Moving Into Your First Apartment: What to Know, Do, and Avoid

Moving out of your parents’ place can feel like a whole new world of possibility. Until reality sets in, that is. Suddenly, you have groceries to buy, bills to pay, and relationships with neighbors to maintain. How can you manage it all without becoming a bundle of nerves?

Luckily, you don’t need to resign yourself to a stressful move. Follow these tips, and you can move into your first place like a pro.

1. Find the Right Place for You

Depending on where you live, finding affordable housing in a decent neighborhood isn’t always easy. If you’re lucky enough to live in an apartment-dense city, use your freedom to be selective about your new residence. If the pickings are slim, fear not. Our connected age offers many tools designed to connect people like you to housing options they can love.

Many people use Craigslist when on the hunt for housing–and for good reason. It’s quick, easy, and contains a wealth of apartment choices. But you don’t have to stop there. Of course, there’s always the option of driving through a neighborhood to scan for “For Rent” signs, but many landlords in seller’s markets don’t bother to post their listings online. Now you can take advantage of new, useful apartment sites will save you time and stress in tracking down a new place.

2. Know Your Lease

It seems most people don’t read the fine print anymore. Chances are, you might have scrolled through to an “I agree” tab recently without reading exactly what you were agreeing to. Leases, however, should always be read thoroughly. They contain the answers to all of your questions, including:

  • How do you get out of the lease?
  • How much is the security deposit and how do you get it back?
  • Who’s responsible for maintenance? How about mowing the lawn?
  • Can you sublease the apartment? On what terms?

But as with any lease, there can be a lot of room for misconceptions. Review it carefully with your landlord before signing, and point to it as a reminder later if one party should not live up to their side of the bargain.

3. Budget, Budget, Budget

Personal budgets work just like a business: You need positive cash flow from month to month to stay afloat. Although an essential ingredient to long-term financial health, budgeting can seem intimidating even to the most budget savvy of folks.

Fortunately, gone are the days of sorting through stacks of receipts and keeping a written ledger to track your finances. New tools like Mint do this tedious task for you. All you have to do is connect your bank accounts, set up some income and expense estimates, and—voila—you have a budget that you can review and stick to every month. You can even set up goals like saving for a house, paying student loans, or buying that new Apple Watch.

4. Keep Your Bills in Check

Many new renters might feel like they’re being nickel and dimed from every side, from a variety of utilities expenses to unanticipated repair costs.

To keep from becoming overwhelmed by your bills, it helps to pay special attention to the costs you can control. Conserve electricity whenever possible, and look closely at the cable and Internet services you sign up for. You might not need AMC if you have a Netflix account, and Internet speeds of 100 Mbps might be much more than required for casual online browsing. Trying online tools to find out how much Internet speed you actually need could save you a pile of money every month.

5. Become Your Own Master Chef

Finally, there’s the question of cooking. It might be tempting to survive off a steady diet of frozen pizza and ramen in an effort to save money, but there are plenty of other affordable alternatives for easy, flavorful meals. Here are a few recipes that are cheap, delicious, and nutritious. Cook them in bulk, and you’ll have tasty leftovers to last you (and your hungry roommate) throughout the week.

Moving into your first apartment is an exciting milestone, so don’t let the logistics add up to make your experience less than enjoyable. By taking time to prepare, you can transition into your new adventure without a hitch.