Advice for Living Off-Campus

Students getting on an IU campus bus

Searching for your first apartment can be overwhelming. It seems like there are a million questions to ask and a million things to get. Being a part of such a huge campus, it can be hard to know where to begin your search. However, as I tackle my second year off campus, there are a few secrets I’ve learned along the way that I’m willing to share!

It’s never too early to start looking!

Competing with thousands of other students, it can be hard to check all of your boxes if you start too late. Apartments around Bloomington go fast, especially when you take into consideration location and affordability. Some places may even be booked out before the end of the first semester. Knowing which side of campus you want to live on is the first step: southeast/third street, downtown/Kirkwood, or northwest/stadium. A lot of locations are within walking distance to campus, and there are IU and city buses and shuttles that go to campus throughout the day. Once you’ve narrowed that down, establish a budget for rent and utilities and see where your options lie.

Students work on computer

Find people you can LIVE with.

I’m sure everyone has heard the horror stories about bad roommates…don’t let that be you! It’s impossible to know right away how easy it is to live with someone, so take the time to get to know them. Another thing to remember is that just because you get along with someone, doesn’t necessarily mean they will be a good roommate. Everyone has their own routines when it comes to dishes, cleaning, and other household obligations. Picking roommates who share similar tendencies as you helps to avoid conflicts!

Furniture and decorations can be affordable.

Whether you’re looking to achieve a certain aesthetic or just trying to piece together a living room, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg. Goodwill and the Restore are both perfect places to start looking for tables, desks, or lamps at an affordable price. For kitchen and dining utensils, I would definitely suggest shopping around local garage sales. They can be hit or miss, but a lot of times you can find full silverware sets, glassware, or even pots and pans. Lastly, don’t forget to check IU Classifieds and Facebook Marketplace! You never realize how many people are moving or downsizing and looking to get rid of furniture or a TV.

IU family loads a moving truck

Learn to use recipes and meal planning.

A very important aspect of living off-campus is cooking. Not being able to walk down the street to the dining hall anymore was a HUGE wake up call for me. Meal planning and making a weekly grocery list are the two biggest things I’ve learned since living on my own. I compiled a list of things I eat most often and keep it in the notes on my phone so I always have it. Every week, usually on Sunday, I go through and mark what I need and update my list. This prevents mindless wandering around the store and saves a lot of time. Meal planning is something that I’m still working on to save time in the kitchen after a long day. Pinterest also has a lot of different recipes for beginners that I look through when I am looking to switch up my meals!

Create a monthly budget.

My final tip for living off campus is creating a budget, whether it is weekly or monthly. Living in an apartment or townhouse comes with a lot of independent expenses that can add up quickly. Aside from rent, most places require a separate water, electric, and/or internet bill. They can vary, but generally they will be around the same amount each month. It can be beneficial to set aside money for bills and other necessities like gas and groceries. I would 100 percent suggest downloading apps for the stores you shop at most often. Kroger, Fresh Thyme, and Aldi all have apps so you can look up their weekly ads and compare prices. Ibotta is an additional app that my roommates and I use to earn cash back on products that we already buy!

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