The amount of rent is obviously the most important consideration in your first apartment search, but there are several other factors that can make or break your first apartment budget. Before you fall in love with an apartment, ask yourself these six questions and factor your answers in when you are budgeting for apartment expenses. Knowing how much living in that apartment will cost you on a day-to-day basis will ensure you can live within your means and not get into trouble.
For each rental you look, answer these questions before you put in a deposit:
How much is the rent?
If the rent is high and uses too much of your budget, you may not be able to afford other things you need to pay like your student loan, a car payment, gas or groceries. Even if you love a certain apartment, you may have to find one you love a little less but is one you can afford. (Use this calculator to estimate what is the maximum rent you should pay on your salary.)
How much will your utility bill be?
You will not know exactly how much your utility bill will be since this bill changes from month to month, but you do need to have an estimate. Talk with the landlord and other tenants to see how much the utility bill averages for the area and check out the results of My First Apartment’s Utility Cost Surveys. (Our rule-of-thumb is to budget utilities at 20% of rent in most housing markets, and 10% in high rent cities, such as NYC and SF.)
How far from work is the apartment?
Not only will the distance from work determine how long your commute will be, but the distance will also factor into your travel costs. If you live 30 miles from work and drive your own vehicle, you will have to factor in the cost of gas and vehicle maintenance. If you live two miles from work, you may be able to walk or ride a bicycle to work and reduce your cost of gas and vehicle maintenance. And if you pick an area with good public transportation you won’t even need a car.
How far from town is the apartment?
Before you choose an apartment, figure out how far it is from basic services, such as a grocery store, gas station, your doctor’s office, a hospital, etc. These are places you may need to get to quickly or frequently. If you live far from town, the distance will cost you time and money in gas.
How far is the apartment from activities and places where you like to hang out?
If you go to a gym every day, hang out in a certain coffee bar, or if you walk your dog in the park often, you may want to find an apartment close to these activities. Like the distance from work and town, living far from activities you participate in a lot will cost you money every time you travel to and from your apartment.
How far is the apartment from your friends’ places?
If your apartment is far from all your friends’ places, nobody will want to come to your neighborhood and you’ll be the one always spending money traveling to meet them. (You’ll also likely incur high taxi/Uber costs after late nights out!)