As the school year comes to an end, many students are preparing to live off-campus for the first time, whether that be for the fall semester or for a summer internship. While living in an apartment can be exciting, it’s radically different from living in a dorm or with your parents, and there are definitely issues you’ll have to deal with that you haven’t before. Fortunately, Fresh U is here to help you by providing some tips for living on your own for the first time to make the entire process a little less scary.
1. Make a budget and stick to it.
When you’re living in a dorm, many of your expenses are already paid for, so it’s easy to only worry about spending money on things you may occasionally need or want. When you’re paying for rent, groceries and utilities, however, money can disappear without you even realizing where it’s gone. Figure out your income and expenses and write it all down in a budget. You may miss your weekly splurges but when you’re able to pay your rent, you’ll be grateful.
2. Get to know your neighbors.
This may sound scary, but knowing your neighbors is not only a great way to socialize, it’s a good way to stay safe. If something goes wrong late at night and your roommates aren’t home, getting immediate help is easier if you know the people next door.
3. Get everything from your landlord in writing.
Document everything your landlord tells you, from information about security deposits to policies for paying rent late. If it isn’t in writing, there’s no way to prove that you and your landlord actually agreed on anything, which can be a huge hassle if anything goes wrong. Make sure that all the terms of your housing are outlined in your lease and that any additional correspondence you have with your landlord is also in writing.
4. Document any problems ahead of time.
If there’s anything wrong with your apartment before you move in—water damage, stuck windows—make sure those problems go in your lease. Not only does that then hold your landlord accountable to fix those problems, but you also won’t be charged for the damage when you move out.
5. Find roommates you know you can trust.
When living in an apartment, you don’t necessarily need roommates that are your best friends: you need ones who are going to pay rent on time, help with cleaning and respect shared spaces. During the roommate search, make sure you have a list of deal-breakers and when you move in, write up a plan for dividing labor and what you’ll do if you face problems. Don’t feel badly about confronting them. If you’re sharing a living space, you have a right to tell your roommates when you don’t feel comfortable.
6. Learn how to cook.
Ordering takeout and eating prepackaged meals can get expensive very quickly. Take some time before you move in to learn how to make some basic meals that you can prepare quickly.
7. Make a grocery list and actually stick to it.
It’s so easy to get carried away in the grocery store and doing so is an easy way to spend way more money than you wanted to while getting almost nothing you actually needed. Plan out your meals for the week and buy everything you’ll need for those, and don’t forget to stock up on pantry staples.
8. Plan your commute ahead of time.
Whether you live close enough to campus to walk to class every day or you're planning on driving or using public transportation instead, figure out your commuting plan and give it a test run before your classes start. While you may think you can make the trip in ten minutes, traffic or crowds on the train may prove you wrong.
9. Learn how to file maintenance requests.
If something goes wrong in your apartment, you'll need to know how to file a request to have it fixed. It’ll mean much less of a hassle if you know exactly what to do when there’s a bug infestation or a plumbing problem.
10. Consider renter’s insurance.
There’s always a chance that something will go wrong in your apartment, be that flooding or even a break-in. Renter’s insurance is a great idea to help lessen the blow of events like this by offsetting some of the costs, and it can also cover expenses if you’re displaced as a result of damage to your apartment. When purchasing renter’s insurance, be sure to consider different plans, what they will cover and the cost of each to ensure that you get the plan that’s right for you. Most plans will also ask you to list the value of everything that you own, so be sure to actually go through your belongings and calculate their value so that you’re properly insured for what you have: this is not the time to guess.
11. Make an effort to stay connected with your friends.
When you live on campus, it’s easy to see your friends on a regular basis, whether that be in class, in your dorm or at meals. When you move away, however, it can get trickier to meet up with them and easier to fall out of touch with them. Make a point of scheduling time to meet up with them, even if it’s just meeting for lunch once a week.
As you’re preparing to move into your new apartment, remember to stay as organized as possible. It’ll make the entire process much easier and much less stressful. Hopefully these tips will help you out, and good luck with your new place!