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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Katarina Rothhorn
Katarina Rothhorn
Features Writer

The first message I ever sent from my Northern Michigan University sanctioned email was to the editor-in-chief of the North Wind asking if there was any way I could join the staff. Classes hadn't even...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Living off-campus needs planning

Miranda Meccia leapt at the chance to live off campus during her first year of college, but she quickly learned that living on her own wasn’t exactly what she thought it would be.

“I got into lots of fights with my roommate because she would always turn the heat way up,” said Meccia, now a sophomore biology major living back in the dorms. “Since we had to pay heat separate, it got to be more than I could afford.”

While many students are eager to make the big move off campus and start living on their own, few are sufficiently prepared. For students like Meccia, unexpected costs, like a shocking heating bill, can be just one problem. There’s also lease length, location, and living on a budget to consider.

“When you live off campus, you have more freedoms but also more responsibilities,” said Tawni Ferrarini, a professor of economics at NMU.

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One of these responsibilities is choosing a place. A good resource to start with is NMU’s Dean of Students Web site, where a list of available off-campus housing options can be found. Entries include the location, monthly rent, deposit, available spots, lease length and useful information about the place of residence. The Web site also lists local agents who work with students.
When using the Dean’s list option, the length of the lease is usually already provided. Doing so through a realtor can be a different story.

“There are leases for six month periods and yearly leases,” said James Bradbury, a realtor for RE/MAX First Realty. “Some [landlords] may offer month-to-month leases.”

According to Ferrarini, the cost of rent combined with utilities can be another big consideration.

“Before renting something always ask for the utility bills for the past year. The rent might be lower but if the utilities aren’t included it could kill you,” Ferrarini said.

A perspective renter should always find out what is, and more importantly what isn’t, included in the rent, said Bradbury

“Electric and heating aren’t usually included, while water is a bit more standard,” he said.

And then there’s location. Renting close to campus and being able to walk to class can be convenient and save some money on gas; however, opting for a house or apartment farther away from campus might actually lower the rent bill each month.

“[Houses and apartments] cost more when they’re closer to campus,” Bradbury said.

Regardless of proximity to NMU, living off campus has potential to save some money. Living in the dorms with the constant meal plan will cost a student $7,846 a year.

Ferrarini said that to save money, students have to have a carefully planned budget that accounts for the mostly part-time jobs available to students that often only pay minimum wage.

“Always base your expenses on your revenue,” she said. “Don’t spend more money than you take in. … Don’t make hobbies like getting pizza and going to the movies a habit. It’s important to set aside leisure time, but instead of going out there are always free things going on around campus,” she said.

Credit cards can be useful for money emergencies, but only when used wisely, said Ferrarini.

“Save for emergencies. It’s always better to borrow from yourself than to borrow from a credit card,” she said.

With proper planning and a solid budget, living off campus can be a dream come true.

“It seemed easy at first,” Meccia said, “but trying to balance school, work and bills on my own was a lot more than I planned for.”

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