GUIDE TO YOUR FIRST APARTMENT

Part One: How do you know if you are ready?

This post is the beginning of the Moving Out Series geared toward helping you get ready to leave the nest and go out on your own. Before you go, there are many things to consider and prepare for. This post will give a basic summary of what to expect. Later, I will delve deeper into each of the aspects mentioned, so that you will be able to successfully be on your own, without too much of a struggle.

Moving out takes more than just packing a bag!

Do you think you are ready to move out on your own? Maybe you are graduating high school soon and feel the urge to move out and gain some freedom. Or maybe, you are graduating college and are ready to get a career and need to move away to get the best opportunities. Possibly, you are in your mid-20’s and still live at home for whatever reason, but you are starting to feel like it is time to have your own space. Whatever your situation, there are times in our lives where we start to get the desire to make it on our own. This feeling is natural, but unfortunately, the world today makes it a lot harder to just move out without a lot of preparation. With a low minimum wage, no guarantee of a high paying job even with a degree, and the high cost of living, it is no wonder so many people still live with their parents well into their late 20’s. Gone are the days of being able to struggle in a one room apartment on a futon while you earn enough money to get a bigger, better place. Those tiny places (and the futons) can sometimes take everything you make, with no room left for savings.

So, what can you do if you are feeling it is time to get out there and try to make it? Prepare.

There is so much more involved in moving out than just getting a job, finding an apartment, and moving in. There are so many things to think about even before you find the right place, such as making sure your credit score is decent and saving enough money for all the security deposits you may need. There are things to consider about types of leases, whether or not you need or want a roommate, what kind of neighborhood you are looking at. So first thing you should consider…what are the pros and cons of living at home versus moving out?

Pros: Freedom! Freedom to come and go as you please, to leave your dirty dishes in the sink, to have your own things in more than just one little bedroom in the house.

Cons: Financial stress, homesickness, making your own appointments, learning cooking and cleaning skills, etc.

The cons list looks big, but these are all things that are worth the struggle to become an independent adult anyway! Look at your own situation and make a list of pros and cons specific to you. Once you decide it is time, you need to think through several things that you will need to do first.

THINGS TO CONSIDER LONG BEFORE MOVING OUT

  1. Can I afford to live on my own? This one is fairly obvious, but have you considered how much you need to be making to afford your rent? A general rule is that your income be 3 times what your rent is. If your rent is $1000 a month, your income needs to be at least $3000 a month. Does your job give you a stable enough income of at least 3 times what you want to pay in rent? If you look around at the going rate of rentals in the area you are planning on living in, you can figure out for yourself if your job is enough to get an apartment. Remember, generally leases are 12 months, so you also have to look at the stability of your job. Will you be at this job long enough to maintain your lease?
  2. Do you have enough saved for beginning expenses? Did you know that apartments require a security deposit that can amount to a whole months rent? Security deposits are required to cover any damage you may do during your tenancy, but they will pay you that back at the end of your lease if there is no damage to fix. Did you know some renters also require not only the first months rent, but the last months as well, to cover if you decide to leave before your lease is up? That could be up to 3 months worth of rent due at lease signing. You need to make sure you have that much saved up before you even begin looking at apartments, or at least that you will have that money saved by the time you are ready. Like before, look at the rentals in the area you are planning on living in to determine monthly rent, then save 3 times that before you rent.
  3. Did you know that you need security deposits for utilities? This one usually surprises most first time renters. If your utilities aren’t included in your lease, you are responsible for water, gas, electric, garbage, cable, and internet. While you can choose not to have internet or cable, the others are required. When you call to set up your utilities, the company will look at your credit score. If you are a first time customer, you will have to pay a security deposit to ensure that you will pay your bills. This amount could be based on your credit history and your ability to pay your bills to this point. This is why it is important to keep a good credit score. Read here on how to raise your credit score. These deposits are usually paid back to you over a couple months, once they see if you are a good customer. Make sure you are budgeting to pay those bills on time (read here to see a beginner guide to budgets). If you have had utilities in your name before and have had delinquent or shut off notices, you will most likely have to pay a higher security deposit.
  4. Have you considered all of your other monthly expenses? I’m sure you are keeping in mind all of the other bills you may have each month; your Spotify, your car insurance, your Hulu subscription. But there are so many more that you may not have had to think about (possibly, because your parents were helping you out with much of it). Of course you have your rent, your utilities (which can fluctuate), and the bills you already owe. Then you have to think about renters insurance (some places require you have it), groceries, and gas money. What about the “extras” you need to budget for, like going out to eat, buying makeup or clothes for your new job, toilet paper, toiletries. You also need to decide how much you will need each month for doing laundry (if at laundromat) or cost of detergent, copays if you get sick and medicines your mom always had on hand. Some of these things seem little, but more than likely, at this point, you are on a tight budget and then these become huge expenses. Don’t be like my daughter who went way too long without toilet paper because she didn’t have the money and was too proud to ask for my help! If you plan these things into your budget, you should be fine.
  5. Can you maintain the time frame of your lease? A lease is legally binding, so before you sign one, you are going to want to make sure you can commit to the agreement. Some renters offer month to month leases, while others are typically 12 months. Are you planning on staying there just until you get a new job (which could be way across town or a different state) or are you looking for a place long term? Some renters can be negotiable, so make sure you know what your goals and intentions are and talk to the landlord before signing a least.
  6. …And even more expenses! Let’s talk furnishings. You probably have some items you are bringing with you, but you are going to have a whole apartment to furnish! This can be exciting, especially if you are patient about finding the right items, or are crafty and know how to make something beautiful out of something old. Furnishings don’t have to cost a lot, and you don’t need a whole living room set for one person, or even right away. Don’t forget, though, the small stuff you DO need right away…shower curtain, window coverings for security reasons, dishes, pots and pans, towels, beddings, etc. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to furnish your apartment, but you should prioritize what you definitely need right away, and maybe start collecting things before you finally move in.
  7. Emotional readiness/maturity. Finally, something that you don’t have to spend money on! However, this is one of the biggest priorities. It can be very lonely living on your own, or even with a roommate that might not be your friend. If you are moving far away from family and friends, it can be exciting, but very lonely. Even living nearby, you may start to feel homesick. This is normal. If you start to feel depressed because of your homesickness or loneliness, call your friends and family, invite people over, or call a professional for help. Any big change comes with feelings of doubt, so don’t think you can’t do it just because you get a little sad and miss home! Eventually, you will find your own adult life to be thriving in new ways.
  8. Lower your expectations. Okay, we have all seen the TV shows of single people living in the city in fabulous apartments with no care in the world financially or the influencers on social media who have decorated their space like Joanna Gaines “on a budget” that isn’t realistic. Don’t fall for the trap that this is what your first place is going to be. If you have unrealistic expectations, you are going to hate it every time your sink drips or the floor creaks. You are going to say it’s a crappy place because it isn’t living up to standards that are made up by other people. Find the joy! Remember WHY you wanted to be out on your own, and embrace even the tough times. Think of these days as a stepping stone to your long term goals and as motivation to work harder, get paid more, and try to get a better place when your lease is up. Be a good tenant, so that you can get good recommendations to a better place.

This list is a starting point of what to prepare for when you are ready to leave the nest. It is in no way a complete picture of what you need to prepare for, but in this series, I will get more specific with each of these areas so that you can be ready when the time comes.

Follow my blog with your email for weekly updates when new posts come out, and follow me on social media. Feel free to leave me a comment with questions you may have, or any issues you think I should address. Next week, I will be helping you understand what a lease is and how it works to protect you!

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