The upside to looking for a studio or small apartment is the ability to live independently without concern for the living behaviors of a roommate. You can find many cheap apartments close to the UF campus, and even more are located close to public elementary, middle and high schools in Gainesville. You may also want to consider apartments located near public parks, the movie theater or the mall. This will give you many options for outdoor recreation or entertainment away from home.
Family-Friendly Apartments Under $500
If you have younger children or don't want to live close to the traffic and late-night activity that often comes with life near UF, you may look for cheap apartments in the downtown area or more remote neighborhoods. This will mean that you have a longer commute to UF, but Gainesville is a small city that allows most residents to reach the campus with a reasonable drive.
You can also find small apartments that are located near some of Gainesville's most scenic parks. This will give you access to walking trails, grills and other amenities that are often found in large student apartment complexes. The difference is that you don't have to pay more for access to these city amenities. If you look for apartments close to elementary and high schools, you're likely to have access to playgrounds and dog parks as well.
Utilities, Furniture & Other Added Expenses
It's important to consider furniture, home décor, internet and utilities when determining your maximum housing budget. Many students forget about these added expenses when renting their first apartment, but doing so can place you under incredible financial stress within a month or two. The best way to ensure that you can afford your apartment is to find a rental unit that includes these expenses and still remains within your maximum budget.
Furnished apartments under $500 per month are mostly limited to Gainesville's student housing areas. You're likely to get this low rate because the landlord is charging each of your roommates the same low rate, earning a reasonable profit on the overall apartment. If you want an independent apartment, look for one- or two-bedroom units in the most affordable areas of town.
Many student apartments do include utilities, but you should still ask about this before signing your lease. If you find an apartment that doesn't include utilities but otherwise meets all of your needs, make sure to ask what the average utility cost is for the unit that you're renting. You may find that an apartment that does include utilities is more affordable even if the rent is a bit higher.
You're likely to need Wi-Fi in your apartment, but that's another expense that could take you over your maximum housing budget. Look for student apartment complexes that include free Wi-Fi service, but keep in mind the potential security risks when using a shared network. You may also look at student complexes that include an on-site study center with internet access.
Consider Roommate-Matching Services
If you can't afford to pay more than $500 per month for housing, there are many student housing complexes that will match you with roommates. This allows you to room with other students in a larger apartment than you could afford to rent on your own. In most cases, these apartments offer individual leasing, which means that each resident is responsible for only their share of the monthly rent. You never have to worry about awkward conversations with roommates concerning rent, and your standing in the apartment is never impacted by someone else's inability to pay.
Many student-focused apartment communities near UF offer a long list of on-site amenities that you would not likely have access to when renting a cheap apartment further from the university. Many student communities include swimming pools, fitness facilities, study centers and clubhouses. Some properties may also include tennis courts, basketball courts or fire pits for after-dark enjoyment. Grills and open green space for recreation are also offered with some apartment complexes.
The more luxurious student apartments can charge upwards of $1,000 per unit or above $600 per room, so you will have fewer options with a maximum budget of $500. Try to start apartment shopping as early as possible, and get your name on roommate-matching lists for all apartment complexes that offer units within your budget. This will give you the best chance of finding placement in a nice complex with lots of amenities.