How to Budget for Your First Apartment
When you’re thinking about becoming a first-time renter, there are lots of things to ponder . Many of these factors will revolve around knowing how to budget for your apartment upfront and setting up a monthly budget between yourself and potential roommates.
Finances aren’t going to be the most fun aspect of your first apartment , but they are a necessary one. In today’s competitive rental market (especially in big cities) it’s crucial to have all of your budgeting skills up to par , as it could help you gain an edge over other applicants.
If you need some budgeting pointers, follow the guidelines below to get started:
Location is Everything
There’s a good chance you already have an idea of which neighborhoods you want to live in. Depending on the locale, your monthly budget can differ drastically. Many renting experts recommend that you not spend more than 30% of your annual income on rent, and many property managers will refuse an offer if you’d be spending too much on rent.
However, you might have to be flexible about this rule in cities where high housing costs are way above the norm, such as New York City or San Francisco . In places like these, you might have to plan even further in advance, as the screening and budgeting process could take much longer.
No matter where you choose to live, though, you will need to– above all else– ensure that you are setting a realistic budget based on your take-home pay and the desired city/neighborhood.
Account for all your utilities
We’ve written about accounting for your utilities in the past, but the important part here is to make sure you don’t miss anything. There are a lot you could be responsible for, so go through and make sure that you’ve accounted for them all. You don’t want to be caught out by almost moving in, just to find that you haven’t yet set aside money for pet fees, renter’s insurance, or something else not so obvious.
Expect to Pay a Lot Upfront
Renting might be cheaper than buying, but you’ll still have to spend some serious cash in the first few months to secure your dream apartment.
In most situations, landlords will expect a security deposit, first and last month’s rent, application fees, a possible finder’s or broker’s fee, and a pet deposit if you have one (or more). Expect to be paying two to three times your monthly rent upfront, so make sure you and your potential roommates are saving accordingly.
Budget for more than housing
Unfortunately, the above are just to secure the apartment itself. Moving into the apartment is another large expense, since renting moving trucks doesn’t come for free. You still need to eat to live and may need more things like furniture and household goods you haven’t really needed before. You’re going to have to fully stock a kitchen and furnish several rooms, and those are going to take a significant amount of money. Price out a bed, mattress, tables, chairs, a couch, kitchen utensils, pots, pans, and everything else you might have reason to use. Here’s the time when you want to find things that serve multiple purposes, cutting down both on how many things you need to buy, and the money you need to spend.
Of course, you’re going to have to leave your apartment sometimes, and you need to account for that. How will you get around? Car, public transportation? All of those have a cost attached. When and how often are you going to eat out, or just go out for a night on the town? These don’t come free, and failing to budget for them will leave you wondering where you keep coming up short.
Select Roommates Carefully
An apartment can be a big financial burden, so why not divide it with your friends? You’re striking out on your own, so why not take your college friends with you?
Hanging out with a friend and living with them aren’t the same thing. Things might work out well, but there’s always the chance things go wrong. Do you know how well they handle their finances? If your roommate doesn’t pay, you’re still liable for their half of the rent. Having to pay for someone else’s financial irresponsibility can make things awkward, if not outright hostile.
As such, it’s crucial that you screen each individual who might be a potential roommate. If he or she seems like a great candidate, meet with him or her to discuss how you might divide bills and rent, as well as where you stand on additional guests and splitting up chores.
Save for Those Little Extras
You might plan out every detail with you and your roommates and think all the bases are covered upfront. However, you’ll need to consider your rainy day fund, as well as other monthly expenses that might have slipped under your radar.
For instance, do you like going to the gym? You won’t have one on campus anymore, and gym memberships can get pricey, so you might have to reallocate your spending. You also need what I call a “fun fund”– it’s not all work and no play, after all. This budget is for nonessentials like money for dining out with friends, going to the movies, expenditures for various hobbies (gardening, painting, etc.), gifts, shopping, and traveling. You can’t predict everything with certainty, so you need some extra money for all the little things that come up. You’re looking forward to the freedom that your first apartment will give you, so make sure to budget a bit of that freedom in there as well.