By Lianna Johnson 

Listen, dorm life is not for everybody. And that’s okay! After my first year living on campus at the University of Missouri I moved out faster than they could finish the M-I-Z chant. Some college campuses require students to stay on campus for a certain number of years unless certain requirements are filled.  

According to U.S News, at the University of Missouri 28% of the students live in college-owned, -operated or -affiliated housing and 72% of students live off campus.  

When I decided I wanted to leave the communal showers and pursue an apartment of my own, it came with a lot of questions up in the air. Some popular ones included How will I pay for gas since I’ll have to drive? Should I keep a meal plan? If not, where do I get my groceries? How much are the bills? 

Money wasn’t the only concern that came with the idea of moving off campus. Safety was a big worry too! I no longer would have an RA downstairs patrolling who comes in and out of the building where I live. 

As a 19-year-old who has never lived on her own, this was overwhelming. At first. I like to think I’ve gotten the hang of it now. I am on year two of living off campus and I think I’ve done a pretty good job at staying within my budget. And with that, I wanted to share some of my favorite tips for doing so. 

Firstly, I think it’s super important to take advantage of the public transportation we are given. Most Mizzou off-campus housing units provide a shuttle to and from campus. A tip I have is to ask if they provide trips outside of that. For example, someone in my apartment group chat recently found out our shuttle does bar-crawl pickups on the weekends?! Insane. So now, we’ll ride the shuttle together at 2 a.m. for FREE! 

If you must drive, try your absolute best to carpool. In Columbia specifically, there’s only like 5 places we frequent. There is someone going the same route as you.  

Utilizing the group chats and asking around will save you that gas money. I have solidified my routine of buying gas only once every two weeks using these methods, and it’s the best. The next piece of advice I have surrounds something I never thought would cause me so much stress… ELECTRICITY. Remember when you were little, and your parents would tell you to turn off the lights before you leave a room? We’d chuckle, brush it off, and probably forget to do it anyway. UNACCEPTABLE! You better run back to that room and turn that light off! That’s $15 extra on the bill! 

I feel like I’ve turned in to Julius from Everybody Hates Chris when it comes to unplugging the electronics in my apartment. When my phone is done charging, I unplug it. Fast. It’s 50 degrees outside, we don’t need the fan on; open the window! Pay attention to the little things like that because trust me, nothing is worse than seeing an electric bill so high that you yourself want to shut off! 

Finally, and probably the biggest tip I have is related to everyone’s favorite — food. Oh, who knew that a bag of chips could empty my wallet? Not me! My roommates and I try hard to go grocery shopping on a set schedule. Our goal is to go about every two and a half weeks. 

When you do go, treat yourself to a couple snacks every trip so it’s easier to not go overboard. Trying to plan beforehand is extremely helpful in knowing what you’re looking for as well. Also, it doesn’t always have to be name brand stuff. Generic is just as good! And cheaper! Something I’ve also noticed whenever we go grocery shopping is that it’s best to go in the middle of the week before everything is picked off by the weekend. Shopping experts say that the best overall shopping days are Wednesday and Thursday. And when you do go then, never, EVER go on an empty stomach. 

While I actively practice all the things I mentioned above, I also think it’s important for me to clarify that my parents do help me a lot with my off campus living. I am grateful to know that if things ever get dire, I have them to fall back on. I think it’s entirely possible to sustain a good budget as a college student who lives off campus if you pay attention. And ride that shuttle! 


Lianna Johnson is a junior at the Missouri School of Journalism.