Say goodbye to overpriced residence halls that answered all of your mom’s questions and hello to the wonderful world of making your own phone calls and setting up your own electricity. (What?!)
After a few friends texted me asking questions anticipating the upcoming school year, I felt compelled to give my senior’s speech on everything you may still need to do preparing for your first time living off-campus.
1. Set up the bills
This includes a couple big things: electricity, gas, water, and internet/cable.
Depending on where your house is, you’re under one of two electric grids in Columbus: AEP or the city of Columbus. (You can ask your landlord which one your address is under.) Call that electric company to set up electric payments under your name and to have your electricity turned on around the time of your move-in date so you can use everything immediately. Have your social security number ready, it’s time to start paying bills!
This one I’m a little less sure about, but I think a majority of us fall under Columbia Gas of Ohio. But again, you can always call your landlord to confirm it’s not run through them instead! If it’s not, you’ll set up your account the same way you would electric.
I recommend splitting up the bills between roommates because it’s reasonable for everyone to have $40-$60 in their bank account at a time, and that’s how much one bill normally is. If all the accounts are under the same name, that could be a $200 charge you’re not prepared for if another roommate needs a couple days to pay their share.
Plus, splitting up bills gives everyone a chance to start boosting their credit score by paying off regular bills. It also doesn’t majorly screw over one person if they’re waiting on an unreliable roommate month after month.
A lot of landlords around here handle water themselves and just charge you water bills every couple of months with the rent portal, but some still expect you to follow the same process as gas and electric, so the same rule of thumb applies: ask your landlord who handles the water, and if it’s you, make sure you start an account and get it turned on the week you move in.
Internet and cable is the most up-to-you bill you get. Most companies around here offer discounted plans and packages, but make sure you’re asking all of the right questions before you accidentally sign up for an unaffordable plan. The pamphlets they send in the mail emphasizing their super cheap prices normally come with a lot of caveats and restrictions, like signing up for a 2-year contract instead of a 1-year contract, or including cable when you only wanted internet. Have a talk with your roommates about what your priorities are: high-speed internet? Cable? What online subscriptions are you splitting? Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Prime, and YouTube TV? Find the limit for your house.
2. Collect resources your house doesn’t provide
Does your house have air conditioning or not? If the answer is no, I’d recommend snagging an $80 window a/c unit from your local Target or Walmart to get through the first couple months of the school year that will undoubtedly bounce between 60 and 80 degrees.
What parts of the kitchen will they already have in the unit? Most spaces come with an oven and fridge, but will your kitchen provide you a built-in microwave or do you need to add on that expense? Do they have a washer and dryer in-house, or just hook-ups? Do you need to locate your nearest laundromat and get a laundry basket on wheels? Ask yourself these questions before move-in to save yourself the first freakout that comes with doing your first load of back-to-school laundry.
3. Get measurements, then talk furniture and prices
Call your landlord/rental company (seeing a trend here?) and ask for measurements of the rooms, or ask if there’s a day someone can go in early to take measurements of the living room walls and where they cut off when they hit the door, or the space that will fit a dining table and food shelves, or the exact distance from your bedroom sliding porch door to the closet because you have to find a space-saving desk for that spot and that spot only. Don’t even get your hopes up on pieces of furniture that just won’t fit.
Great places to look for used furniture is on Facebook Marketplace or on second-hand sales apps like OfferUp and LetGo. You can also ask any graduating upperclassman you know if they’re planning on selling or taking their furniture with them when they finally move out. Sometimes you can contact the rental company and ask them if the unit’s current tenants are considering leaving any furniture behind for you to purchase so they don’t even have to move it out of the house. This is probably the easiest option for you to find furniture that is cheap, easy to move (since you don’t have to), and already fits in the space.
4. Decide roommate responsibilities
Every house does it differently. Are there two showers and five roommates? Do three always use one bathroom while two exclusively use the other? Does the whole house split toilet paper or just each bathroom’s assigned roommates? Are groceries like eggs and milk available to the whole house, or exclusive to the roommate who bought it? Are you labeling food in the pantry or assigning shelves?
Questions like these aren’t nearly as awkward as you may think they are, just be open to the idea that everyone lives different lifestyles and is bound to disagree somewhere.
A good rule of thumb I’ve heard is if a roommate is cleaner than others, set the house to their standards. It’s harder for them to live in a house that they find repulsive and bothersome than it is for you to live in a house that is pleasantly cleaner than you’re used to. However, I’ve also heard roommates agree that if a certain chore is one person’s particular pet-peeve, it’s their responsibility to do it as often as it satisfies them.
Talk to your roommates about how they honestly feel about everything getting done, and be honest if you’re the kind of person who finds chore charts childish.