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So the day has finally come when you’ve had enough of living at your parent’s house and want to make a huge leap into adulthood.
My advice? Don’t do it…
Just kidding :). We must all leave the nest one day, but do it the right way otherwise, you’ll be right back at the place you started at—your parent’s house. I’ve witnessed friends so eager to move that they just jumped off the cliff with a blindfold on and landed splat because they didn’t have a plan.
I was 21-years-old when I moved out of my mom’s house and it was the best decision ever. Of course, I’m not a move-out-of-your-parent’s-house guru, but I was a full-time student with a one-year-old and a part-time job. If you’ve ever gone to college then you know you’re income is pretty much non-existent. There were many unexpected expenses and times when I literally had a couple of dollars to my name BUT I never moved back.
Determine what you can afford
Do not abandon ship before you sit down and determine what you can actually afford. If you’ve already created a budget, then this should be the easy part. Write down all of your sources of income each month along with your reoccurring expenses like a cell phone bill. Subtract the two and take a look at what you’ve got left over.
“I have $1200 left so I can afford a $1000 loft!”
WRONG. Keep reading.
Estimate utility prices
Utilities can be the silent budget killer. It’s great that you can afford your rent, but what is the point if you’re sitting in the dark holding a candle because you didn’t have enough to pay the light bill?
There isn’t one.
Now that you’ve subtracted your current bills from your monthly income, the next step is determining how much you should set aside for utilities. I’ll admit that I didn’t prepare much for utility costs when I got my first apartment which lead to negative bank accounts and credit card debt. That’s a no-no my friend.
Once you have an area in mind, research the price of utilities. If you have the address you are interested in then you can contact the service provider and ask for the current bill. Unfortunately, if your state is like mine that option isn’t available so see if you can find a current tenant who doesn’t mind giving you the price range of their bills.
If all else fails, estimate the cost of utilities yourself. I practically live in a Google world, so I know for a fact there are loads of resources out there that will assist you with estimating utility prices.
Get a free budget/checklist printable here!
Compare rental prices
Now that you’ve got your budget down and have a feel for how much utilities cost, you can move on to comparing the cost of rent. It’s good to have a list of at least three potential places that you’re interested in so that you can weigh the pros and cons of each.
When I was searching for my first apartment I didn’t know all of the ins and outs of the ‘rental world’. I did my research solely based on Google reviews *face palm*. My apartment complex was fine in the beginning but soon after everything went downhill and I was counting down the days until my lease was up.
When it was time to move again I was juggling college, a child, and a new full-time position, therefore, I refused to go through the grueling process of searching through endless listings. I used a local company called Apartment Hunters and got an agent who gathered the listings for me based on my preferences. In less than two weeks I was signing a brand new lease.
Featured Rentals is one of the largest rental listings website in the US with 500,000 rental listings. They gather rental information directly from landlords and management companies, so their apartment listings include more details than the newspapers or other free sites. They may also include listings the other sites don’t have and always verify that the property actually has a vacancy.
Brokers or realtors often make a commission that is previously arranged by the landlord which can equal a rent payment. This is normally added to the cost of your lease. Those at Featured Rentals are not paid commissions so you won’t be pushed towards a rental that is way out of your price range. They only charge a small fee for the services they provide which ultimately keeps you from paying commissions.
If you’re completely new to the process you can get answers through their 24-hour live support. Check out their guest search for free.
Pay off as much debt as you can
If you have any debt, such as a car loan or credit card balances, pay down as much as you can before you abandon ship. Obviously, when you pay off an account balance you have more money to contribute to other things thus offering you more cushion when things get real.
Build up an emergency fund
When I moved out on my own for the first time I had 6 months worth of rent payments saved up, and let me just say that it helps a ton! Through all of the uh-oh moments, I had the peace of mind that at least my rent would be paid.
Even if you can only save a few dollars at a time it will be well worth it to have something to fall back on. Consider supplementing your income with a side hustle in order to help grow your money stash. This could be selling your old items online, making a profit off of your hobby, getting a part-time job, etc. During my slow hours at work, I would earn money for taking surveys and watching videos on my phone. Although I didn’t do it often, I managed to get at least $5 a week to help with gas.
Get a roommate
One thing I wish I was more open to was getting a roommate to help break up the bills. You get the benefit of having your own spot for half the cost, but if you’re not someone that does well with other people then don’t make yourself miserable.
When you’re ready to get your own place the last thing you want to do is ask your parents to be a cosigner or deal with the heartbreak of not getting the rental you wanted. Your credit shows others your worthiness when it comes to making payments and you will most likely need a good credit history when trying to rent. Often times, when you are trying to move out on your own you may not have any credit at all which can be just like having bad credit.
Establish credit before you start applying. Consider getting a credit card, such as a secured card or one from your favorite retailer, and begin making small purchases. Pay off your balance in full each month and resist the temptation to go on a swiping spree.
Related reading: Track Your Credit Score for Free with Credit Sesame
Make friends with second-hand items
It’s your FIRST apartment so don’t feel as though you need to have a place fully furnished with brand new items. Stick to the bare necessities and add-on as you get some experience (and money) under your belt.
I know the struggle…I slept on a blow-up mattress for months before I finally saved up enough money to purchase a bed. I bought a sectional and ottoman from Craigslist for under $200 and added décor from thrift shops. To this day, my living room is furnished from just $330.
People are always looking to get rid of things, so don’t be afraid to ask around for unwanted items. My mom’s house is my personal Walmart because whatever she throws into the storage room I pack into the trunk of my car.
Whip out the apron
Don’t be the person who has no heat in the middle of December because you couldn’t stop going to Taco Bell. When you’re on your own you’ve got to crack down and start being a little smarter about your spending habits. Eating out is a hard habit to break, especially for me since I hate to cook, but it will quickly drain your bank account.
Dusting off that apron and getting your Rachel Ray on is a must, but when it comes to making meals for yourself only buy what you plan on using. I remember spending over $300 on groceries within the first month of moving out on my own and I had to throw away half of it because it had expired. I had no clue what I was doing so I just threw random things into my cart and assumed I was creative enough to make a meal out of them.
Clearly, I was far from creative.
Planning out your meals saves you both money and time. If you’re like me and lack creative juices in the kitchen then find someone who can help you meal plan. I recently signed up for the $5 Meal Plan in which a weekly meal plan with recipes totaling around $2 per person is created for me. You have the option of using the pre-made weekly meal plan and shopping list, or the drag and drop Meal Plan Builder. I’m on the free 14-day trial which you can check out for yourself here.
I also use the app Ibotta to get cashback on my groceries. You find offers before you shop and redeem them by taking a picture of your receipt. It’s that easy! Once your account balance gets to $20 you can cash out via Paypal,Venmo, or gift cards. You’ll receive your first $10 when you sign up.
Moving out on your own is an exciting experience, but reality can slap you in the face pretty quickly if you don’t have a plan. Pack your bags only when you feel as though you are prepared to take on adulthood with a mask and cape.