Bills, bills, bills: Get your wallet ready to live off campus

Whether you have chosen to live off campus next year, are considering it next school year or are about to graduate and move out on your own, there are some things you should do to make sure that you don’t get yourself into financial trouble.

Oftentimes, before you move into an apartment, you’re required to pay a security deposit. A security deposit is typically the cost of one month’s rent and is paid to the landlord in order to protect them from the cost of damage the tenant(s) may cause to the apartment.

If you are required to pay a security deposit, make sure you know the terms and conditions. You’ll want to make sure you understand what you’ll have to do to get the deposit back, such as an apartment inspection upon moving out.

You will also want to document any existing damage to the apartment to make sure that you don’t get charged for it in the future. Be sure you keep records of any money you pay to the landlord by getting a copy of the cashed check from your financial institution or the receipt, if you paid by money order.

Think twice before paying in cash, as it isn’t quite as easy to track. If you do pay in cash, make sure you get a written receipt from the landlord so that you have documentation of the payment.

In addition to your monthly rent, you will want to prepare for the cost of utilities such as water, sewer, trash, electric and/or gas. Take time to review the lease agreement to see who is responsible for paying each utility.

Once you know what you’re responsible for, you can contact utility companies, your landlord or past tenants to ask what the average monthly cost is for each utility.

If you find that heating costs in the winter tend to cause electric and/or gas bills to increase substantially, you can ask your utility companies about budget plans, which help to even out the cost of utilities each month. You should talk to your utility companies and roommates to determine if this is a good choice for you.

Before moving into your apartment, you may also want to consider creating a written agreement with your roommates as to how you will manage your joint bills. Your landlord may accept multiple checks for rent or want everyone to pay on one check. You’ll need to determine whose name will go on the utilities.

You’ll also need to decide if you’re going to purchase a cable or internet plan. In addition, you’ll need to discuss potential cost sharing for furniture, groceries and household necessities.

If you have a car, make sure you understand any parking requirements or restrictions that are put in place by either your landlord or the township. Also factor in any increased cost for maintenance, insurance and gas if you are bringing a car with you.

Planning ahead and understanding the full expense of living off campus during school or after graduation will allow you to create a spending plan that will keep you on track financially.

The content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. PSECU recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal or other professional, if you have questions.

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