As most of you know, in a few short weeks I will be moving from Chicago to St. Louis. This is mine and Casye's very first apartment and we're very excited to start on this new journey together. When I told my friends, their responses were almost always "I am so jealous." Many of my friends have since decided to either move out or start considering moving out in the near future. To those friends, I say: you can't just get an apartment, and certainly not a first apartment.
When you say "You're paying $360 a month for rent? I can totally afford that on my meager salary! I should move out!" I feel like you don't understand just how expensive a first apartment is. I want you to think about all the things you use every single day at home. Your bed, blankets, pillows. Your toothbrush and toothpaste. Your clothes, your dresser. Your food, your table, your chairs, etc. Now think about paying for all of those at the same time. On top of your first month's rent. This is your first apartment and I don't care how messy your room is, you do not have all the things you need yet. Your first apartment may be small and you won't need everything at first, but I don't feel like you understand just how many things you need. Now, in my situation, I was lucky because Casye and I have both been buying things and other people have been giving us things as well. That really helps. But even so, I've already spent some $620. And I'm not done yet. And these are just the things I feel like I need when I first move in, there are other things I'm going to get further down the road.
And don't forget, you'll also be paying for utilities. When re-watching an episode of Parks and Recreation today, Andy was talking about his newly acquired house and saying things like "you can use all the free electricity you want." Sometimes when I talk to my friends, I feel like they're saying the same things as Andy. You may not have had to pay for electricity before when you lived with your parents or when you lived in a dorm at school*, but you'll have to pay for it now. And water. And gas. I'm sorry, you wanted air conditioning in the summer? You have to pay for it. You may even have to pay for garbage. And get this, you have to pay for sewage, too. Yeah, you literally have to pay to use the bathroom in your own place. That shit ain't free.
You'll also have to pay for food. No more going to the fridge and grabbing whatever you want and no more texting mom to pick up some more ice cream bars. You probably don't realize how much you eat or how much it will cost you. When I first had this discussion, some of you thought you could eat on less than $100 a month. Please excuse me while I laugh at you, this will only take a moment. One really good resource I've found is the USDA's website, which calculates average costs for groceries, depending on your food style and how many people are in the household. And the thing is, for the first month, you'll have to buy a whole lot of stock items to start off your kitchen, like flour, sugar, and hot chocolate mix. There are things you are going to want on hand at all times, and then you buy your groceries on top of that.
If you really, truly want to get out on your own and move into your first apartment, I implore you to first create a cost analysis and projected budget. You need to know how much your rent & utilities are, how much you spend on groceries, and how much you spend on your other expenses, such as your cell phone, cable, internet, and very likely your student loans. Add all those together and subtract it from how much you make every month. Then you need to look at your savings and figure out if you have enough money to pay for all the things you'll need just to start, like plates and furniture. Once you've done all that, you can decide when you are financially capable of moving out. (Physically & mentally able are two entirely different matters, though)
Once you've taken all this into account, then you can start really looking at places. If you need any help, let me know.
*side note: stop telling me how dorm living is exactly the same as apartment living. It's not.