Moving out on your own is one of the most exciting – and terrifying – rites of passage you will experience. Make moving to your first place easier on yourself by learning about these 10 things everyone should know before venturing out on their own.
1. How to Read a Lease
It’s not exciting, but reading your lease before signing on the dotted line is a must. Pay attention to things like quiet hours, penalties for late payments, and what you can put on the walls. This will keep you from getting into trouble down the road and give you the chance to request changes.
Yes, you do have the right to ask for amendments to the lease. That doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you want, but most landlords will accommodate a reasonable request.
2. How to Establish (and Follow) a Budget
A budget is more than just adding up your monthly expenses and subtracting them from your monthly income. If you’ve got $500 left over after paying rent, carefully plan how you will spend (or save) it.
Designate money for emergencies (if your lease says you’re responsible for things like clogged sinks, you’ll need the funds to pay for that). Don’t forget about the cost of groceries and things like laundry detergent and light bulbs, as they aren’t endlessly supplied like they were at mom and dad’s house. Be sure to control how much you spend on fun – your whole surplus can be wiped out in one exuberant weekend if you aren’t careful.
3. How to Set Up Utilities
Things like lights, heat, and the Internet just don’t magically appear in your new home. Unless all utilities are included in your rent, you’ll need to contact the proper utility companies to make sure everything is up and running. Be prepared to undergo a credit check and pay a deposit for some utilities. When it comes to Internet service, make sure you know how much speed you need before signing up for something that’s either too slow or too expensive.
4. How to Outfit Your Kitchen
There are many kitchen tools that everyone needs but are easy to forget. If you need a jolt of caffeine every morning, make sure you have a coffee pot, coffee, and filters. Other kitchen basics include a can opener, cheese grater, ice trays, salt and pepper shakers, and a basic set of pots and pans.
5. How to Shop for Groceries
Walking into the grocery store on your own for the first time can be overwhelming. There’s a reason Mom always made a list first. Plan what you want to cook for the next week and list out what you need to do it. Compare prices, too; you’ll be surprised at the price differences from one brand to the next. Be open to using the generic brand, buying day-old bread, and looking at produce and meat that’s on clearance.
6. How to Keep Things Clean
The best way to keep your apartment from sinking into a messy abyss is to schedule daily, weekly, and monthly chores. Daily chores include doing the dishes and making your bed. Wiping down the kitchen and bathroom should be done weekly, along with giving the floors a once-over. Consider doing deeper cleaning, like throwing things out of the fridge and then wiping it down, on a monthly basis.
Related: The Busy Girl’s Guide to Cleaning
7. How to Be a Good Neighbor
You could turn into the annoying neighbor without even realizing it. Avoid that fate by making a conscious effort to be a good person to live by. Smile and say hello when you see your neighbors in the hall. Offer help if someone has their arms full with grocery bags. Make sure your surround sound isn’t shaking everyone’s walls. If you are the type to let your alarm go off repeatedly every morning, move it to a wall that isn’t shared so your neighbor isn’t disturbed.
8. How to Decorate on a Budget
It would be amazing if your first apartment could like some of the first apartments in your favorite TV shows and movies. But even without a Hollywood designer, you can make the most of your décor. If you’re artsy, shop flea markets and yard sales for unique items you can spruce up with a fresh coat of paint. Scour thrift stores for deals on sofas, coffee tables, and book shelves. Hit up local art schools for original pieces. And don’t say no when someone offers you a hand-me-down.
9. How to Give Notice When it’s Time to Move On
Your lease will be up before you know it and then you’ll have to answer the question, “Should I stay or should I go?” Start thinking about your next move at least two months before your lease ends, and let your landlord know your plans as soon as possible. Not only is it considerate, but it will set you up with a great reference for your next place if you decide to move on.
10. How to Ask for Help
Just because you’re on your own doesn’t mean you can’t ask Mom and Dad for help. They’ll love to feel needed and will be more than happy to offer their wisdom. Reach out if you need help installing a shelf or getting out a red wine stain. And when it comes to money, only ask if you have no other options and be prepared with a plan and timeline to pay them back.
Now that you know the secrets to a successful first move, it’s time to start scouring the want-ads for your first apartment.