore, it’s wise to set a budget even before you start room-hunting so that you know how much you have and how much you can spend. Everything from rent to security deposit to utilities to groceries to travel expenses needs to be factored into your budget. Let’s not forget the costs of beautifying the rental space as well!
Whether you live alone or with roommates, remember that you’ll end up spending a lot more than you used to while living a dorm life.
4. Brace yourself for less of a social life
When you live off-campus, it’s natural for you not to meet your friends and fellow students regularly because you’ll be spending a substantial amount of time in your new home and neighborhood. So, the less you meet people, the less your chances are of hanging out and having fun. This is perfectly fine for loners who wish to get away from people and prefer spending time in their own company.
While extroverted people may miss fraternizing on campus, they’ll be able to strike up friendships with their roommates and neighbors in no time at all. But for those who are reticent and have a small circle of friends, to begin with, might find the lack of company challenging to cope with. So, take some time to reflect on whether you’re fine meeting friends and acquaintances occasionally or do you need to be around them all the time.
5. Search for a proper rental room
Since this is your first rental space, you may not have any idea whether you should look around for the ideal place or settle on the first rental room that appeals to you. It’s always a great idea to spend as much time as you need and look up as many rental rooms as possible before finalizing one that meets your requirements. Today, most rental spaces are searched online, so multiple websites and apps can help you find what you’re looking for. While we’re on the subject of apps and portals, be sure to check out Cirtru, the most reliable and trustworthy rental room finder in the USA!
Remember not to trust everything you see or read online, so explore the rental rooms you like to determine if what the landlords are offering is indeed what you’re getting. It makes sense to attend several open houses or request private tours from your prospective landlords. Even better, prepare a list of questions you want to ask them about the rental application process, the paperwork involved, the fees required, amenities provided, among other things. Don’t hesitate to ask away because this is your first time renting, and you don’t want to be taken for a ride. Do a little digging for more information, and trust your instincts if you find anything amiss.
Also, ask your landlord about the steps they’ve taken to ensure the security of the rental space. Check for yourself whether the windows and doors lock well and the door locks are changed frequently. Safety should be a top concern when you’re room-hunting.
6. Find a suitable roommate
While living independently is an excellent option, you may not find it feasible because of skyrocketing expenses. So, to make sure you don’t end up borrowing from friends and family at the end of every month, search for a suitable roommate to share costs with.
Also, while living in a dorm, your roommate was pre-selected by your school. In this case, while you have the freedom to choose whoever you want, you want to ensure that you can live with them without being at each other’s throats all the time! Screen potential roommates, but remember that a familiar face may not make a perfect roommate. Meet them someplace outside and get to know them by asking them questions about their lifestyle and preferences, cleaning habits, splitting rent and utilities, study routines, and other relevant issues. Make sure you discuss and agree on the solutions for the most pressing problems and set expectations upfront.
7. Have a roommate agreement in place
The perfect way to ensure that you and your roommate follow all the action items in your in-person meet, is to create a roommate agreement and add the discussion points you both agreed on. Remember to add the expenses you both need to pay, the due dates and amounts, noise levels to be maintained, guests who can be entertained and their duration of stay, cleaning areas and cleaning duties, their days and time slots, and so on.
Both of you need to read it, see if you’re okay with the draft or if it needs more changes, add or remove items, and sign the document. If you follow what you have on paper and remain within your set boundaries, you both should be good to go!
8. Think about your meals
Since you’re living off-campus, you may not be entitled to the entire week’s meal plan. While the school may not have served the best meals, at least you didn’t have to arrange three main meals of the day and barely had to spend money.
Of course, if we look at the plus side of living off-campus, you have the luxury of a kitchen and basic appliances. But to cook and eat something, you need ingredients, which require a visit to the grocery store and lugging the items home. But that’s a compromise you’re going to have to make against eating out occasionally because you’ll end up being penniless in no time!
So, what’s the solution? See if your school can help you enroll in the five meal-per-week plan. If you’re successful, you can have one meal, lunch or dinner, every day on campus, which means you don’t have to test your culinary skills that often and can save on grocery expenses!
9. Select a transportation mode
The rental space you live in may or may not be close to your school. If it’s just a stone’s throw away, you can walk down or bike to school if you feel like it. If you or your roommate has a car, you can share the gas and car maintenance expenses and use it to commute to school. If you don’t and your rental room’s a few miles away from school, you need to find alternative transportation.
Most cities have well-established public transit systems, so you can find out about the bus routes, cabs, or ridesharing services such as Lyft and Uber and learn to use them. The bottom line is that you can make it work whether you live close to school or farther from it.
10. Buy renters insurance
Although tenants know about renters insurance, they don’t think they need it for various reasons. When you move into a new rental space, you’ll be investing money in buying things to set up your room. You’ll also be carrying some expensive items such as your phone and laptop. Renters insurance will ensure that these items are protected should a fire burn them down or they are stolen. Instead of assuming that nothing can go wrong and taking a considerable risk that you may not be able to recover from, buy a renters insurance policy and safeguard your belongings.
So, are you all set to move from your on-campus dorm to your rental room? Or is something still bothering you? Remember, nobody’s a born expert, but they take chances and learn along the way, and so will you. Freedom gives you independence, but it also comes with its set of responsibilities. If you’re craving that independence, you need to embrace the duties. In the end, you’ll gather some exciting experiences that will help you in the long run.