4 Things to remember about off-campus housing
By Aneesh Chatterjee
Posted on August 3, 2021
Living off-campus is a challenging and rewarding experience for any student in Canada. For many, it’s their first time being independent and responsible for themselves. Here are four things to keep in mind about living off-campus.
While you would have your meals prepared by your institution’s cafeterias if you bought a meal plan (which is often mandatory if you choose campus housing), living by yourself or with roommates means you have to buy your groceries, and prepare your own food. This may either be cheaper or more expensive than a campus meal plan, as there is a wide range of grocery options in Canadian cities with varied price ranges.
It’s up to you if you want to make the commitment to do grocery shopping, budget your money for food, cook and prep meals, or spend money on takeout or restaurant food—which is what many students end up doing for the sake of saving time.
Deposits and added bills
Some places may ask you to put down a deposit, which is usually your first and/or last month’s rent at the beginning of your stay. While this doesn’t increase the grand total cost for your stay, it may be difficult to put down what is essentially double the monthly rent upon moving in. That is a potential challenge you might face, along with being responsible for your hydro, water, heating, gas, and wi-fi bills. However, as mentioned before, it’s possible to find listings where these bills are included in the rent price—so you don’t have to pay them separately.
Commuting to campus
Trying to find housing within your budget is always a challenge, especially because of how many students are searching for housing along with you. You may find something you can afford which puts you a good distance away from campus. This means you’ll have to commute using public transit. In general, residences tend to be more expensive if they’re closer to your campus, so a relatively cheap accommodation may mean you’ll have to travel a bit to get to your classes.
If this is the case (and the distance isn’t walkable), you must consider the costs of taking the bus or subway every day, and work that into your monthly budget. In these cases, it’s a good idea to buy a monthly pass for your local transit network (so you don’t have to keep refilling your cards or buying tickets), which often come with student discounts. To learn more about public transit, you can read The Newcomer’s guide to transportation for students.
While it may be appealing to have total privacy in your residence, there are great benefits to living with one or more roommates. Splitting the rent with your roommate(s) can greatly reduce your financial burden, and even allow you to live in more expensive areas closer to your campus. Sharing grocery costs and meal preparation with your roommate(s) can make things much easier on your food planning. This ensures that you don’t have to rely on cheap, unhealthy junk food to get by, which can negatively impact your health. Roommates can also help you pay for utilities, wi-fi, and any other household amenities you decide to buy and use together.
Making friends in your new city is the best and fastest way to quickly learn how to navigate your new life, and roommates can be an excellent source of guidance and companionship. If you happen to get a roommate who is a domestic student, it can be a great way to learn about the social culture in Canada.
Roomies.ca is a great website to search for hosts looking for an additional roommate. You can also advertise your residence so that potential roommates can contact you. Facebook housing groups for students exist for nearly every institution. Kijiji.ca is also a great website to both advertise your own residence asking for roommates, or browse other peoples’ posts and look for a place to stay.