The ins and outs of apartment living

IMG_6920This year Arkansas Tech University is yet again at record enrollment. Returning students with housing contracts were given the option to void the contract to make more room for the incoming freshman.

As a junior, I was already planning to move off campus. For those of you who decided to stay on campus but are contemplating the move in the coming semesters, I would love to fill you in on all the hidden costs.

No one ever told me just how expensive apartment living is. Yes, it is cheaper than on campus housing in the long run. But a lot of things go into starting up an apartment.

Applying

Before you do anything, you have to apply for the apartment. You are going to want to do this months in advance because apartments in college towns fill up fast.

My application fee was $20. But because a lot of apartments in Russellville require you to have a guarantor if you don’t make three times the monthly rent, my dad had to apply for the apartment as well.

This means that he also had an application fee of $20. It seems unnecessary if you think you can pay for the apartment, but the owner can’t take chances on not getting rent money.

Deposits

When you get the call that you’ve been approved, you’ll have the opportunity to put down a deposit on the apartment.

Every apartment complex is different, but I paid $200. Half of that is a security deposit that you will get back when you move out, and the other hundred goes toward a thorough cleaning of the apartment before you move in.

I wouldn’t complain about this because when I moved in, the apartment truly looked brand new.

When you set a date to move in, you have to also set up your electricity. Although you don’t have to pay on the spot, Entergy charges a $210 deposit with your first bill.

You should never have to pay $100 for your electric monthly so don’t choose the Level Billing option. You will have a different price for electric every month, but it shouldn’t be more than $70 if you learn to turn off your lights and electronics and don’t keep your AC too low.

When you move in, you pay first month’s rent. Mine was $475.

If you choose Suddenlink as your internet provider, you’ll be paying around $50 a month. I was completely unaware of an installation fee. First month’s payment and the installation fee is due when they set it up, which cost me $150.

If you have a pet, apartments usually charge a $500 non-refundable deposit. I don’t have a pet so this didn’t concern me.

All of my deposits combined cost me $560. This does not include monthly costs.

Furniture

If you’re lucky, your family and friends will have old furniture they don’t need. I was incredibly lucky to have a fully furnished apartment besides my bedroom. I found a bedroom set for $250 on Craigslist. If this isn’t the case for you, be prepared to spend up to $1,000.

Groceries and supplies

If you’ve been living in a dorm your entire college career, you likely only have plates, bowls and maybe a microwave. I never knew that food was so expensive because I’ve survived on my meal plan and late night runs to McDonald’s.

I bought a few pots and pans, more silverware, knives and two cutting boards. This alone cost around $100.

I only bought the basics when I went to Walmart. This means cleaning supplies, soap, toilet paper, and enough food for a month. I paid $200.

Monthly costs

What I never thought about is that my rent and utilities weren’t the only thing I had to pay for. On top of those, there are your other monthly things you already pay for. I pay for Spotify Premium, Adobe Creative Cloud, prescription medication and a phone bill.

One of the most challenging things about living in an apartment is no one cooks for you, unless you get lucky and have a nice roommate.

You have to make the choice of saving money and dining in or picking up dinner on your way back to your apartment. By buying in bulk, each of my meals costs less than $4.

If you compare eating out and dining in every meal, you’ll be saving at least $60 a week. It’s a bit unrealistic to eat at home for every meal, but it’s ideal to save as much as you can. I budget $120 a month for groceries.

I never truly had to budget until now. I’m used to paying around $60 monthly. I now pay $800. If you have a roommate, you will be paying around half that.

In an apartment, you have to budget monthly instead of having the option to pay with a school loan, so I encourage you to think about this decision for a while before jumping into it like I did.

In my first month, I spent a total of $1,700. In no way do I regret my decision, but I have lost a lot of savings as a consequence.

Claudia Young
About Claudia Young 58 Articles

Claudia Young was the Editor-in-Chief of The Arka Tech (2015-2016)