Let’s say you’re a new student set to study at the Medical College of Wisconsin (WCW). Obviously, this means you’ll have to move out of your parents’ home and relocate to Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, which can be anxiety-inducing in and of itself. After all, you’re moving to a brand new city where you don’t know anyone yet and you’re not familiar with all the neighborhoods yet. Still, you have to find an apartment you can afford with the budget you have in a good neighborhood that’s preferably within close proximity to WCW. You also need to be able to account for other living expenses, including the expense of the move itself.
How do you prepare for such a major change? The good news for new WCW students is that it’s fairly simple to find cheap apartments you can be happy with that work with your budget. You just need to follow these simple steps before signing a lease!
Be Realistic About Your Budget
This one may seem pretty obvious, but it can’t be overstated: affordability really boils down to how much money you have on hand and how much you can expect to earn during your stay. One good piece of advice to keep in mind when searching for a new apartment is to never settle for anything that will require you to pay more than 30% of your monthly income on rent. In general, this means you need to be earning at least triple the amount you’ll be paying in rent in order to qualify as a tenant.
If you are renting an apartment that’s going to cost you $1200 a month, for example, your monthly income needs to be at least $3600. Similarly, if your rent is only $600 a month, you still need to be earning at least $1800 in monthly income. Other things you need to factor into your monthly expenses include electricity, utilities, internet, transportation and parking. Depending on how much you pay on each of these additional expenses will also be a deciding factor in how well you can afford rent versus how much you earn in monthly income. There’s also the one-time expense of needing to furnish and decorate the apartment to consider as well.
Use Trusted Websites to Find Apartments
Another helpful tool for finding apartments to rent is to use trusted websites like Apartment.com and Zillow. Both websites allow you to filter for price ranges, as well as the number of rooms, and bathrooms. In the case of Zillow, there are more options for properties to rent, such as houses, townhouses, and condos.
Interestingly, there are also alternatives to those websites that can help you find cheap apartments in Wisconsin, especially if you’re on a tight budget. One of those is Airbnb, which can offer you a cheap short-term apartment until you find something more permanent. This will give you some time to explore neighborhoods and research apartment complexes until you find something that matches your needs.
Another great website to browse while searching for cheap apartments in Wisconsin is Facebook Marketplace. As a website that originally started out as a social media platform for university students, it only makes sense that Facebook should be one of the first places to look for affordable housing, especially as a university student. Not only is there a section for apartment and house listings, but it’s also a great place to advertise for a roommate as well.
One last good resource to check out for apartment hunting that’s within close proximity to your university, grocery stores, and restaurants is Walkscore. Walkscore doesn’t just list apartments for rent, but also gives you a walkable score that tells you how easily you can access places by walking, riding a bicycle, or taking public transportation.
Continue to Find New Ways to Budget
Once you find a cheap apartment in Wisconsin, of course, it doesn’t hurt to find new ways to make your living expenses more manageable. One way this can be easily achieved is by cutting unnecessary expenses. Another way is to find a roommate to split the costs with you and it doesn’t even have to be a stranger. This roommate can be a trusted friend or a family member. If you are unable to get a friend or family member to move into your Wisconsin apartment with you, browsing through Facebook groups is another good way to find a good fit.
Related to finding a roommate, another great way to cut down expenses is to find an intergenerational home to move into. Also known as “home-sharing,” it is possible to live rent-free in an intergenerational home provided you help out around the house in exchange for living accommodation. Becoming a nanny for a family is another great way to live rent-free and earn money at the same time. Two more ways you can get free housing and earn money at the same time is by becoming a Resident Assistant (RA) at your university’s housing unit. You can also apply for work at a hotel or a farm in exchange for living accommodations as well.
Make Ends Meet By Earning More Income
It goes without saying that the best way to make ends meet and still have some money left over for leisure spending is to find a job, though it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, there are some ways you can earn income without having to work at all! One such way is to list your apartment on Airbnb and have other people pay you for accommodation. Of course, be sure to check with your landlord before doing this to ensure listing your apartment won’t come in violation of your lease. Even if you do get the “okay” from your landlord to list your apartment, you may still need to check with your city’s laws to see if you need to acquire a permit for running a bnb.
If you own a car, another way you can earn money that affords you a flexible schedule is to become a rideshare driver or a delivery driver if you’re not comfortable having other people in your car. Another way of pursuing work with a flexible schedule is to become a freelancer or a remote worker. After the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are now more remote jobs available that pay the same amount as most conventional jobs, if not more. Remote and freelance work is also a great way to earn work experience while working on a school schedule.
With so many different options available for making housing in Wisconsin more affordable, what you ultimately choose to go with is going to depend on your individual needs and long-term goals. In the end, always go with what fits your budget, but also what allows you to save money.
Watertown Apartments is a student housing facility near the Medical College of Wisconsin located in Wauwatosa. For more information on studio apartments or other apartments available, check out our floor plans or contact us.