Moving Out Takes A Plan
So...high school graduation is over....the summer is in full swing...college is set up for fall. One hot summer day, you are watching the news and your teen walks in and tells you he(or she) has decided to move out before school begins. Choking yet? Crying? Well....don't do either! I learned from personal experience that neither one helps. Sooo.....what else can you do? Make a Plan! Explain to your teen that moving out takes a plan and you will need to get started today! This gives your teen a complete view of everything that moving out involves-rent, utilities, lease contracts, furniture, and yes....mowing their own lawn!!
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Making "The Plan"
Each person, family and life has a different set of needs and wants so what I offer is some ideas for the plan. The main thing is for you and your teen to sit down together and discuss what is involved in the process of moving out and being responsible for themselves. Be realistic and honest with them about every possible thing you can think of that goes into the lifestyle they have been living at home with you and what it will be living on their own. Don't exaggerate it and don't minimize it either. It is important to be honest with them and being a support system for them at this time. Treat them like a grown-up and they will act like one.
First things first, make sure they are the one responsible for figuring it all out. This will help them later when they are actually living it to know and understand where it all goes and how it all goes together. Begin by talking to them about budgeting. What money can you continue to provide to contribute to their "household" if any. What is their income. How much do they net? Figure out their complete and total income from all sources including grants, scholarships, and even income tax refunds. I realize that not all teens moving out are doing so specifically to attend college, but these are things to consider. Then figure out all their expenses. Add together all the fixed expenses such as tuition, books, car payments, insurance, cell phone. Have your teen call the utility companies and discuss options for deposits. Some will waive deposits for parents who will sign to stand in for their teen in the event of a default on a payment. Others will waive the deposit for direct payments, average payment plans and possibly for specific college students. The deposits will need to paid up front at most companies. Is your teen aware of this? Do they have a plan for this? Following these steps will help them to figure out all the income they will have available to use for rent, utilities, gas and groceries. Are they going to be able to afford it at this time? I f so, move on with the plan.
Next talk to them about how close they were planning to live to work or school. Explain that gas is a direct expense based on how much they must spend AND an estimated amount they can budget to allow for the "running around town". Go over the amount of your money they typically spend each month on gas. Surprised them, didn't you!!?? Go ahead and enjoy this brief moment, smile, and move on. Remind them that moving out takes a plan! It isn't cheap! Now talk about how they can save money by living close and walking, or carpooling with others who live in a particular area or apartment complex. Talk about how it may be more practical to spend a bit more on rent and save a lot on gas. This is just one thing to keep in mind when planning where to look at homes or apartments to rent.
Have your teen contact the college and find out how much living in the dorm will cost. Also have them check to see if there is a community bulletin board on campus that has outside rentals posted. This is a great idea even for those who are just moving out and not only for college students. Many of these locations are more cost effective as they are marketed to young adults and their budgets. As you look at houses, apartments and dorm rooms, consider the size of the space, proximity to the job or college, and the terms of the lease. Most leases require a clean-up deposit and sometimes both first AND last month's rent. Expect the clean-up deposit to be equivilant to one month's rent. For a place renting for $500 a month, moving in could take $1500 on day one. Again, is your teen prepared for this? If not, they have two possibilities, wait awhile and save their money or take on a roommate or two. In your area, it may be considerably more expensive for housing, or less. Where is your teen's plan now. Again, moving out takes a plan. Remind them they will need to furnish that house as well. Talk about what furniture and appliances you are willing for them to take, what will need to be purchased and what amount they will need to plan to budget for that as well. This is all a part of it. They have never been here before and the details are easily overlooked, so help them by pointing them out. Be prepared for them to become a bit overwhelmed as well. Explain to them that you want them fully prepared so it will be as much a positive experience as possible.
If your teen finds a roommate (as they often do) be sure to consider the other teen's budget as well. It is often a good idea to sit down with everyone involved and plan together. Who will be responsible for what expenses. It is important that if the expenses are shared equally, then the space should be shared equally as well. Make sure your teen is respectful of that with their roommate while expecting the same consideration. It is always a good idea to write it all out and sign or initial it as well. Many roommates end up in some courtroom letting a judge settle simple lapses in memory! Stop it before it begins. Be sure to include the other teen's parents if they are a minor. If they are older but are moving out for the first time, put in some hints on how it helps make everything smoother when the parents are involved as it is actually more mature to consider all parties. If the rent and/or utilities are being paid through direct payments, maybe they should open a household checking account with their joint names with each party contributing equally on a regular basis prior to the due dates of their bills. This may seem to be overthinking it some, but it will make paying the bills so much easier and the more successful they are, the less likely they will be to fall behind and move home in a financial hole you have to help them out of.
ANYWAY, check out as many locations as possible. Have questions written down, so you don't forget them. Ask about utilities: which are included in rent and which are not. Ask about the yard: where are the property lines and who is responsible for care? Ask about parking, trash, and upkeep on the exterior of the home. Ask before signing a lease to find out if it is ok to paint, hammer in nails for decor, and if pets are allowed. Homes that allow pets and smokers may have a buildup that can activate allergies for non-smokers. You should know beforehand. When is the rent due and where is it paid. Ask for references from the landlord. Are they reliable to fix needed repairs? These are all important things to know when making a decision. Check at the local real estate offices. They may have rentals available or know of quality landlords to recommend. They can tell you about areas to avoid due to security issues and areas which are costly. It is also a good idea to talk to someone at the local chamber of commerce. They will probably have a list of landlords available. You can also check area newspapers, online referral lists and even word of mouth. Ask the clerk at the grocery store or gas station. You might be surprised at what you will learn! In many college towns, you can often simply drive around through the neighborhoods. Many people simply put out signs as the renters are many and houses are few! Encourage your teen to look at many places before making a decision. Most places will allow you a couple of days to decide while holding your priority in line. Be respectful and make a quick decision if possible, but don't make a rush decision because a "cool place might be taken before I save up the money" thought process has hit. Make sure your teen can afford it and refuse to co-sign if they can't. They will be glad you took a stand, eventually! Be kind and let them decide on the location...it is their money after all, or it should be. If you are paying for it, then they can't afford it and need to stay at home. If they chose a less than perfect, small and even goofy house, find the gold in it and help them play it up! This is their first home on their own and they really need and want your approval. It will become a home with time and tweaking...support them in their dream and they will continue to share their life with you.
Wrapping It All Up
Thinking it all over, making a plan and getting things all figured out helps you both. Your child is now ready, or fully aware that they are not ready, to move out. If they are ready, then more than likely so are you now. You have seen them problem solve and make some solid grown-up decisions. Now they know that moving out takes a plan and....so does moving in, but that's another article altogether!
Photo and Text Copyright 2011Deborah M. Carey