Living with Little: How to Live Off-Campus on a Musician’s Budget

by Stephanie L. Carlin

In addition to the projects we must complete, other homework, practicing, and possibly having some modicum of a social life, we, as musicians, need a place to sleep, and sometimes the dorms will not accommodate. Maybe you can’t afford to live in the dorms. Maybe your neighbors keep practicing upstairs. Maybe you don’t like your roommates. Maybe your neighbors don’t understand that you have a midterm exam in the morning. Maybe you want a kitchen. Maybe after banging on your doors asking for your neighbors to stop at 4 a.m., you’ve had about enough.

That’s where apartments come in. Apartments are like an escape from college life. A place where you can sleep, eat, watch Netflix, occasionally do work, and party like crazy. Conversely, knowing how much most of us have to pay for equipment alone, it’s pretty difficult to save money and live with strangers while being a musician. That’s why I have compiled a few tips to help those who may be having trouble with their off-campus living situation.

Make a monthly budget

You know it. I know it. A good 99.9% of the population is at the least a little scared of it. Read it with me: we have to do math. It does not have to be complicated math, though. It’s just a summary of what you have to spend (rent, fees, etc) and what you can limit (outside food, plugins, etc). Limiting yourself to what you spend in a month can be good for your health as well as your wallet. You’ll mostly likely eat less, you’ll spend less haphazardly, and you’ll feel comfortable and be focused on what needs to be done. Now, are you going to follow this to the letter? Most likely, no. It takes time. But practice makes perfect. If you want an example of a good monthly budget, here is this small one I have made below.

Ex. Monthly Budget

Total Amount: $10,000

Required Payments

  • Rent: $1,250.00
  • Fees: $50.00
  • Groceries: $240.00–360.00

Fun Stuff

  • Plugins: $30.00–$50.00
  • Clothes: $20.00–$45.00
  • Going Out: $50.00–$80.00

Without fun stuff: $8,340–$8,460

With fun stuff: $8,165–$8,360

(And, of course, you can add back what you earn for the month in addition).

Know your practice hours

Sometimes, you can’t always can’t get a practice room, so where’s the next place? Why not your own place! But remember, not everyone is a musician. Especially if you live in a neighborhood close to campus, you’re not always going to find people who like music and want to hear you fail a Louis Armstrong solo over and over again. That’s why, for a lot of apartments, there are certain rules for when you can practice your instrument. Ask your landlord for special parameters or set something up with your neighbors because noise complaints are real and they’re real annoying to deal with.

Get to know your neighborhood storage unit

Bassists, guitarists, drummers, and even vocalists have a ton of equipment and when you have to move or go on summer break, it can be a pain to move it or keep all of it there for a long period. That’s where storage units come in and I know there might be some stigma about storage units. I feel like whenever we see one on television, you assume that they’re not going to be handled well, but they are. From all of my friends that have used them, I have never heard a nightmare storage unit story in the area.

If you wanna learn more to prepare for the winter or summer, check out StorageSquad.

The Campus Card has your back

The Campus Card is your I.D., but it is not just your I.D.. It is a weapon of mass savings. Every week I’ll spend relatively $60-80 on groceries alone, not to mention going out and eating. But, with the Campus Card, places like the CVS on Massachusetts Avenue, Boloco, the Berklee Bookstore, and B-Good, that allow students to pay for goods with their Campus Card (some places may call it a Husky Card, but it’s the same thing). Now, you do have to put in money for the account because it’s still technically a credit card. But, luckily, Campus Card, always will keep you up-to-date on savings in the area through your Berklee emails so look out for those savings.

Find a place to relax

Dealing with an apartment can be stressful at times. Things like roommate-problems can really take a toll and might not let you relax in your apartment. That’s why I suggest you find another place in the area to relax or write some thoughts down. Whether it be a nice park, a small coffee shop, or a little scenic route, just going outside and getting fresh air is already doing so many good things for your body. Everybody needs a time where they can take care of themselves and remind themselves it’s okay. So find a place where you can do that and hey, maybe you might find some creative use out of it.

If you need to look at some listings for 12/1, check out the Off-Campus Living Facebook page.

What did you think? Are you excited to live off-campus? Are you still in the dorms? Let us know in the comments!