With the holidays quickly approaching and Fall Quarter nearing an end, money woes have likely given you a permanent sinking feeling in the pit of your belly.
While we can’t make money grow on trees, the Community Housing Office (CHO) can provide some tips about being smart with your cash, especially when it comes to renting in the community.

Fall Quarter should have given you some idea about your typical monthly expenses (tuition, rent, personal bills, utilities, groceries, books and other school supplies, transportation, entertainment, etc.) and monthly/quarterly income (financial aid, work study, job, family contribution and savings, etc.) Use what you learned about your expenses/income this quarter to budget your money better next quarter! Check out Financial Aid’s Web Site for worksheets about how to manage your money.

Renters insurance
You may think you don’t have many expensive possessions because you are a college student. The truth is, however, that if you added up the cost of your computer, cell phone, television, furniture, clothing, books and other personal belongings, you would find your stuff is worth a lot more than you thought! Imagine having to replace some or all your items in the event of a fire, theft (forced entry, not unlocked door) or accidental water overflow.  You may be asking: “Shouldn’t my property provider pay for this?” Your property provider has insurance that covers the structure of the building, but their insurance doesn’t extend to cover your personal property.

The University of California has partnered with GradGuard, a nationwide renters insurance company that specializes in renter insurance policies for students and new grads. Rates are at a reasonable $10-$15/month and can cover multiple roommates under one roof. Many other insurance companies also offer renters insurance policies and may provide discounts if you already have an insurance policy with their company. One alternative to purchasing your own renters insurance policy is to see if your parent’s or guardian’s homeowners policy extends coverage to you away at school. Renters insurance can also provide liability protection if someone gets hurt at your place and sues you for injuries — even if it is an accident! Some things to consider when purchasing a renter’s insurance policy are the scope of coverage, monthly/yearly cost, roommate coverage and what natural disasters are covered (earthquakes are often not covered for Californians).

I am not your mother, so I won’t lecture you about paying your rent on time. However, you are probably aware that if you pay your rent after the grace period (if you even have one!) your property provider has the right to charge you a late fee. Late charges must be reasonably related to the amount it costs the property provider to deal with your tardiness. The higher your rent, the more the property provider can charge. Don’t forget that most of you signed a lease with a “joint-and-several” clause. If one person pays late, you all pay late, and you all get stuck with the late fee. If each roommate pays separately, the rest of the household may not know if someone is perpetually late until the bill arrives for the late fees. Discuss expectations of paying rent with your roommates and find a way to keep each other accountable. Additionally, your property provider may give you a poor reference for your next rental if you and/or your roommates continually pay rent late. Mark on your calendar when rent is due so that you avoid those nasty, avoidable late fees and keep that money in your pocket!

I wish it happened less frequently, but a few times a month we see students whose roommates have bailed on paying rent. Maybe you have been the roommate who flaked for one reason or another, or maybe you have been the roommate who had to cough up an extra portion of rent money to avoid an eviction notice — either way, the situation sucks. Often the roommate has moved out at the last minute without finding a replacement or paying any rent. Those remaining in the household scramble to come up with the money, struggle to find a suitable replacement and have to go through the process of letter writing, mediation and small claims court to get back what is owed to them. Don’t let either side of this situation happen to you — the monetary and personal ramifications aren’t pretty. Keep open communication with your roommate(s) and your property provider if you suspect you won’t be able to pay rent or will need to leave. Stop by CHO for advice and information about your rights and responsibilities if you are caught in a sticky financial situation.

Of course there are lots of other things to be mindful about regarding your money, including: shopping smart, taking care of your rental to ensure a returned security deposit, balancing work and school, attempting to save, keeping balances low on credit cards and remembering to live within your means. Consider purchasing or borrowing from the library Suze Orman’s book The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke. If not for its wealth of information, get it for the great title!
CHO is located on the 3rd Floor of the UCen, above Jamba Juice. Call us at 805-893-4371, e-mail us at ucsbcho@housing.ucsb.edu and find us on Facebook!