There are a lot of hidden costs involved in moving out and setting up a livable apartment, even with the help of a roommate. Plan for the big step between living at home and making a home now, and moving out will be a much more comfortable and fun experience.
What Can You Afford?
Look at the rental ads in the newspapers published in the town or city where you want to live. Use the ads to estimate the standard rental levels for an apartment. Also, call the housing department of the local college or university, they'll be able to tell you what the standard rates are for apartments or sharing rent with a roommate. Use this research to figure out what kind of living arrangements you can afford: apartment, rooming house, roommate, or dorm.
Utilities Don't Come Cheap
Most first-time renters also don't realize that they need to set up their utilities: electricity, phone, and in some cases, water. Some apartments come with heat and hot water; sometimes you'll have to pay for them. Cable is really expensive, so you may need to prepare for life without TV for the first few months. Many utilities, especially phone and cable companies, charge large installation fees, especially if you don't have a credit history (that is, a credit card). Expect to pay several hundred dollars to set up all your utilities, depending on where you live. It's also a good idea to buy tenant insurance, if you can afford it, to protect your stuff from theft or fire.
Furnishings Optional? Whatever!
There's nothing like trying to flip pancakes with the only fork that you own, or running to the grocery store at 6 a.m. to buy a toilet plunger to unclog your toilet. Remember to budget for kitchen and bathroom items - they don't come with the apartment. You'll need to equip your place with a certain amount of furniture, kitchen stuff, like pots, dishes and cutlery and cleaning supplies. Because you'll have to fill your fridge and cupboard with the basics, your first grocery bill will be killer.
Sharing the Bills
Most people share an apartment with a roommate when they are just starting out. Before you move in together, work out the costs: how bills will be split and what will happen if one of you has to move out. It's important to talk this over because the person that stays will be responsible for the whole rent if a new roommate is not found.
As a general rule, don't share the grocery bill and get your own phone if possible. But fairly split all shared utilities like electricity, water and cable. Make sure you trust the person you will live with, and avoid rooming with close friends - rooming turns acquaintances into friends, and, for some people, turns friends into enemies.
Money Up Front
Moving out takes a healthy savings account because many of the costs of moving will need to be paid up front. Tenants need to have money for the damage deposit for the apartment and first month's rent. Landlords charge anywhere from half a month's rent to a full month's rent for the damage deposit. Since as a student you'll need to move a lot for summer jobs and internships, avoid signing long leases - breaking a lease is expensive and difficult.
You'll also need money to pay for the moving truck. Be prepared - you may need to have a credit card to rent the truck. Getting a credit card also establishes your credit rating, which will make getting an apartment easier. If you don't want a credit card, a parent may need to rent the truck or co-sign your rental agreement.
The more you financially plan for moving, the better you'll fare. Although moving out seems like a huge undertaking, you'll be surprised how easy it is to get through each month once you've taken that step - especially if you planned for it.
Save For Your Move
Check out this estimated budget for a one-bedroom or bachelor apartment in a large city.*
Moving Costs $50-$400 (or more)
Damage Deposit $350-$700
Rent $700 (Due on the first day of the month)
Phone Hookup $200 (Typical deposit for first-time customer)
Hydro Hookup $45
Cable Hookup $75
Utilities (per month) $110 (or more)
Furnishings $200-$500 (or more)
First Grocery Bill $200
TOTAL $1,930 to $3,120
Check out this estimated budget if you share a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate in a large city.*
Moving Costs $50–$400 (or more)
Damage Deposit $225–$450
Rent $450 ($900 rent)
Phone Hookup $100
Hydro Hookup $22.50
Cable Hookup $37.50