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So the day has finally come when you’ve had enough of living under someone else’s roof and want to move out on your own.
My advice? Don’t do it…
Just kidding :). Moving out for the first time is thrilling, but do it the right way otherwise, you’ll be right back at the place you started—your parent’s house.
Seriously, I’ve witnessed friends be so eager to move that they just jump off the cliff with a blindfold on and land splat because they don't have a plan.
I’m no guru here, but I was a full-time college student with a one-year-old and a part-time job when I made the leap. If you’ve ever gone to college then you know your 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.
Here’s the rundown on what you need to do:
WRITE DOWN ALL YOUR CURRENT EXPENSES
Do not abandon ship before you sit down and fully understand where all of your money is going currently. If you’ve already created a budget then this should be the easy part.
Write down each source of monthly income, along with your regular expenses, to find out just how much money you’re working with.
Include expenses like:
- Cell phone plans
- Insurance plans (healthcare, auto, etc.)
- Car payments
- Groceries/eating out
- Debt payments (credit cards, personal loans, etc.)
Related reading: Budgeting for Beginners
Be sure to add in anything you contribute to savings as well. If you’re not exactly sure where your money is going, gather a couple of your bank statements and review your transactions. Subtract your income from your expenses 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.
*I highly recommend using Personal Capital to make sure that you're staying on budget. It's free to sign up, and you are able to view all of your accounts in one place (even when you bank with multiple financial institutions). This includes loans, credit cards, etc. It works just like Mint but has retirement and investment tools as well. Check out my review here!
ESTIMATE UTILITY COSTS
Utilities can be the silent budget killer when you're moving out for the first time. 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, determine 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. This resulted in negative bank accounts and even more 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 contact the service provider and ask for the current bill.
Unfortunately, if your state is like mine that option isn’t available. Instead, you can find a current tenant who doesn’t mind giving you the price range.
If all else fails, estimate the cost of utilities yourself. I practically live in a Google world, so I know for a fact that there are loads of resources out there that will help you with estimating utility prices.
DETERMINE WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD
Now that you’ve got your budget and a feel for how much utilities cost, determine how much you can actually afford in rent.
Looking over your current expenses, ask yourself, what is the maximum amount I am willing to pay in rent? From there, set your targeted price range.
For example, let’s say the maximum amount you are willing to pay in rent is $850. So, you decide to set a price range of $780-$850. This helps you to remain realistic and quickly weed out the rentals you cannot afford.
Make a list of at least three potential places you’re interested in so 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” and did my research solely based on Google reviews.
If this was your plan, do yourself a favor and be a bit more thorough!
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.
Just because a rental is $20 cheaper than another rental on your list does not mean it’s automatically a good fit for you.
Be sure to:
- Drive by the actual area during different times of the day
- Ask those living in the area about the community
- Gather rental potentials from more than one source
When you’re moving out on your own for the first time the last thing you want to do is ask your parents to be a cosigner. Or worse, to deal with the heartbreak of not getting the rental you wanted.
Your credit shows others your likeliness of making payments, and you will most likely need a good credit history when trying to rent.
Oftentimes, 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.
Try to establish credit before you start applying. Platforms like Self make it easy to do this and do not require a credit score to get started.
You simply apply for a loan, pay it back in 12-24 months and each payment builds your credit and savings. How? Because in the end you get all your money back but this time with established credit history! Check it out here!
Consider getting a credit card, such as a secured card or one from your favorite retailer. Then, begin making small purchases. Pay off your balance in full each month and resist the temptation to go on a swiping spree.
If a credit card will be too tempting then do not get one. The risk of debt just isn’t worth it. I didn’t get my first card until after I moved out, but making my car payments on time each month was enough to give me some type of solid credit history!
*You can keep up with your credit score for free with Credit Sesame. And no, it won’t affect your score!
PAY OFF AS MUCH DEBT AS YOU CAN
If you have any debt, such as a car loan or credit cards, pay down as much as you can before you leave the nest.
Obviously, when you pay off an account balance you have more money to contribute to other things thus giving yourself more cushion when life gets real.
Think about it, if you’re paying $200 on credit cards now that’s $200 you have tied up in debt. Pay that off and you have $200 more to work with!
I paid off $34.9k on a single income, and I help other ambitious working women do the same through a simple goal-based budget! Click here to learn how I can help you!
Posts you need to check out if you need to pay off debt!
- How to Pay off Thousands in Debt as a Single Mom. Yes, Even on a Low Income!
- 5 Painless Ways to Pay Off Credit Card Debt on a Low Income
- 5 Proven Ways to Get out of Debt When You’re Broke!
- Pay a Credit Card with a Credit Card? – Here’s How to Do It!
- 9 Things That Are Making You Broke – That You Don’t Realize!
- I’m Debt Free! How to Get Out of Debt as a Single Mom
BUILD AN EMERGENCY FUND
Look, cars break down, unexpected bills pop up, and sometimes we go into the grocery store hangry and blow our budgets!
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that life will throw you curveballs so you have to expect the unexpected.
When I was moving out for the first time, I had 6 months’ worth of rent payments saved up and let me just say that it helped 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, having the money you can fall back on not only keeps you from getting evicted, but it reduces the likeliness of you having to put yourself into debt because you don't have enough money to pay for something.
Tips to help you build your money stash:
- Start a side-hustle. This could be monetizing your hobby, getting a part-time job, etc.
- Cut and/or reduce expenses from your budget
- Host a garage sale before your move
- Sell your unwanted items online via eBay, Facebook Marketplace, etc.
Related reading: 10 Easy Ways You Can Make Extra Money From Home
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.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH SECONDHAND
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…for months, I slept on a blow-up mattress 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.
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.
For tips on how to decorate your first apartment on a budget check out this post here.
Best places to find discounted furniture & appliances:
- Overstock - Overstock.com is an online retailer selling everything from bedding to clothing at discounted prices!
- Wayfair - Wayfair sells over 7 million products for the home with sales up to 70% off and free shipping!
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 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 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. No Bueno!
PLAN YOUR MEALS!
To avoid throwing random things into your cart, strategically plan out your meals. I like to write down exactly what ingredients I'll need to purchase. If you’re like me and lack creative juices in the kitchen then find someone who can help you meal plan.
In addition to meal planning, I find that ordering my groceries allows me to stay on budget. You can compare prices without feeling rushed, and if you went over you're able to make any adjustments before you press check-out.
So yea, no embarrassing moments at the cash register!
Currently, I use Walmart Grocery Pickup which is completely free. Here's $10 to try it out!
Moving out for the first time is a super exciting time, but reality can slap you in the face pretty hard if you don’t have a plan. Pack your bags only when you feel as though you are prepared to take on having your own place with a mask and cape.