Your First Apartment: Money Matters
There are practically a billion things you will need to consider when planning your budget for your first apartment.
First, you will need to understand (at least minimally) the real estate rental market in the area that you want to live. For example, you will not find a one-bedroom apartment in midtown Manhattan for $800; it's just not going to happen.
I find that the best thing to do to get a general understanding of housing prices in your area is to go to your local Craigslist page. Look at the rental listings there to get a feel for the various sizes of apartments and their respective rents. This is what I do any time I need to quickly understand the general cost of living in a new area.
Your First Apartment
- Who to Live With
This hub will give you all the things you need to consider so you don't end up with a nightmare roommate or ruining a friendship.
- Setting Up
This hub will help you figure out how to maximize the space in your first personal space without breaking the bank.
- Where to Look
This hub examines all the different options of ways to obtain an apartment. Whether you want your name on the lease or not (or you don't have any idea), it'll give you ideas of where to start.
Keep in Mind
- The rent you pay every month should be approximately one fourth of your income (while many people pay closer to between one third and one half of their income, this is often ill-advised).
- As this is your first apartment, you will likely have little or no credit history, which means you will need a guarantor signature on the lease (almost always your parents). That way, if you can't pay, the landlord has someone who can.
- It is almost always cheaper to share space, and you don't necessarily need to compromise yourself to do so! A three-bedroom rent split in thirds will almost always be cheaper per person than a two-bedroom split in half.
- The upfront cost will be substantial. Many places will require a security deposit (usually one month's rent) in case they need to make repairs to the damage you've done after you've moved out, and they might want first and last month's rent up front, as well. And if you go through a real estate agency, you will have to pay a broker fee, which is a percentage of the rent for the entire year.
- Remember that rent will not be your only montly expense. You'll be responsible for utilities including electric, gas, water, heating, internet, cable, and phone (many landlords include some of these in the rent; make sure you know what you're getting).
Cut Some Corners
I'd highly advise you to start slow. Don't worry about automatically signing up for a phone in your new apartment (no matter how much fun it might seem to make an answering machine message that says, "Hey, you've reached _____'s place. Leave a message!")... not right away, at least.
Let it sit for a month or so. You will quickly see what you absolutely need and what you can afford to live without (I immediately knew that we needed internet installed within the first few days of moving in, for instance).
Also, as I said before, it will cost way more than you expect it to cost. So the less expenses you give yourself upfront, the easier it will be for you and your roommates to eat, if you know what I mean.
- If you have a cell phone, you might not need to pay another $20-$100 for an apartment phone. Do you really want to take messages from your roommate's mother every ten minutes, anyway?
- If you're in school and you live close to it or spend a lot of time there, do you bring your laptop? Are you magically not addicted to the internet? It might be worth the extra grocery money if you decide to check your email at school or a local internet cafe. And if you're living in a city, it seems like everywhere has free WiFi these days.
- So many shows are available to watch online these days, why pay for cable? Unless you're a television addict, your first apartment probably doesn't need an extensive cable package (though a television seems to always be a good investment).
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- Find out what utilities your rent includes. It can make a surprisingly big difference if you don't have to concern yourself with heat or water bills.
- Careful of your credit. You're new to the world of credit, so ask all the questions you want. And don't tie yourself up with your roommate's credit too much. That will just become messy.
- It's your first apartment. You're living on your own. You need not live in the lap of luxury. You will quickly wonder why your parents let you run around turning on lights in their house all these years.