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Northwestern University

Living Off-Campus: Other Costs


When you live on-campus, all of your bills are combined into your statement from Northwestern. Moving off-campus means that you have many separate bills.

These separate bills also offer a wide range of variables, which can each have a large impact on your monthly and quarterly budget. It’s important to plan ahead so you can set a realistic budget.


Renters insurance is important! Many students are able to find a policy for as low as $10 per month, although many plans do require a lump sum payment up front. This expense is worth every penny.


When you are searching for your apartment, it is important to calculate what utilities are included. Compare a two bedroom apartment with radiator heat for $1200/month and a two bedroom apartment with furnace heat for $1200/month. Your final monthly budget will likely be lower for the first apartment, because you probably won’t have a separate bill for heat.

The apartment that has radiator heat may still require you to pay for cooking gas, so this is another important question to ask when you are looking at the apartment. It is your responsibility to either schedule the utilities to be turned on, or switched into your name. You should contact the utility company at least two weeks prior to the start of your lease to schedule this.

Internet and cable set up often schedule the farthest out, and you may need a physical installation appointment. Give yourself ample time to schedule this appointment so it can work around your schedule.


Furniture can be a huge expense or a minimal expense, depending if you are buying new or used. This is another area to coordinate with your roommate as well. Common areas will have some shared items, so it is important to decide ahead of time who is responsible for supplying what furniture.

It is also important to build a buffer into your budget. Even with careful planning, once you are in your new apartment you will have unexpected purchases.


Many of these unexpected purchases are for household necessities, and are not glamorous. As unexciting as toilet paper is to buy, it is a necessity and is another expense for you and your roommate(s) to plan into your budget.


With a full kitchen in your apartment, you have the option to cook all of your meals. Preparing meals at home is easily less expensive than eating out or using a campus meal plan, but it also requires time, planning, and discipline to regularly eat meals prepared at home.

If you are going to be on campus all day, especially if you have a commute from your apartment, you may consider getting the 6 meal plan or budgeting for meal packs. Bringing a bologna sandwich for lunch is only less expensive if you remember to pack it, and don’t end up eating out as a backup plan that’s outside of your budget.


If you do plan to cook at home, remember that you will need to purchase the necessary kitchen equipment. On the other hand, if you do not plan to do much cooking, save your budget and do not purchase a nice set of pots and pans.

In addition to the tools to cook, you will need to schedule time to prepare food for your day or week. Again, taking time to plan this out in advance will save you both time and money in the long run.

This concludes our overview. We hope you found the information to be helpful. If you have any follow-up questions or need clarification on any of this information, we encourage you to contact our office!

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