First Apartment Budgeting Basics: Your Monthly Expenses Checklist

You’ve signed the lease and you have a move-in date. You know how much rent you can afford. But what are your expenses once you move in? Let’s break it down.

First, there’s the moving. This is a one-time expense, but it can be a big one. You need to decide whether you’re using movers or friends.  Movers can be expensive, but they’ll also likely do a better and quicker job. Friends, on the other hand, are cheaper and may be happy to help. Either way, as you move in you’ll also need to buy some basics like toilet paper, hand soap, cleaning supplies, etc.

monthly expensesOnce you get that out of the way, what are the monthly expenses you can expect:

Rent. This is your primary monthly expense – and the largest. Pay on time to stay in your landlord’s good graces – and to avoid any late fees.

Heat/Gas. If your unit has a thermostat, expect to pay for heating. (If you have a gas range, you’ll also likely pay for the gas you use in cooking.) This expense will be fairly high in the winter … and almost non-existent in the summer. … However, not all apartments charge for heat. If your building uses radiators, don’t expect a heating bill, but do expect a slightly larger monthly rent.

Electricity. Expect to pay for electricity, no matter what type of unit you live in. Your landlord can give you information about your electric provider – contact the company and put the bill in your name. That way, there will be no confusion and no accidentally unpaid bills.

Air Conditioning. You’ll pay for A/C through your electric bill. But because it’s a summertime only expense, and optional in some parts of the country, we thought we’d have a separate line for it. Depending on how often you use your A/C, it can really balloon your electric bill – think two or three times as much as you pay in the winter. Conserve and use fans to pay a little less.

Cable/Internet. In this day and age, internet is an necessity. If you want cable as well, use the same company to get a bundled deal. Or, consider subscribing to a streaming service or two instead of cable. You’ll save some money and still have plenty of shows to watch.

Renter’s Insurance. Renter’s insurance protects your things, in case of damage from theft, fire, flood or other disaster. While it may seem far-fetched, a catastrophe could strike you. So take out a policy – they’re usually very inexpensive.

Groceries. While you’ll never get a bill in the mail for groceries, this is an expense you’ll absolutely need to cover. If you’re a bit tight on money, one of the best ways to save money is to eat-in regularly. Learn to cook – and bring bagged lunches to work and watch your savings grow.

The expenses above, you should expect no matter where you live. Here are some additional expense to consider:

Car. Depending on where in the country you live, a car may be a necessity. When considering how much apartment you can afford, remember to factor in your car expenses. This includes car payments, insurance, gas and maintenance.

Parking. While parking is often a luxury, in certain situations you’ll need parking unless you want to circle the block for half an hour every time you come home. That said, if you’re stretching your budget to get a parking space, you probably could do without one.

Furniture. If you’re moving into your first place, you may not have much in the way of furniture. Furniture can be expensive or cheap – and much of it you won’t need to buy right away. Consider browsing thrift shops or shopping online.

Gym Membership. If you just graduated from college, you’re probably used to having gym access included in your tuition. Now that you’re out in the real world, a gym is going to cost money – that said, regular exercise is good for you, it’s a way to beat the winter blues, and it can be a way to meet people. So if you’d use a gym, seriously consider becoming a member.

Going Out. Going out is a lot of fun, but it can get expensive very quickly. Keep track of how much you spend each month going out and decide if you can afford it. If you need to cut back, there are plenty of ways to hang out with friends on the cheap.

While it may seem nerve-wracking at first, you’ll get a hang of what you can afford and what you can’t. Once you do, you’ll be able to spend (and save) with confidence.

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Author My First Apartment

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Alex has rented in Minneapolis, Queens, Brooklyn, and now Chicago. He can kill rodents and roaches when required, and loves picture-hanging projects. If you're ever in town, give him a shout.

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