Moving into your own place for the first time can be an exciting step in your life. But before you start looking for furniture ideas on Pinterest or picking out the perfect paint color for your walls, you may need to take a step back.
Living on your own comes with new expenses, so you must prepare your finances ahead of time. Independence is a fantastic thing, but enjoying that new freedom can be more expensive than you think.
One of the most common questions I hear is, “How much money do I need to move out on my own?” The answer to that question depends on many different factors. Here are a few tips and things to consider to prepare your budget in the best way possible.
Figure out How Much You Can Afford
It’s essential to take an honest look at how much you can afford to pay toward rent or (if you’re buying a home) a mortgage. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to keep your rent payment close to 30% of your pre-tax (aka gross) monthly income.
For example, if you earn $2,500 a month before taxes ($30,000 per year), you want to keep your monthly rent payment close to $750. That could be tough in certain parts of the country. In Washington, where I live, the average rent price in the state is reported to be $783 for a 1-bedroom apartment. But in California, the average rent reportedly jumps to $1,136 for an apartment of the same size. (https://www.rentdata.org/states/washington/2019)
If you have trouble finding a rental that doesn’t cost more than 30% of your gross income, you may need to consider some alternative solutions. You might consider taking on a roommate to share expenses. Renting a room from someone else could also reduce your cost significantly.
You might decide to spend more than 30% of your gross income on rent. Just be aware that you may need to cut expenses in other areas to make up for the higher rent payments.
If you decide to pay more than 30% of your income, there’s a catch. A landlord will want to be sure you can afford the rent. Many landlords require your monthly income (plus your roommate’s income) to be double or triple the size of your monthly payment.
Want to rent an apartment that costs $1,200 per month? If the landlord requires income that’s three times the rent, you and your roommates would need to earn at least $3,600 per month combined to qualify.
Save in Advance
Before you move, there are some initial expenses you should save for first.
- Moving Expenses: Do you need to hire professional movers? Are you relocating to a different city or state? Your initial moving expenses can vary greatly depending on your answers to these questions. According to Consumer Affairs, movers charge an average of $80 – $100 per hour for local moves (100 miles or less). For moves more than 100 miles away, the average flat rate is between $2,000 – $5,000.
- Deposits or Down Payments: When you apply to rent a home or apartment, you may have to pay an application fee. If you’re approved to rent, landlords often require you to put down your first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit. You may need to supply deposits when you turn on utility services. (Tip: Good credit may save you money here.) Finally, if you’re buying a home, you likely need a down payment for your mortgage.
- Furniture or Appliances: Will you need to buy furniture or appliances for your new place? You can cut costs by purchasing inexpensive or used products. Yet you should still save in advance for these purchases instead of creating new credit card debt you’ll have to deal with later. Remember, it’s fine to start with the basics, like a comfortable bed and refrigerator, and add more over time.
- Emergency Fund: It’s wise to have an emergency fund in place before you move out on your own. You can start with a goal of $1,000 and build up from there. Eventually, you can build up to six months of expenses saved. If you need to open an account consider CIT Bank which offers high-yield saving accounts with $100 monthly deposits.
Check Your Credit
Your credit can be a big deal when you apply to rent an apartment or home. So, it’s smart to check your three credit reports before you move out.
Credit reporting errors happen. If they happen to you, they could lower your credit scores and make it harder or more expensive to rent a place to live.
You can check your credit reports for free once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s also easy (and often free) to check your credit scores online. Here are some of my favorite free credit score websites:
If you find errors on your credit reports, federal law gives you the right to dispute those mistakes. You can learn more about how to dispute credit errors in this guide.
Follow a Budget
Many young people move out on their own and try to wing it when it comes to money management. This is a mistake. (Trust me!)
Living on your own can come with expenses you may not be used to paying, such as:
- Utilities (Electricity, Water, Gas, Internet, etc.)
- Rental Insurance
- Household Costs (Cooking Supplies, Cleaning Supplies, Laundry Detergent, etc.)
- And More
Those new expenses will pile on top of debts and monthly obligations you already owe. Not sure where your money is currently going? Try tracking your expenses.
It’s smart to start using a budget before you move out on your own. A budget can make it easier to reach your pre-move savings goals. Getting used to a budget now can also help you in the future when you start adding new expenses to your plate.
It will help if you start by finding the right budgeting method for you. Personally, I use the Budget By Paycheck Workbook to manage my money. I created the budget-by-paycheck method after I tried and failed at countless other budgeting approaches for years.
The budget-by-paycheck method changed my life. I paid off over $77,000 in debt. I went from being financially stressed and overwhelmed to being debt-free with extra money in the bank.
Moving out on your own for the first time is a big, exciting step. Understandably, you might want to rush the process.
But if you take the time to prepare in advance, it could save you in the long run. The last thing you want to do is get overwhelmed, break a lease, and move back in with loved ones while you regroup and try again.
The first step in the moving process starts before you actually move. Make sure you have a successful working budget in your life so you can gauge what you can realistically afford. Be patient in the process so you can set yourself up for success.