Note: This article is Part 1 of a series called Guide to Living on Your Own. Stay tuned for Part 2, How to Furnish your First Apartment.
If you’re itching to have your own place, there are a few things you need to consider before saying goodbye to your parents. Trust me, you want to make sure you can afford it and that you aren’t constantly asking your parents for rent money. I hope this short guide on moving out will help shed some light on the process of moving out and living on your own.
Income and Budgeting
First things first, you need stable income in order to live on your own.
If you don’t have a job that you can live off of, you have a few options:
- You can look for a better-paying job
- You can get a second job
- You can find a roommate
If you are struggling to find work, just know that your time will come eventually. Maybe now isn’t the best time to put so much pressure on yourself. Besides, you want to be 100% sure you can handle the responsibility of moving out and being on your own.
If you are confident you can afford to move out, read on.
Before you go apartment hunting, you need to understand how much money it takes to live on your own. If you have a specific apartment/condo in mind, check online for their rent rates. Usually rent will fluctuate depending on the season. Summer is a prime time for people to move, so odds are apartment complexes will raise their rates during that time. If you don’t mind waiting until fall or winter, it might save you money to move then.
Once you’ve grasped a good idea on how much rent will cost, you’ll need to calculate your other monthly bills. Look at your checking account and see where your current money is going.
Things to look for:
- Restaurants and food
Odds are you may need to cut back on some spending, at least for a few months in your new place in order to get a handle on how much it costs for you to live each month.
Next, try to estimate other monthly bills. You may not know how much your electric bill will be each month. Ask a friend or family member how much their bill costs on average. Of course, you won’t need to pay the same as you would for a 2,000 square foot home, but you can get a general idea.
Other bills to estimate:
- Car payment
- Car insurance
- Renter’s Insurance
- Cell phone
- Student loans
- Other loans
In order to live comfortably, your rent shouldn’t make up more than 1/3 of your salary. If you’re looking at a place, and the rent is half or more, you can’t afford it. Also, be realistic with your spending habits when determining your budget. You don’t want to count pennies later on.
Finally, try to estimate new items you will need in your new home. Hopefully, your family and friends will have some old furniture and other household items to give you. But if not, I don’t need to tell you to do your best to save up for those things. You can also buy items second hand. Get ready for those garage and estate sales!
Make sure you are comfortable. I remember when I got my first apartment, I was in a rush and signed a lease before even looking at the place. Please, don’t do that. My unit was fine, but I would not have picked it had I known it was on the outskirts of the complex, facing a noisy, busy street.
Remember that the landlord/property manager is just trying to get you to move in. Even if they show you a unit that is exactly the same, just remember that your unit could be in a different building or on a different side of the complex. You need to feel comfortable with the exact unit. I remember looking at two exact units, but one was facing a different way, making it seem darker on the inside. This made the other unit much more appealing.
Also, when looking at apartments, consider the surrounding neighborhood. Do you see people walking their dogs, going on jogs, etc? If so, this means the neighborhood’s residents believe it to be safe, which can give you some peace of mind, especially if you are a single woman who will be living alone.
What about brand-new complexes? New doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better.
I once considered a brand-new apartment complex. It was a little pricey, but the newness of it made me want it more. The con was that the complex was not complete. I was told the swimming pool and fitness center wouldn’t be completed until a year later. That made me reconsider.
Think of your wish list. What is most important to you about the apartment? What do you absolutely have to have? Organize the items on your list from greatest to least and carry it with you when you look at apartments. That way, you can easily figure out what complex meets all your needs and what doesn’t. Maybe an apartment is in the perfect location, but it’s at the top of your budget. What is most important to you?
Signing on the Dotted Line
Before you sign your lease, you’ll need a few things first:
- Your photo ID or driver’s license
- Your social security card
- Your previous two paychecks
- Proof of renter’s insurance (usually this can be provided a week or so after you move in)
- Security deposit (usually properties require a cashier’s check or money order)
- First month’s rent
If you have never rented your own place before, you will most likely need a parent to co-sign the lease. This is just to give peace of mind to property management that if you can not pay your rent, someone else with better credit history will be able to.
Also, the property manager will most likely run a background check and credit check before your application can be approved. Usually this process doesn’t take long.
After that, you’ll finally get a key to move in!
Odds and Ends
Not so fast! Before moving in, there’s still a few things left to do:
- Turn on the water/electricity (you will most likely need a deposit for this through your electric and water company)
- Renter’s insurance (usually this is required, so unfortunately you will have to spend some money each month but normally you can find a plan that isn’t expensive)
- Pack your things and rent a moving truck or ask a friend to help
If you’re a major procrastinator, ask a friend to help with packing. Better yet, turn it into a party, and have all hands on deck.
After You Move In
- Get familiar with your neighborhood and your neighbors. At the very least, try to introduce yourself to the neighbor you share a wall with. Having a friendly neighbor can come in handy if you ever go out of town and need someone to keep an eye on your place. Also, you never know when you’ll need that cup of sugar!
- Take advantage of your complex’s amenities. You’re paying for it each month, so why not?
- Always be on the lookout. Apartment complexes always attract riffraff, even nice gated ones. Just comes with the territory. Don’t worry though. After a month or so of living in your new home, you’ll get a feel for the neighborhood and what it’s like at night in your complex.
A Couple Helpful Links
If you have a new apartment and need some inspiration on decorating ideas, or on apartment living in general, Apartment Therapy is a great resource.
If you love DIYing, A Beautiful Mess might be a website you enjoy. There’s also so many other topics to browse, as well!
Have any tips for moving out? Comment below!