When I was saving up to move out of my parents’ house, the adults in my life had no shortage of advice for me: “Don’t worry about living with someone you don’t know; I had a Craigslist roommate when I was your age who ended up being in my wedding”; “Oh, just relax and enjoy it, you’re gonna have so much fun living on your own”; and “start collecting your quarters–you’ll need them for laundry!” were all well-intentioned, but ultimately useless, pieces of advice from my neighbors and distant relatives.
This is what I wish they had told me instead:
1. “I know you’re saving up for a few months’ rent and groceries, but make sure you have enough money in your budget for kitchen and household staples.”
I was lucky enough to move into a group house that already had communal cleaning supplies (for common areas), as well as large kitchen trashcans and a nice set of knives along with a few other cooking essentials. However, I still bought my own paper towels, Clorox wipes, scissors, Windex, tissues, and like four different kinds of tape–all within a week of moving in. Most of these items I had never bought for myself before, they were always on hand at my parents’ house. All those things your mom and dad kept fully stocked for the first 20 years of your life are now your responsibility; make sure you have an extra $30-50 to cover the essentials right away and add to your cleaning and cooking collections later.
2. “If you have savings left over after you move into your new place and find a job, don’t use it to buy decorative items or organic groceries–save it.”
I think for the first three or four months of my Real Adult Life I was shopping at Whole Foods and buying plants (that I would eventually kill) at Ace Hardware every other week. It’s hard to break the habits that you’ve had for so long and I grew up in an all-natural, organic, this-product-was-not-tested-on-animals household, which was great. But your parents’ lifestyle is not 100% attainable when you make just under living wage. The nightstand that I bought brand new and the antique dresser that I paid too much for don’t provide me with the same comfort that living on last month’s paycheck or not being in debt to my parents would.
3. “Make a budget. Immediately.”
My mom uses Quicken, my sister has an Excel spreadsheet, I wrote out a monthly budget in a notebook and kept my grocery money in an envelope so I wouldn’t spend it on clothes or concerts or triple soy lattes (until I discovered You Need a Budget, but that’s a different post). Everyone visualizes a budget differently, so you might to try out a few methods before finding one that sticks, BUT there is one thing that you need to keep in mind right away: It is very, VERY stressful to have to wait to get paid in order to pay rent/utilities/other monthly bills. Do whatever you can in order to have that money in your account (preferably in separate account where you won’t accidentally spend it) at the beginning of the month.
So there you go: My advice to all young folk who are planning on moving out on their own for the first time. If you have any advice of your own to add, leave a comment!