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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Choosing to live at home or not

Choosing to live at home or not during your post-secondary studies is a very important decision; financially, it may mean the difference between building savings or debts.  However, the choice is not always entirely yours; you may not have much choice.  For example:

-       Some people live far away from any college or university; the commute to and from the closest post-secondary education institution would seriously compromise their ability to study and therefore they need to live closer to campus

-       Some people choose to study a field not offered close to home; for example, there are very few veterinary schools in Canada so most students need to move to attend.

-       Your family situation may prevent you from living at home; some parents ask their children to move out at 18.  Or, if your family is abusive, you may not have the luxury of staying at home.
Before you start looking for other cities to live in, consider relatives and where they live; would it be possible for you to move in with an aunt who lives close to where your program is offered?  Paying rent to a relative will probably be cheaper than the rent paid to a stranger; as well there is the future possibility of a relative renting a room from your family, which will make budgeting for your family easier as well.  And overall, renting a room with a relative will be more physically comfortable than living in cheap student housing.

If you need to study away from home, consider your choice of city as well as your choice of institution (although in the case of veterinary schools, you will not have much choosing to do).  First of all, study carefully traveling between your home town (if you plan to return at all for holidays and summer) and your education town – will you have to fly or can you take the bus? Is the transportation easy or difficult to obtain?  Moving to Toronto from Victoria may seem like a fun idea until you have to pay for airfare whenever you are homesick.  As well, since you will most likely live in an apartment for at least part of your years of study, consider the cost of having to buy most of your furniture because you could not transport it in the back of mom’s mini-van because you choose a university three provinces away.

Also consider how expensive the city itself is: Toronto and Vancouver have exorbitant rent prices.  Winnipeg and Montreal are much cheaper.  Regina may not seem glamorous with its long months of winter, but with cheap rent and food, it may seem like a god-sent for the budget-minded student.  In your calculations of cost-effective cities to live in, consider the price of transit (some universities include free bus passes to its students, but not all), food (especially if you have dietary restrictions), rent, and utilities (lots of heat in Edmonton; not so much in Vancouver).  However, a warm winter coats and snow boots are not deal-breakers: they are a one-time purchase and can easily be less than $200 in total to purchase new.
Finally, look at possible dwellings while studying: is renting a room in a house instead of sharing an apartment possible to decrease the cost of living there? Are there inexpensive apartments to rent close to campus or will you need to commute to find affordable housing? 

Living away from home during your studies will be expensive – there is no doubt about it.  But even within the expensive propositions, there are ways to save by first choosing where you will live wisely.

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