Costs to consider when moving off-campus

Thursday, October 29, 2020 Costs to consider when moving off-campus

Exterior facade of a multi-story apartment building.

Making the journey to rent an off-campus apartment or house can be exciting. It can open up the feeling of more independence, new opportunities, better proximity to work or other spots around town, and new friends. Yet there are also quite a few costs you may not anticipate when living in off-campus housing.

Here’s some costs to keep in mind while searching and comparing places to rent.

Initial Fees

You’ll likely have to pay a some money upfront, well before you even move in. Security deposits typically consist of one month’s rent and are intended to cover any possible damages while you’re living in the space. There may also be an application fee, which can be about thirty or forty dollars. Additionally, it’s a possibility the landlord may ask you to prepay the first month’s rent (or rent for both the first and last month of your contract). All of these costs can add up and it may be a bigger monetary commitment than expected.


Once you’ve secured a place to live, it may or may not be furnished. The price of furniture can be expensive, and all the necessary pieces to furnish an apartment really add up. Consider scouting out thrift stores, garage sales, and family or friends to pick up cheaper finds. Even if your space is already furnished, there’s a long list of needed kitchen and bathroom supplies that can accumulate some pretty large costs as well. Keep in mind the price of fully furnishing all parts of an apartment or house, as there are lots of little things that you may not think of before moving in.


Oftentimes utilities are not included in the price of rent, and the costs can make a large dent in your budget. Make sure to communicate with roommates about how to split up the cost of these bills, and ensure that everyone knows what the pricing is. Electricity, water, phone and cable, garbage services, and natural gas all fall under the umbrella of what you might be expected to pay for.

Cost of moving & renter’s insurance

Renting a moving van or hiring a moving company can skyrocket your costs. An alternative can be to gather some friends and family to help you on move-in day to decrease your expenses. It might take more time, but you’ll save a noticeable amount of money.


Depending where you choose to rent, complexes may require you to pay for parking on the property. Apartment complexes can cost around ninety or a hundred dollars monthly to park in their garage or lot. If you’re driving to campus, there’s the added cost of paying for metered parking or other university parking during your time on campus as well.


When living on campus, there’s always the added aspect of dining halls to serve all your meal needs. However, after venturing to off-campus housing, you’ll be responsible for your own groceries and dining. It’s tempting to eat out for many meals, but this habit adds up to a hefty cost in the long run. Instead, save a portion of your budget for grocery shopping and learn to make some easy meals at home. This will decrease the size of your food bill, which you can apply towards other expenses.


One of the fun parts of getting off-campus housing is the opportunity to have your own pets. While this does seem enjoyable, consider first if it’s a worthwhile investment. There can be a sizable upfront fee as well as monthly payments to house a pet within your space. Aside from landlord requirements, there are also food costs, vet appointments, adoption fees, and medication costs to consider before committing to any animal friends.

Lease Term Length & Subletting

More than likely, you’ll be expected to sign a 10- or 12- month lease. This means if you aren’t planning on staying in town for the summer, that’s a solid three months of rent money going to waste. One option is to sublet out your apartment for the summer season, but this can be a struggle to arrange, and you’ll need to start searching early on for people interested in subletting. You also may not be able to charge them the full amount of rent, and might not get approval to sublet from your landlord.

Cancellation Fees

If a situation arises where you need to leave town or can’t stay in your rented property anymore, apartment complexes charge large fines for backing out of your lease. Alternatively, on-campus housing doesn’t charge cancellation fees for students canceling their contract to study abroad, leave for an internship, graduate, or go on military leave. They also offer increased flexibility by only requiring a 30-day notice for cancellation with no additional fees. As you weigh your options, you can decide whether you can commit to staying on your lease for the full term, or if might be worth reconsidering moving off-campus.

Student Legal Services can review your lease contract

ASUN Student Government's Student Legal Services (SLS) consists of three attorneys who offer free legal advice or representation to UNL students. This program is already funded by student fees.  You can request an appointment with an attorney to review your lease for any potential unfair agreements or future legal troubles. All services are provided remotely right now. Also, their online legal handbook provides some general information concerning landlords and tenants. 

UNL's Financial Well-being Ambassadors can advise you on budgeting & financial questions 

To help you determine if off-campus living is a financially-sound decision and for budget-planning assistance, make a free appointment with a financial well-being ambassador.

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