Living Off-Campus for the First Time? Me Too

Off-campus living…what an exciting time. Truly living on your own; no R.A.’s telling you what you can or can’t do, no dining halls, no one there making sure your “home” (a.k.a. your dorm) stays clean. With all this freedom comes way more responsibility, though. You have to learn to budget your money for food and necessities, while not having a dishroom to drop off your dishes and rush out the door. Not to mention that you're balancing school work, going out with friends, public transportation, etc. This has definitely been an adjustment period in my life (as I’m sure it has been in yours). I feel like we all need to take a second to thank our parents for making our lives so much easier, because I never realized how much they did for me until now, when I’m not living at home. So to help you get through this chaotic but really fun time in your life, I’ve put together some tips to help you adjust to off-campus life. 

Grocery Shopping:

1. Organic produce, or not?

I’d assume the first place your money needs to go is food. If you’re like me and don't want to sacrifice health for financial stability, here's a tip. When it comes to fruits and veggies, buy organic if you eat the skin. For things like bananas or avocados where you don’t eat the skin, don’t spend the extra money. And even though that extra money is only a few cents, IT DOES ADD UP. Also, a great place to buy affordable produce and healthy foods is from the infamous Trader Joes. 

2. Shop locally and seasonally.

Another way to get affordable produce is to shop seasonally, and shop locally. Not only is it much cheaper to shop locally due to the transportation of goods, but it is also much more sustainable! There's less packaging, and less carbon emissions from the trucks driving our food across the country. Shopping at farmers markets, and buying foods that grow near you is a great way to help the planet and your wallet. Also, don’t be afraid to buy more if the deal is there! Freeze whatever you don’t think you’ll eat before it goes bad, and use the frozen food for smoothies later!

Keepin’ It Clean:

No one wants to be the person doing all the cleaning, and no one wants to be the person doing none of it. This creates unwanted tension and living with your friends should be fun!  My roommates and I put together an excel chart with different weekly “chores” to make sure everyone is doing their part. There’s five of us, so ours includes five categories: vacuuming, cleaning bathroom one, cleaning bathroom two, cleaning the kitchen, and taking out the trash (along with that we’re all responsible for doing our own dishes, and keeping everything moderately clean on a daily basis). If you have pet peeves, seriously just tell your roommates. As long as what you are asking about is reasonable, if they’re your friends, they should respect your needs!  Also, try to go with the flow. Living with people can be really hard, and everyone needs to adjust a little bit in order for it to work. 

Budgeting Your Money:

Take advantage of public transportation. UMass Amherst is a large university with plenty of bus stops around the city. Taking the bus to class has been a great way to save money and avoid the stress of parking on campus if parking is limited like my school. When it comes to parties, walk there if you can. Realistically, most of my money goes to Ubers on the weekends, so my friends and I have really been trying to cut back on Ubers while the weather is still nice, and it’s a great way to get in some extra exercise!

So there’s just a few tips for the off-campus life! It’s exciting and fun, but can bring on a lot of extra stress. Like I said before, all you can do is just go with it and roll with the punches. Be respectful to your landlord for the days when things aren’t working around the house, get to know your neighbors, and just have fun! Keep in mind, it’s a college house, and it’s not meant to be perfect!

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