For the majority of human beings, housing is our biggest expense. On the hierarchy of needs, shelter is one of the essentials and where/how we live truly shapes our lives. Unfortunately, for a graduate student living in an inexpensive one bedroom apartment in Denver, rental rates have climbed over $800 a month, or around $10,000 a year.
There are creative ways to reduce this expense, and they can dramatically change your financial future. I’ve put some thought into it – asked around – and gathered some alternatives to traditional housing that can save significant amounts of money.
There are a number of great non-profits around Denver that offer free housing for young adults who are willing to donate some of their time in service. Here are a few that I’m aware of:
- Open Door Ministries. ODM owns 7 homes that offer long term transitional housing for folks moving toward long term sustainability. There are a couple of options (when open) to live in one of the houses and provide leadership.
- Providence Network. Similar model to ODM, they offer reduced or no cost housing for leaders willing to lead a home.
- Young Life. I believe Young Life in the greater Denver area has had several homes donated to them that they use for staff. I believe this is an option for staff only, but it may be worth looking into.
- Denver Rescue Mission. This organization offers room and board for those willing to donate a set number of hours each week.
- Downing House. A really cool old property that houses 12 men and 12 women. Residents have to donate hours each week to ministry.
I’m sure that there are other options that are not on my radar – feel free to email those to me (firstname.lastname@example.org). These can be a fantastic way to both serve and meet your housing needs.
LIVING WITH AN OLDER COUPLE
Many people I know have used a variation of this model with fantastic results. Over and over I hear stories of people – on both sides of the relationship – who were blessed by this arrangement. Here are a couple of variations of this model:
- Snow Birds. Homeowners may choose to live in a warm climate city for 4-6 months a year. They often pay someone to keep an eye on their house. A graduate student living in their home can be a fantastic blessing to both parties.
- House Sitting. I know a friend who was able to live rent-free for a full year while her host family moved overseas for a period of time.
- Empty Nesters. The average square feet of a single family home has grown dramatically over the past 50 years, and most of those homes are owned by families with the children transitioning out of the home. This is a ripe opportunity for ministry in both directions. Mature couples can speak into the lives of younger peoples about their life experiences, and young people bring life, energy, and excitement into a home.
- There are many opportunities for live-in help with families of all sizes. A seminary student is a fantastic candidate because of their maturity, faith, and season of life.
- Basement Apartments. Many homes have a ‘mother in-law suite’ or mini apartment. Sometimes these can be rented at a significant discount. I know of several of these that are built into a walkout basement and have their own entrance. Most people forget that living in this type of situation saves money on the other expenses that are attached to housing: Utilities, TV, WIFI, water, decorating, etc.
I spent my entire life between leaving home and getting married with roommates. I found this to be a really rewarding season of life. Even if you’re an introvert, living in community is a fantastic way to meet new people, be exposed to new ideas, and develop a support structure. There are a number of ways to meet new roommates, but here are some suggestions:
- Connect with Incoming Students. About 55% of Denver Seminary students come from outside the Front Range. If you’re moving to Denver, this is a fantastic time to connect with someone similar.
- This Facebook page Connecting Christian Roommates.
- Network through your local church.. Your church community is the best context for many of these strategies. Check with a local young adult’s pastor to see if they know other people similar to you with whom you might connect.
- Alumni Groups. I suggest connecting both with your undergraduate institution and through Denver Seminary’s Alumni These can be great starting points for connecting with a roommate or finding a church home. .
- Off-campus housing. This web page lists many options for off-campus housing at reasonable rates.
Denver Seminary has just over 90 housing units on campus, and they are priced about 20% under current market rates. You can choose to live with or without roommates. Living on campus is also a fantastic way to save money on transportation (most people’s second largest expense). Here is a link to that info: Denver Seminary Student Housing.
In conclusion, one of the most important things to remember is that this is for a season of life. One seminary graduate I know lived in a small studio apartment above a barn in the Midwest. She and her husband could hear the horses moving around at night, but the owner let them live there for under $100 a month including free WIFI! By living this lifestyle, they saved thousands of dollars over their time in school and now look back on that season of life with great fondness.
Reducing housing expenses will likely require sacrifice – a long commute, a lack of privacy, small square footage, or hours given in service, but remember that these small sacrifices will create great memories. They are only for a season, and your financial rewards will be reaped for decades to come.