Adulting: Paying the Bills

This article will look to give basic information on some of the new expenses students will become responsible for so students can begin wrapping their head around a new world of finances.

By Xavier Royer — June 9, 2023

Adulting: Paying the Bills

Full disclosure, I personally hate the term "adulting." It feels, ironically, childish, and often comes packaged in whining about some boring tasks that is not that bad once you have done it once or twice. The term, however, is still probably the best one to describe the set of new responsibilities students are tasked with keeping track of once they leave home. Thankfully, those new responsibilities are usually put on them over time, as parents slowly ween students into taking care of things themselves that they would not have prior. This manifests clearly in student expenses. Before university life, students likely only had to worry about discretionary spending, things like going to the movies or buying a new game. Once they move out, students will immediately begin having recurring expenses. This article will look to give basic information on some of the new expense's students will become responsible for so students can begin wrapping their head around a new world of finances.


Because of the Affordable Care Act in the United States, many students can put off really thinking about insurance until after graduation. The ACA requires all insurance companies to allow individuals to stay on their parents' health insurance plan until they turn 26. However, it is still important for students to understand insurance, so they know how to use it when they need it, and be informed when they eventually do have to make that purchase themselves. Insurance could be an article on its own, but there are a few basic ideas we can discuss that are helpful. Think of insurance as bad day protection. Individuals or family pay an amount every month, and in exchange when bad things happen, the insurance company will help pay for it. More expensive levels of coverage often pay for more things. There are many kinds of insurance:

  • Health insurance covers medical costs and is easily the most complex to understand.
  • Dental Insurance covers dental procedures
  • Homeowner's or Renter's insurance covers damage to one's residence or one's stuff (think storm damage or burglary), except for one's vehicle because
  • Auto insurance covers damage to one's car as well as damage one does to other people's cars/things while driving.
  • Life Insurance pays out if someone unfortunately passes away
  • Pet insurance takes care of Fido and Whisker's medical needs

Health insurance is technically the only required insurance in the United States, though any drivers are required to also carry liability insurance. While the cost can be annoying, I would encourage students to browse for affordable renter's insurance at the very least.

Other Bills

Besides insurance, students will likely have other monthly payments to keep track of, particularly if they choose to live off campus. These include:

  • Rent, the monthly payment you have to make to live in an apartment, house, or dorm.
  • Electricity, which usually includes gas used to heat the unit as well, so expect this to rise in the winter in colder areas (A/C can also have an impact, but not quite as large)
  • Water, which often includes sewer fees for water out as well as water in
  • Trash and Recycling
  • Internet, which I recommend not cheapening out on too much, especially in a house with lots of devices. I tend to favor more local providers, but students should do their own research
  • Car payments
  • Streaming services and other subscriptions, which can be easy to forget about if you do not use them often.
  • Cell Phone service and maybe a payment on the phone itself

Parents often help students with some number of these expenses over time students will become more and more responsible for themselves. Particularly when students look for an apartment off campus, they should keep in mind it might be worth paying more in rent for a place where the landlord covers some of the expenses like water or trash then paying less rent for a place that does not.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are tricky. I recommend students try to get one solid credit card, from their bank if possible. I like credit cards for a few reasons. For one, they help students keep track of their spending. Paying off a card at the end of the week immediately tells a student how much they spent. It also helps students begin to build their credit so when they try to do things like buy a car or rent an apartment, they at least have some sort of credit history and a credit score, which combined tell lenders and landlords how likely an individual is to be able to pay their bills. The rewards on some cards can also be nice. However, if an individual has a balance at the end of the month, interest will be applied, which is a percentage of the amount owed the card company tacks on. Students should effectively treat their credit cards as debit cards, and pay them off every week. Credit cards are great tools, but students can easily get into trouble with their spending if they aren't hyper vigilant. Student loans are their own battle, adding credit card debt on top of that can be truly crushing financially.

Xavier Royer

Xavier Royer

I am currently a full time instructor at a William Penn University, a small private university in Iowa. I am the lone political science faculty member there. In my time teaching, I have already connected with an incredible cohort of students in ways I could never have expected. Partnering with SAGE will allow me the opportunity to help even more students across the globe navigate those tricky questions.
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