Privacy, lower living costs, graduation — there are myriad reasons you move from the dorms to an apartment. But with greater independence comes greater responsibility, and moving into your first place will certainly bring both, especially when it comes to your finances.
Here are some things to start budgeting for when you make your move.
Rent should be a top priority when you set up a budget. Follow the rule of thumb and aim for a place that costs 30% or less of your monthly income. Can’t find anything you like in your price range? Grab another roommate, or consider living farther away from campus or your job.
Save enough money to cover your security deposit — money your landlord holds onto in case of damages or failure to pay rent — when you sign your lease.
And your landlord might only take checks, so order a stack from your bank to have on hand.
Unlike the dorms, where electricity, water, heating, garbage and internet costs are wrapped up neatly in one housing bill, living in an apartment means paying for utilities separately, usually at a monthly interval. Utility bills might cost around one-fifth of your rent. Keeping up with due dates can be a hassle, so set up automatic payments if you can — just make sure you always have enough in your account to cover the cost. If you don’t use auto pay, make a habit of paying your bills as soon as you get them.
Your apartment probably is bigger than your dorm, meaning more space to fill. Buying furniture can put a dent in your wallet the first time you move, and getting it to your new home may take some muscle.
Keep yourself organized by making a list of what you need. Minimize costs by asking family and friends if they have spare items that you can take off their hands. Before you buy new, check Craigslist; if you’re still around campus, there may be a Facebook or Reddit page dedicated to buying and selling furniture. If you’re pooling resources with roommates, make sure everybody is on the same page about who owns what, or what happens if somebody moves out. When it’s time to move in, recruit your friends or family to help with the heavy lifting, or hire some quick help through a service app like TaskRabbit.
Protect your belongings from unexpected events like theft or fire by taking out renters insurance. It’s relatively cheap, averaging $15 a month, and can save you thousands on replacing furniture, electronics or jewelry if calamity should strike.
It’s easy to forget that small items like dish towels, cleaning supplies, pots and pans are essential to happy apartment living. As with furniture, make a list of things you need. Look first for freebies, such as extras from family and friends, before heading to the store for new items. Add cooking to your arsenal of skills; eating out every day is not only impractical but expensive.
It’s great to have your own place, or just a new place, but don’t go overboard. Remember some of the frugal habits you honed in the dorms, and you’ll be more likely to enjoy independent living.
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