College Apartment Costs Can be Cheap

With University of California (UC) tuition and fees running around $8000-$9000/year, and nationwide tuition also increasing, all college students have to find ways to save money.   Sure there are many ways students can go about finding financial aid, applying for scholarships, and taking out various loans to fund their education and save money, but I prefer to focus on the housing aspect of college.

From the chart below, you can see I tracked my apartment living expenses (for 5 years) that encompassed rent, electricity, water, and cable internet/TV.   My 60 month average of living off campus in the UC San Diego area averaged $294.62.  If I remove the one month that I subleased my room for a month during the summer, then my average increased to $299.62.  Either way, it’s very difficult to really beat under $300/month rent in a very nice area near UCSD and La Jolla.   During this time span, I live at Costa Verde Village and La Jolla Crossroads, both luxury garden apartments with swimming pools, jacuzzis, communal gym, and many other apartment amenities.

Cost/month for a 60 month time frame

Cost/month for a 60 month time frame

Keep in mind that I never felt I sacrificed the quality of living during the 60 months of living off campus.  I didn’t live in an area that was visually undesirable or live with an area that contains a high rate of crime and violence.  I lived within a couple of miles of UC San Diego and within close proximity to University Town Centre mall, Whole Foods (WFMI), Vons (SWY), Starbucks (SBUX), Ralphs (KR), and many restaurants.   During this time frame, I did relocate three times (twice within Costa Verde Village) and lived with four to six people in every situation.  How did I do it?

Look For Move in Specials

Most times, move in specials would be offered to attract new renters and these apartment complexes like Costa Verde or La Jolla Crossroads would offer a partial month free or a 10-20% price reduction compared to the “retail price.”  You can get an even better deal if you intend to move in a month right before the major influx of college students are looking for housing (late May/early June or late August/early September).

Find Apartmentmates, Especially Someone to Share a Room

Finding people to live with is extremely important if you want to save money.  Living with 4 or 5 people will allow the utilities to be split multiples ways and toward the termination of the lease, everyone will be responsible for any necessary cleaning fees.  Just finding a roommate to share a room should save you $3500-$4500 over the course of a year.   If you’re someone who can’t stand sharing a room, just consider the $4000 savings you could allocate toward investing, food, or other college expenses.

Try to Live in the Same Apartment For More Than a Year

The more people have to move, the more costs are involved like paying for overlap to ensure that you have enough time to move from one location to another.  For some people, they may be paying for two places for up to a month while trying to make the transition.  Also the time it takes to move is very bothersome and time equals money.  For those that are light travelers and don’t own much, this might not be as big of a factor, but those who own furniture and bigger items will have to consider the cost of renting a U-Haul or a truck.  At the apartment I lived at, living for at least two years ensured that painting cost at the termination of the lease would be free.  Make sure to find out these long term bonuses before you commit to a lease.

Sacrifice Common Area Space

While this might not be a practical situation for all people, I rented out our living room for the first half of the time I lived off campus, which equated to an approximate $3000 savings over the course of those 2.5 years.  This does cut into the communal area for social gatherings but to me, the savings outweighed the cost of losing that common space.  For the more ambitious savers, renting out the dining room will also generate some additional savings.  I rented out a space (enough to fit a mattress and desk) near our dining table for about four months which yielded another $250 in savings.

Look For Subleasers While Leaving the Apartment for Extended Amounts of Time

There are kids looking for sublease situations while they are in between leases or just looking to rent for a summer session.  They can easily be found through Facebook marketplace or the housing section of Craigslist.  A lot of times, you can sublease your part of the apartment out for more than what you pay because people will pay a premium for a short term rental situation.  I would only consider subleasing if you intend to be away for at least one month.  Any less seems like too much of a hassle for the savings.

Sure, there are many other factors you have to consider when looking for an apartment or townhouse while in college but costs definitely should be within the top of your priorities.   Apartment chemistry, roommate habits, and proximity to campus should also be factored but are more case dependent on the individual.   Happy renting.


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