Your First Apartment

Since moving back home last summer, I've wanted to move out. No offense Mom & Dad, I love you both to death, but my tiny room and messy sisters are not doing it for me.

I knew I wanted to move this summer, but I didn't plan very well, and now it is the end of May and I'm still at home with no leads. For anyone who is considering moving out please learn from my mistakes and do these things BEFORE looking at apartments.

Moving out from your parents house for the first time? Or considering moving in the next couple years? Your first apartment, a complete guide is literally everything you need to move. Budget sheets, list of what to buy before moving and tips for finding a place. I wish I knew all this before I moved!

Figure out your budget.

Sit down, get a pen and paper and do it. Over-estimate all your expenses and underestimate your income. It'll  save you the headache later if something costs a little more than you thought it would. This step is important, especially if this is your first apartment.

Don't forget about all the new expenses you will have when you move out on your own. Keep in mind, many apartments require your income to be 2-3 times the rent amount. Divide your income by 3 to get a realistic idea of how much you can afford.

  • Rent (Include pet rent if you have a cat or dog)
  • Utilities (Gas, electric, water, sewer, trash, cable, internet, phone)
  • Parking
  • Groceries (Toilet paper, food, cleaning supplies, hair products)
  • Car (gas, oil changes, maintenance) p.s. you should probably save up between $500-$1500 for emergency issues with your car
  • Entertainment & Fun (movies, eating out, date nights, etc)
  • Savings (Yes, you should budget for at least $50 to be set aside each month)
  • Other Expenses (Insurance, cell phone, Netflix, Hulu, magazine subscriptions, braces, all that extra stuff)

You also need to consider the one-time costs of moving. Look at apartments in your area to get an idea for the average rates. I included some base amounts in my examples:

  • Application Fees ($25-$60)
  • Pet Fees ($200-$500)
  • Deposit ($200-$1000) - Keep an eye on your credit score, that's a huge factor on deposits
  • Administrative fees ($20-$200)
  • Holding Fee ($50-$500) - If you are waiting to move in until a later date you may have to pay a fee
  • New Stuff ($10-$2000) - More on this later

If you want to use the budget sheets I use you can get them in my Etsy shop by clicking here.

Make your To-Do List

Now that you have an idea how much everything will cost, you need to set goals and make a to-do list to get ready to move. Figure out how much money you need to save up to move in (All those one-time fees + 1-3 months rent + Additional savings is the optimal total).Obviously everyone is different, you may not have time to save up for everything, but if you do plan how much you need to set aside to reach your goal.

Other things on the to-do list can include:

  • Keeping an eye out for cheap furniture
  • Finding a job or second job to help with costs/savings
  • Cutting down on expenses before moving (cancel those subscriptions, eat out less, get a cheaper cell phone plan)
  • Find roommates (if you want some)
  • Work on increasing your credit, or paying off old bills that could affect your score
  • Start working on getting everything planned and organized so when it's time to move, you have less stress.

Make your "Need" List

When you move out, especially into your first apartment (or dorm), you're going to need a lot of stuff. Furniture, appliances, technology, cleaning supplies, grocery items like flour, sugar, spices. There's a ton you will forget to buy before moving, so start your list early and add to it as you think of more stuff. Also, consider making a list of things you already have, so you know what you need to pack before moving. Things like coffee mugs, computers, clocks and curtains that you can take with you when you leave the nest.

Below are some of the more common things people forget to add to their need list.

  • Trash cans and trash bags
  • Broom & Dust  Pan
  • Mop & Bucket (or a Swiffer sweeper)
  • Towels for cleaning (dish rags work best)
  • Sponges or a scrub brush for dishes
  • Cleaning products (Windex, Clorox Wipes, Comet, Shower Spray, etc)
  • Toilet Brush & Plunger
  • Toilet Paper
  • Bleach, Laundry Detergent and Softener
  • Towels, Washcloths, and Hand Towels (2 per person works the best)
  • Rugs and Mats (on for each bathroom, a front door mat and one in the kitchen)
  • Light bulbs
  • Toolbox (Hammer, Nails, Glue, Screwdrivers, push pins, Duct Tape, Command Hooks, Heavy Duty Scissors, measuring tapes, level, pliers, etc)
  • Shower curtains and rings
  • Hangers
  • Mirrors
  • Office Supplies (Tape, scissors, stapler, paperclips, envelopes, stamps, pens, pencils, notepads, push pins)
  • Bathroom stuff (Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, razor, shampoo/conditioner, hair products)

Target, Ikea and Walmart are great places to start. Both target and Walmart have apps to help you save money.

Save, save and don't forget to save

Seriously. Save your money. If you lose your job half-way through your lease, would you make it? Keep all this in mind when you plan to move. If you can - wait awhile and use that time to save your cash.

Start buying - slow & smart

You have your list of things you need to buy. Sometimes buying your stuff slowly can help you save money. Keep an eye out at garage sales, on craigslist, at thrift stores and for friends/family giving stuff away. You can find furniture for cheap if you know where to look.

Slowly buying everything you need will also give you time to paint, decor, and update any furniture you buy. Talk to friends and family to see if they have extra stuff laying around the house. And don't be afraid to check out the dollar stores, Big Lots and Walmart for good deals.

Okay, now you can start looking

This could be a few weeks after you decide to move, or over a year. Either way you now have everything in order to start your hunt. Apartment hunting can be stressful but if you plan ahead it will help out a lot.

The first thing you should do is create a list of wants and needs. Needs would be things like the number of bedrooms, location, price range, and features you need. Wants are things you would love to have, but it wouldn't be a deal breaker if they are not included. This would be things like a view, skylights, fireplaces or updated kitchens. Once you have that list, the best place to start looking is online.

There is a ton of sites that can help you find an apartment, but these are some of my favorites:

Google maps does not allow you to choose a price range, features or rooms, but many times google maps will show apartments that do not show up on any other websites. Type "apartment" into the search and zoom in on an area you want to move near. Many apartments have websites linked with google, other's you can find by googling the complex name. Either way, this can be really effective when the other sites don't have many results.

Once you have a list of apartments you are interested in, contact each complex for more information. I kept a notebook with all the apartments I wanted to check out. Every time someone emailed me, I would add that info to their page. If everything sounds good, it's time to look on foot.

Remember that moving into your first apartment can be exciting, don't let that excitement lead to rushing into something that doesn't work for you.

Actually visiting the apartments

Plan an entire day (maybe two days) to looking at apartments. Try to schedule viewing ahead of time. Bring your notebook with you and take notes of each place, also make sure the prices and info you had written is all correct. At the end of your search you have to decide where you want to move.

For me I've had to go through this step several times. Don't get discouraged, you won't find a perfect apartment, you just need to find one that will work for you. If you are having a hard time, adjust your budget, adjust your needs/wants and look in other areas.

It may be best to narrow your list down to 3 apartments, then do some more digging. Drive by the apartments at night, on weekends, and early morning. See how far your drive would be from work/school. Read reviews online, but keep in mind, most people only review when they hated the apartment. Anything over 50% is probably good. Ask the landlord if there were any cases of bugs or rats, legally they are obligated to tell you if you ask. Just do it politely.

Once you find your future home you will have to apply, pay a deposit, sign the lease and then move in. Start packing ahead of time to avoid more stress. Make sure your furniture will fit through the door & will fit in the room. Also make sure you have the utilities set up BEFORE you move in.

I hope these tips were helpful and hopefully you plan ahead unlike me! If you have any other tips or things I left out, comment below and good luck in your apartment hunt!!