Living off-campus means being responsible for paying your bills. When determining your budget, it is important that you are realistic with yourself on what you can afford and what you are comfortable paying. The following areas provide you with important information when determining your off-campus living budget.

Upfront Costs

These are specific expenses which are due upon signing a lease. Generally, you can expect to pay about two months rent upfront in order to secure your apartment. Each landlord as different policies and you could be required to pay three months rent in advance. Therefore, it is important to understand the terms of and financial expectations detailed in your lease. Below is a sample of how these payments may be broken down:

  • First Month's Rent - rent for the first month of tenancy.
  • Last Month's Rent - the rent for your final month of tenancy.
  • Security Deposit - an amount the protect the landlord against damage that is beyond normal wear and tear. It also provides a remedy for unpaid rent and clean-up, if necessary. This amount can vary by landlord.


Students are often asked to have a co-signor or a guarantor when signing a lease. This is someone who is willing to co-sign the lease or guarantee that should you not be able to pay for the rent for any reason, they are willing to do so. This is typically a parent or guardian. The requirement for a co-signor or guarantor protects the financial interests of landlord.

In the case when a student does not have someone to co-sign on his or her lease, it is not uncommon for the landlord to ask for the last month’s rent or an additional month’s rent for the security deposit.

When you are looking at apartments and their associated costs, be sure to review what is included in the monthly rent. Your rent may include utilities such as heat, hot water, and electricity, or some portion of those. However, it is also possible that you may be financially responsible for paying for these items separately from your total rent.

Some factors that determine the amount of your rent include the following:

  • Closeness to campus - in general, the closer a unit is to campus, the more expensive it will be.
  • Size of the rental unit - in general, the larger the unit, the more expensive the rent will be.
  • Furnishings - in general, rental units that are furnished are more expensive than units that are unfurnished.
  • Utilities - in general, the more utilities included with your rent payment, the more expensive the rent will be.
  • Amenities - the more amenities provided by the property (e.g., fitness centers, club rooms, food options, study spaces, etc.), the more expensive your rent will be.
  • Age - in general, newer facilities will have higher rent as they contain upgraded features, additional amenities, etc.

Most leases are based on a calendar year, not a 9 or 10-month academic year term. Therefore, it is important to understand that if you have a 12 month lease, you will be required to maintain your lease for the duration. Use the following to help determine your monthly budget.

Sample Monthly Budget for Off-Campus Living

Rent:  $700 - $1,800

Utilities: $50 - $150

Food: $250


Creating a monthly budget is critical to being able to afford living off-campus. Having a clear understanding of your income and expenses will help you to succeed financially. Use the information below to help you in this process:

Sources of Income

$__________ Family Contribution

$__________ Scholarships

$__________ Employment

$__________ Loans

$__________ Other



Determine Your Monthly Expenses:

$__________ Rent

$__________ Utilities (i.e., heat, hot water, electricity)

$__________ Cable/Streaming Services

$__________ Cell Phone

$__________ Transportation (e.g., car payment, gas, car insurance, repairs, Uber/Lyft/Taxi)

$__________ Food

$__________ Personal/Miscellaneous (e.g., clothing, laundry, cleaning)

$__________ TOTAL EXPENSES


To take control of your money and plan for your expenses, download the Orange Budget from the Office of Financial Literacy. If you would like more information about the Office of Financial Literacy, please contact them at finlit@syr.edu.