Alternatives to Dorm Living That Save Money



My freshman year of college was a strange experience. Boise State University, famous for its blue astroturf, had a severe student housing shortage the first year I attended. Despite planning well in advance, I received news only a few months prior to my first term that I wouldn’t be able to live in student housing. There simply weren’t enough dorm rooms up for grabs.

And I’m not alone in this; this isn’t a new phenomenon.

Student housing shortages are an ongoing issue that schools have been struggling to balance for decades. This results in students having no choice but to bunk up in overpriced hotel rooms or scramble to find a place to live.

My options were limited and more expensive than a standard dorm room. I had the choice to live in an upscale hotel, located miles away from campus, or figure something else out in a short amount of time.

Luckily, I had some friends who let me couch surf for my first semester. But I realize not everyone is this fortunate.

If you find yourself in a dorm shortage situation, these options will help you get through it without breaking the bank or tacking on extra student debt.

Let Family Help

This may not be the most glorious option, but ask yourself, “What’s worse? A few more years with your parents or a boat load of extra student debt from living expenses?”

There’s no shame in living at home. In fact, Millennials are doing it now than ever. More than half (about 54%) of current college students are making the choice to save money and live at home.

While it’s common for students in the U.S. to ‘leave the nest’ as quickly as possible, other countries around the world don’t necessarily share this mindset.

In the Netherlands, college students usually live with family while getting a degree. They even have special community living programs that span generational gaps. Grandparents, parents, their kids, and other family members all live in harmony. And they save a ton of money while doing so!

Related: 7 Off-Campus Housing Tips for College Students

Consider Buying a Home

While this is not a realistic option for all students, buying a house can pave the way to future financial success.

The first step usually involves weighing the pros and cons of renting vs owning a home. If you qualify to buy a house, will paying for it actually be realistic? Will you be able to get something as huge as a home loan?

An article by HomeBridge points out what is perhaps the biggest speed bump in the home buying process:

“73% of people surveyed said they thought the difficult part of the process was going to be the mortgage application and approval process. In other words, they thought that getting the actual loan to buy the house was going to be the most difficult part of the process.”

But for many people, even college students, getting a home loan isn’t actually that difficult. And if you have a clever approach, buying a home can save you money over time.

Student homebuyers are achieving this by renting out rooms of their homes to their friends and using the rent money to cover their mortgage costs. This is a mutually beneficial way for many people to come to a housing solution. Friends have a place to live, the homebuyer gets part or all of their home loan payments covered; everyone wins!

Group Living Situations

If you don’t mind living with people, there are numerous ways to save money through group living.

Apartments and home rentals are obviously cheaper when the cost is divided. So something as simple as finding a roommate or two can save you a substantial amount of money.

Co-op living situations are also an emerging trend in group housing solutions for students. They have become widely popular and are somewhat similar to the feel of dorm floors. It may also be possible to save money by living in a sorority or fraternity house, although this isn’t a typical option for college freshmen.

Related: 5 Strategies for Better Roommate Relationships

Unusual, Yet Frugal Approaches

Some students are taking slightly less practical approaches to save money on the costs of housing. These solutions may not be ideal for everyone, but they are eco-friendly and save copious amounts of money.

Tiny houses, which are micro-sized homes focusing on utilizing all possible space, have become commonplace. People are realizing that they can build a custom, smaller home for a fraction of the price. Furthermore, some people are even choosing a more mobile life and living in an RV.

For those more in touch with their inner ‘mother nature,’ earthships are literally a dirt cheap option. These homes are usually totally off the power grid and are constructed with natural building supplies and recycled materials such as tires, bottles, and plastic bags.

Some colleges even go as far as offering courses that teach the design principles of alternative green homes. How cool would it be to learn how to build your own environmentally sustainable home?

I challenge you, the more-than-likely-broke college student, to weigh all possible scenarios. How will you save money through cost-effective or alternative living situations? Just remain open-minded, who knows what unique living situations may present themselves to you!

Robert Parmer is a freelance web writer and student of Boise State University. Outside of writing whenever he has spare time, Robert enjoys creating and recording music, caring for his pet cat, and commuting by bicycle whenever possible. Follow him on Twitter @robparmer

One comment on “Alternatives to Dorm Living That Save Money”

  1. You can also stay with your relatives if they live near your campus. Though you might feel you’re missing some independence, it is a great option to consider if your budget is tight. It’s hard to recommend buying a home as a good option for college housing. Besides the fact that only a tiny minority of college students would qualify for a mortgage, buying a home when you are in college and likely to relocate upon graduating could be a very costly move.

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