Living on your own for the first time is one of the most daunting things that any reasonable person can think of. Without the familial support net that most people rely on or the help of school facilities to keep you afloat, most newly independent students tend to make seemingly obvious mistakes. Without any sort of help, stress levels rise while bank accounts and credit scores plummet into the red. In an effort to mitigate these descents into college student debt and insanity, here are some basic tips and anecdotes that can help to alleviate the worries that come from living on your own for the first time, away from the constant support of school housing and the people who raised you.
Essential to living alone is making sure that you have your utilities and bills set up in advance. Utilities companies such as AT&T or Riverside Public Utilities are all willing to set up activation dates well ahead of time. So, when you go to attach your address to an account, make sure that all of your amenities are waiting for you on the day you choose to move in. Additionally, if you have multiple roommates, take one utility bill apiece. This way, not only does the mail get checked (sometimes obsessively) by everybody, but then everyone has a chance to develop their credit scores by making their monthly bill payments.
Another thing to consider is buying floor and desk fans. Air conditioning is a quick path to a huge electric bill, but floor fans wind up costing much less. Pay attention to the wattage of these and any other appliances you buy to keep overhead costs as low as you want to keep the temperature in your house or apartment. Riverside may be a desert, but even Mother Nature can’t beat a fan blasting you with high-speed air.
Unless you already have an extremely well-paying full-time job, you will probably make a significantly small amount of money for the average household. Use this to your advantage and explore the various low-income plans that utility companies often have for their customers. These plans can alleviate the costs of electric, water, gas and any other bills that you will have to start paying.
On that note, to quote every stereotypical old person in every poorly written movie ever, “Get a job!” If you think you’re too busy with schoolwork and your clubs to work a part-time job, you’re more than likely not. On a personal note, I manage to work two jobs while regularly attending club meetings and balancing four classes for my two majors. As long as you can reliably manage your time, you’ll find that balancing your student life with everything else is far from impossible.
Apart from the necessities and tricks of working and paying your bills, knowing how to work around a night out on the town is a great way to keep from breaking the bank. You don’t need to go to the Getaway Cafe for every football game during the season, and if you do, then go with a group so you can pool together for food. Eating out will drain your bank account quicker than anything else due almost entirely to how often the temptation arises (especially when you consider the sheer amount of food options in and around campus). Make your meals at home and save the leftovers for lunch. Moreover, unless it’s a special occasion, you probably don’t need to go to the movies or spend any money to be social. Invite friends over for a movie night and have everyone bring food to share. Potlucks are cheap and also give you a chance to make fun of how bad another friend’s cooking is while everybody praises the amazing pigs-in-a-blanket that you whipped up.
When all is said and done, saving yourself money is easy, provided you take the time to tighten your belt. Learning the difference between necessity and desire isn’t always easy, but if you follow these tips and make some of your own rules, you might be able to get away without destroying your credit scores for the future and having to rely on aid refunds to keep you afloat.