One of the biggest decisions that college freshmen need to make is whether or not to live at home while attending college. If your university is far away from your home town, the decision is a pretty easy one, since you don’t have much choice. However, if you are attending school within an hour of your home, the decision has to be made. Here are some things to think about as you decide whether or not to live at home while attending college:
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Perhaps the biggest consideration when making this decision is cost. When you live at home, your meals are taken care of, you have access to free laundry facilities and you don’t (usually) have to pay rent. As a result, it’s pretty easy to save money while attending college. A university education is becoming almost prohibitively expensive, as evidenced by recent reports that show that student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt.
If you are concerned about reducing your college costs and avoiding student loan debt as much as you can, sticking close to home and living at your parents’ house may be the way to go.
Of course, money isn’t everything. There is a college experience to be had. Many consider it a rite of passage. It’s hard to get a true college experience when living at your parents’. On top of that, what about learning to live on your own? While living at college isn’t exactly the “real world,” it is an intermediary step between being totally dependent on your parents and developing your own financial independence. Living away from home while in college (even if your parents are only 20 minutes away) can be a good learning experience — and one that can help you begin to manage your own financial resources.
Another consideration is the time you spend commuting. If your parents live five to 15 minutes away from the university, the commute probably isn’t such a big deal. However, if you live more than 15 minutes away from your school, the commute can start to become wearing. That commute is time you could be studying or working, helping you make the most out of your college dollar. Don’t forget the gas money you will have to spend, as well as the wear and tear on your car. If you want to live at home, but have a bit of a commute, it might be wise to try and arrange your classes on two or three days of the week to increase the cost efficiency of your commute.
Reducing Your College Living Costs
If you decide to live away from home, there are some ways to reduce your college living costs. You can rent a room in a house with other students close to campus. You can also check with on campus housing for inexpensive dorm rooms. Instead of getting a meal plan that covers every meal, you can consider getting on or off campus housing with a kitchen. Or, if you have a non-cooking dorm, it is often possible to get a micro-fridge (a mini-fridge with a microwave on top) for some of your meals. Keep cereal (hot or cold) and milk handy for breakfasts.
One move I made was to work part time (dinner!) in the college cafeteria. That provided me with one meal a day. I was also a resident adviser for two years, and was able to get free housing that way. Look into what types of jobs are available that can help you save on college living costs, while providing you with a little extra cash.
In the end, the decision to live away from home during college is a big one. Examine your situation, and run a cost-benefit analysis. Then decide what works best for you.
Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds.