Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Where did you live during university?

Where did you live while you were going to school, and if you had to do it over again, would you do it any differently?

This post was inspired by the Globe’s recent article: Want to save $45,000 in university costs? Live with Mom and Dad

When I was 17, I received a scholarship to study (and play field hockey) at a university in Michigan. The total value of that scholarship was approximately $20,600 per academic year ($11,000 tuition, $8,600 on-campus housing, $1,000 books). And that was when $1 CAN was the equivalent of $0.67 US.

Had I not gotten a full scholarship, there was no way I could have gone. Even if just my tuition was covered, coming up with $8,600 per year for housing (that’s $34,400 for a 4-year program)? Not possible unless I took out massive student loans.

When I was 22, I decided to go back to school in my hometown. I was living in a downtown apartment at the time, paying $625/month rent. As soon as I knew I was going back to school, I moved home and into my parents’ basement. In the two years I was in college, that saved me $15,000.

Sure, I missed out on some things. Bonding with my classmates (who were also roommates), and having the independence of living on my own. I really liked living on-campus when I was in Michigan. I didn’t have a commute (which meant I could roll out of bed at 10:45 for my 11am class), and all my meals were made for me at the cafeteria. But it just didn’t make financial sense to keep my apartment – or even live closer to campus. Even if I really wanted to. Living in the same town as my parents, they were happy (but maybe a little reluctant) to let me live with them again. I had moved out twice before, after all. :)

The $15,000 I saved while living with my parents likely would have been a lot more if I had lived somewhere else. It’s pretty easy to get tempted with dinners out, drinks, parties, etc. when you’re surrounded by friends … or living on campus, where there are always temptations to help you spend your money. And since I graduated over $20,000 in debt, it’s obvious I already had problems keeping my spending in check.

So, where did you live while you were going to school? Did you live with your parents, and regret not having the freedom? Or did you move out on your own (or to a different city), only to have accumulated more student loans than you thought you would?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Elizabeth says:

    Didn’t live with my parents 1st year (since there were no Universities in our small town) and then the last 3 years they moved to England . . . so it still wasn’t an option. Regardless I graduated without debt and some savings in the bank.

  2. I did a four-year undergrad at a local university and commuted 20 minutes from my parents place. I lost a bit of freedom, but my parents said as long as I was in school full-time, rent was free. When I was 22 I started grad school, and for the next five years I lived in apartments/condo. It always felt so transient – moving every September because situations changed. I loved having the independence though. Gave me lots of new experiences.

  3. cj says:

    I took a minimum of a class at a time. Sometimes 2 or 3 per semester. Commuting and working and living with my ex husband.

    Sometimes, I wish I had the college experience but nothing in my life was like everyone else. Even during high school I was on my own because that’s just the way life was for me. My om was just a kid who never grew up.

  4. Michelle says:

    W and I moved in together right after high school. I wouldn’t change a thing. :)

  5. psychsarah says:

    I lived on my own as my university was about 1.5 hours away from home. I love my parents and get along well with them, but I was very ready for some independence and a different experience. I was in residence first year, with friends off-campus in second year, and then with my partner (now my husband) in apartments/houses for the rest of my years of school (which were numerous-I have a PhD). I still managed to graduate with little debt (around $5000-not bad for 12 years of school!) but I totally appreciate the savings of living at home. If my son (now two years old) decides to go to our local university or college, I’d be happy if he stayed at home and saved the cash. We’re saving for his education, but likely won’t have enough to cover tuition, books and living elsewhere. He’ll have to save up and work for the extra expenses if he makes the choice to live away.

  6. RobynRobyn says:

    I lived with my parents during the two years of university and was living on my own when I did a one year college program. Neither of the programs or courses I took were very difficult and didn’t require all that much studying/reading, etc. If I had been in a more intense program I would have worked a lot less and likely would have had to dip into my savings while I was on my own.

  7. Lived in a small shared apartment most of my college life. It wasn’t that pricey and I had a part-time job and a couple of freelance gigs to boot.
    I can appreciate the experience of moving back with your parents, I think long term it might be good for your finances…it gives you the opportunity to sort of “gather” yourself.

  8. Ally Gibson says:

    I lived in the dorms my first semester of college but I had the most horrible roommate in the world. It was awful and I couldn’t stand living with her so I moved back to my parent’s house and transferred to the local community college. After I got my 2-year degree, my parents decided to move to be closer to my brother/SIL and, lucky for me, there was a university there so I could continue living with my parents while going for my 4-year degree. After college, I moved into my own apartment and got stuck with anther horrible roommate (I am never going to live with roommates again) and couldn’t afford to live on my own as I had over $30,000 in student loans (I like to travel and spend money) so I moved back home. Unfortunately, it’s been 5 years since I graduated college and I’m still living with my folks. The good news is that I should be debt free within the next 3 months plus I have a good size emergency fund and I’m working on saving enough money to buy a house with cash. I kind of wish I hadn’t lived at home during college because I felt like I didn’t get the true college experience. I never made friends in college or dated or went to parties. I just went to my classes and came home. Sometimes I think I should go back to college for a Master’s degree and live on campus this time but I don’t want to end up with more loans.

  9. alexislives says:

    I lived with my parents when I took classes at a community college and commuted my first year of college. It was a 45 minute drive and I ended up moving onto campus to have the real college experience and get out. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I lived in honors housing my first year, then with 3 friends for the next two years. We stayed in dorms to say money as the apartments would have been an extra $800 a year. Dorms were a flat $8000 (so overpriced!!)

  10. I moved out when I was 18. I was in my first year of college and it was a struggle, but I worked a lot, and did during high school too. I was used to it. It was expensive, but it was a great learning experience.

  11. My parents live in the middle of nowhere, so I didn’t have the choice to live with them, I had to move out to go to school. I spent the first year in residence and then got an apartment with my boyfriend. It was very, very expensive and definitely contributed to the thousands of dollars of debt I finished school with. I would definitely recommend living at home as a good way to save money during school.

  12. NZ Muse says:

    I moved out before the end of high school. Then just before uni, T and I moved in together. We lived out in the burbs. Cheaper than student accommodation. To be honest, while I originally planned to do the dorm thing, I’m glad I didn’t. I don’t think it would have been my scene, especially since I had two jobs and spent most of my time working.

  13. Tammy says:

    I too lived with my parents and that saves on a lot of hassle, as you’ve mentioned. A really creative way I read a few days ago, was adopted by Ken Ilgunas who used to live in a van when in university and saved up on a lot of dough.

  14. SP says:

    All options. I lived in the dorms, off-campus apartment with friends, and the last year or 1.5 years I lived at home to save money. I think it was really important for me to move out as a freshman and establish independence, despite the costs. A luxury, for sure, but for me it helped to develop my independence and to form new relationships.

    But I LOVED living at home towards the end of college. My parents were pretty chill and already saw me as an adult (or at least a quasi-adult), and it helped me have the $$ to study abroad. Or more realistically, it reduced the amount of loans I took out (for school and study abroad).

  15. Left at 19 and never moved back until later in-between contracts / projects.

    I didn’t miss out on anything, I even stayed in the dorm for my first year but hated it.

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