Let’s be real, college is expensive; and now-a-days, the price tag for a college education includes a lot more than just tuition. Classes cost a pretty penny, but one underrated cost of that education is college housing. Even then, housing encompasses more costs than just a bed and a bathroom. According to CNN, “The average cost for room and board is $8,060 a year at community colleges, $10,440 at public colleges, and $11,890 at private institutions.”

At the end of the day, the Homies team wants to help you find the best living situation possible – and we encourage you to be sensible about future roommates, neighborhoods, and finances. So in the spirit of fiscal responsibility, we’ve come up with 5 ways to help you stop overpaying for college housing:

  1. Move off-campus. This may be the most obvious of the five bullet points in this post, but generally, it’s cheaper to live off-campus than on-campus. Students tend to find bigger homes with more space for roommates, and usually, with more roommates comes cheaper rent. Splitting utilities and rent helps reduce the costs of college housing — but just because a place is cheaper than the dorms doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. Be sure to do your research in advance and thoroughly!
  2. Become an Resident Advisor (RA). Every college or university has its own rules regarding college housing; and whether you’re required to live on campus, or just like being close to your classes, there are ways to save cash without moving off campus. Often times, schools will cover room & board for students who serve as Resident Advisors. No rent, utilities, parking passes, no paying for meal plans. I mean, saving ~$10k/year isn’t a bad gig, even if you have to watch after a floor of college kids in the process.
  3. Elect for the cheapest meal plan. Your board is almost equally as expensive as your room in college, but if you think about it, modifying your meal plan is one of the easiest ways to save big on college housing costs. Regardless of on-campus or off-campus housing, if you choose the cheapest meal plan and/or substitute campus food for that which you purchased in bulk or made yourself, you’ll save a sizable amount of money.
  4. Furnish your apartment sensibly. If you have to furnish an apartment, look to friends, family, and Facebook. Ask friends that are graduating if they’re willing to sell you their couches, coffee tables, dressers  – chances are the price will be cheap and they’ll be looking for some extra cash. For your kitchen, ask members of your family if they have extra pots & pans, baking sheets, utensils, etc. that they can spare. And if all else fails, look to see if your school has a variation of a “Free & For Sale” page for used and/or discounted furniture. You can read more on this topic via our 7 Tips for Decorating your Dream Apartment on a Budget.
  5. Leave the car at home. Another underestimated cost of college housing is having a car. Aside from car and insurance payments, the cost of parking on-campus or at your off-campus apartment can really add up per month. It’s important to evaluate your options as most colleges offer transportation options for students to-and-from campus. Need to go somewhere off campus? Ask a friend, carpool, take a ride-share service. There’s always a way to get where you need to go!

Whatever college housing decision you make – on-campus, off-campus, or living at home – ensure it makes the most sense for you your current situation. And as always, if you’re looking for potential roommates in your area, download Homies to start your search!