There’s a lot to be said for living with your parents: You don’t have to swing rent on your own, the electric bill isn’t under your name, and no one is going to scream at you if you raid the fridge. Well… they might, but they’ll probably forgive you quickly.
That being said, it’s understandable to want to break out and live on your own. But moving out of your parents’ house for the first time can feel like an overwhelming feat. We’re here to help. From searching for the perfect roommate to making sure you can afford the pad you want, here’s a 10-step plan for how to move out of your parents house and into an apartment of your own.
Determine your monthly income:
Just because feel like you’re ready to move out doesn’t mean you are ready to move out. Most people underestimate exactly how much money it takes to live on their own.You need to consider more than how much rent will cost. Here’s a handy algorithm for how to calculate the costs of living on your own:
First, figure your average monthly income:
Look at the last 6 months of paycheck stubs and look at what you actually take home after taxes. If you haven’t had your job for at least 6 months, or if you’re working a temp job, now might not be the best time to move. A sudden loss of income three months into your new digs can send you into a tailspin.
Next, subtract your average monthly bills:
Look at your last six credit card statements, and average them all out. If you have one month that is particularly high, don’t leave it out just because the spending pattern is rare. Chances are you’ll have some unexpected new expenses that will earn you another higher-than-average bill down the road.
Working on paying off a student loan? Be sure to include the monthly payments.
Don’t forget to include the stuff you pay for just once or twice a year: Do you owe State or Federal taxes last year? Do you pay your car insurance annually? Take that annual expense then divide by 12 to determine the monthly average.
Now, subtract your NEW monthly expenditures:
There will likely be new monthly expenses that you aren’t paying now. Think beyond heat and electricity: Are you going to have additional travel expenses to and from work? If you’re eating your parents’ food now, you’ll have to tack on meal expenses. Oh, don’t forget trips to the laundromat!
You’ll also be expected to share the cost of cable, internet, and household goods like toilet paper and cleaning supplies. The best way to get a realistic estimate on these totals is to talk with a friend who is already living with roommates about the average cost of these things we tend to forget about.
The amount you have left will help determine what rent you can afford. Financial experts suggest your rent be somewhere between 28% and 30% of your monthly income.
Add one-time costs:
There are a lot of unanticipated costs involved in moving. Again, you should pick a friend’s brain.
In addition to the security deposit most landlords require–usually one month’s rent– there’s also the moving expenses.
Moving costs more than just the truck rental (and be wary of “cheap” rentals that also charge by the mile.) Do you need professional movers? Packing boxes? Bubble wrap? Then there’s items you’ll be leaving behind and may need replacing when in your new digs, like sheets, towels, and possibly furniture like a desk or television.
Do you have enough in your savings account to cover these costs without totally depleting it? If not, you consider postponing the move, or try to reduce the budget; ask supermarkets for empty boxes, borrow a friend’s car, and ask your buddies to help you move.
Make a list of “must-haves,” then cut in half:
“I must have South-facing windows for good light; “I definitely need a private parking space;” “There is no way I’m living in a walk-up building!”
There’s nothing wrong with a wish-list. In fact, it’s a good idea to make one. But there’s a big difference between what you want and what you need in order to live comfortably.
For example, living in a hip neighborhood with great restaurants isn’t going to do you much good if you can’t afford to eat anything but instant noodles.
While affordable rent will likely be your greatest consideration, there may be other non-negotiables. If you have a pet, you’re going to need a pet-friendly landlord. If you take the subway to work, living a 45 minute walk to the closest station isn’t a great idea.
Start your hunt three months early:
“Three months? Most listings won’t even be up yet,” you may think.
That may be true, but you need to know more than which apartments will be available. Look at a map and start searching for information about each neighborhood. What is the crime rate in that area? How much has rent increased in the past few years?
Look at what’s on the market currently. If there’s nothing in your price range now, there’s no reason to expect the prices to decrease as time goes by. Sadly, it usually works in the opposite direction.
Unless you have some amazing karma, you’ll probably be moving into a place with much less storage. The solution? Digitize and release.
Ditch the CD’s with either iTunes or a free CD to MP3 converter. Scan those childhood photos. Check if those DVD’s you have are available on Netflix or Hulu.
Now that you don’t need those hard copies, see if you can sell those along with anything else you can’t live without. Your high school cheerleading outfit might bring back great memories, but it might also bring you 70 bucks on eBay (seriously–that’s the going rate at press time). Ditto the guitar you played for three months and entire set of Nancy Drew novels.
If you can’t sell it, donate it to a local charity or give it away on Craigslist.
Bone up on domestic skills:
You’re going to need to be able to cook at least a few simple meals when living on your own. If you don’t know how to do laundry without shrinking sweaters to Barbie sizes, learn before you move.
Learning simple household tasks (unclogging the toilet, planning meals, making a list of chores) before you move will save you a bunch of time, money and headaches once your living solo.
Begin the hunt:
Finding an apartment doesn’t start and end with Craigslist. Sites like RoomZoom, created by young entrepreneur Elien Becque after her own frustrating apartment search, are great places to find potentially compatible roomies.
And don’t forget to spread the word about your hunt with the people you know. Use your social media network, but also talk to people you know in the neighborhood where you want to live.
Google your potential landlord and roomies:
There’s no need to be paranoid, but a little bit of researching can save you some headaches down the line.
Once you’ve found a pad that looks like a good fit, take an hour or so to look up your landlord. And do the same with potential roommates. If a Facebook search of your potential housemate features drunken house-party photos, gossip about past roomies, or complaints about money problems, you may want to rethink the opportunity.
Read before you sign:
Congratulations! You’ve found an affordable place with an awesome roommate and a landlord that’s not corrupt. Instinct may tell you to jump on the place before someone else grabs it–and fast!
Slow down. Before signing on, it’s important to read the lease, and do it carefully. Among the most important things to look for are:
- Who handles rent if your roommate disappears?
- How much is the landlord allowed to increase the rent every year?
- How many years does the lease cover?
- Who pays for repairs like plumbing or electricity?
- Are you allowed to sublet your room if you go away?
If you have any questions about the wording in the lease, do some research online or ask the landlord outright before signing.
Thank your parents:
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a move and forget to thank the people who helped get you there in the first place. But if your parents paid the electricity, shared their food, cooked for you or let you use the washing machine, now is the time to let them know you’re grateful for what they’ve done. Offer to cook them a meal before you go (using groceries you bought, of course) or offer to get the carpets cleaned–just make sure you’ve budgeted for such an expense.
Yes, moving out sounds like a lot of work (spoiler alert: it is). But the reward–total independence–is more than worth it.
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