Moving into your first apartment is an exciting time, but it can also be a little intimidating. After all, there’s a lot you’ll need once you’re living on your own — even little things you never put much thought into before, like can openers.
While saving money on your first move can be a challenge, it’s nowhere near impossible. Here are some tips on how to spend smart while maintaining your personal comfort.
Consider Your Wants and Needs
Before you hit the local stores in search of furniture, you should consider writing out a list of the things you absolutely need your place to have, as well as one of the things you’d like it to have.
You might want to include things like safety, a pet-friendly landlord, on-site laundry facilities, extra storage, and certain utilities/amenities on these lists. While you might feel like you absolutely need everything on your list, you’ll have to stay open to negotiating since you’re working with a limited budget.
Know What You Can Afford
A lot of people set pretty high expectations for their first apartment, but it’s important to stay realistic when you start looking. Most of the time, it’s recommended to keep your rent around 30 percent of your income. For some people, however, that’s unfortunately just not possible. If you’re finding it hard to find a place for that amount, consider looking only at units that include utilities and other amenities, like free parking.
You’ll also want to take any debts you might have (whether it’s a student loan or credit cards) into account. If you don’t have any debt payments to make, you can probably afford to pay a little more rent.
Create a Budget
The best way to be honest with yourself about how much you can afford is to set a budget for yourself. Start by figuring out how much your monthly bills tend to be, how much you spend on going out, and factoring in how much your rent should be.
A lot of people follow the 50/30/20 rule when creating a budget. The 50 percent should go towards fixed expenses like rent, insurance, and debt payments. These are the expenses that stay the same every month. The 30 percent goes towards your variable expenses like groceries, gas, eating out, and clothes, and the final 20 percent gets tucked away into your savings.
It’s really important to be honest with yourself when creating this budget. That’s why it helps to go over your expenses for the last three months to see where exactly your money is going. If you only allot yourself $50 to eat out but you actually spend closer to $200 a month, that might be something to look into.
Figure Out How to Lower Your Bills
If you find that your budget just isn’t adding up the way you need it to, you should start looking for ways to lower your monthly bills. Since this is your first apartment, you might not have many bills in your name yet, but you definitely will soon — especially if you don’t get an all-inclusive unit and need to cover electricity, water, and gas separately. If this is the case, find out how much other people typically pay in your area with your family size.
When it comes to less essential things like cable, you might choose to just not have them. These days, a lot of people prefer more affordable streaming services over cable anyways. For your cell phone and insurance bil, consider calling your providers and seeing if there are any deals or ways to cut back on monthly costs.
Reduce Energy Use
If you end up finding a place that you absolutely love, but it doesn’t include utilities in the monthly rent, going green is a surefire way to save money on your first apartment.
Check your windows and doors for any drafts. If you do notice a wind chill coming in, you can purchase a fairly inexpensive kit to put over the windows and a door snake to put along the bottom the door. Of course, keeping your house a little chilly in the winter and layering up is a great way to cut back on gas and/or electricity (depending how your apartment is heated). The opposite of this is also true in the summertime.
You should also make sure that all the lightbulbs in your unit are LED or CFL bulbs, because they last a lot longer than standard ones and are much more energy efficient.
Lastly, make sure to look up when the off-peak hours are for the utility companies you use. This info is especially useful if your place comes with a dishwasher or washer and dryer, as running any of these appliances during peak times will cost you much more.
If your unit doesn’t come with a built-in washer and dryer, it’s likely that the building itself will have coin-operated laundry machines available. If not, you might have to go to a coin-operated laundromat. Either way, you’ll find yourself saving up enough quarters each week to get your clothes washed.
To cut back on this cost, always ask yourself whether items of clothing are actually dirty or not. Not all clothes need to be washed after one use. Not only does wearing your clothes more than once in between washes save you money on laundry costs, but it also keeps the garments looking better for much longer.
You can also save money by using less detergent for each wash or buying a clothes rack to hang dry your clothes.
Furniture and Stuff
if you’re moving out on your own for the first time, you’re going to need a lot of stuff. Just think of all the little things you took for granted around your parents’ home like dish towels, toilet paper, pens, a shower curtain, etc. — you won’t have any of these things unless you go out and buy them for yourself. On top of that, you’re also going to need to get big things like furniture.
Rather than run out and buy everything new, look for used items to start. In today’s modern age, there are websites where you can purchase items from other people and even get things for free. You can also hit up your local thrift stores to find quality items for a fraction of what they’d cost new.
Remember that it’s absolutely normal to not have everything you need right away. Over time, you’ll realize that you need something and your collection of things will grow. So don’t feel like you have to think of everything right away.
Save on Food
The last big expense to consider when saving money on your first apartment is food. Everybody has to eat, right?
The best way to cut back on how much you spend on food is to always eat at home rather than eating out. One meal at a restaurant can quickly add up to an entire week’s worth of groceries.