Getting An Apartment: Part I

Since starting the process of looking for an apartment about three weeks ago, I have learned a lot, my hatred of packing included. My parents are packing at the same time for their move, so it’s been a little hectic and the house generally looks like a maze of boxes in every room.

I can’t wait until June 1st so we can move, unpack everything and get settled! I feel a bit disorganized with all my belongings dispersed throughout boxes.

Here are some of my thoughts on getting an apartment, and what to think about prior to making the move.

Our soon-to-be cozy little kitchen
Our soon-to-be cozy little kitchen

Deciding to Move

It comes without question that first you must decide there is a need for you to move. In my case, my boyfriend (R) and I had been wanting to move in together for a while, but it wasn’t financially feasible due to him working a seasonal position.

The choice, for me, came down to timing. If my parents moved first, then I would get a smaller place by myself, or if R got a full-time position, we would find a place together. By chance, they coincided, which turned out to be great! We were in negotiations with the house the first week of R’s new job.

I do want to quickly say there is absolutely nothing wrong with living with your parents for as long as your situation allows. The Atlantic reports that 45% of college grads are moving back home. There’s nothing wrong with saving some money this way until you are ready to move! Take your time to think about all the options available (including gathering friends to share an apartment with) before jumping into it.

What do you want to spend?

Before we considered anything, we crunched the numbers and came up with what we could afford. I wasn’t completely comfortable with it, but R’s new job offers bonuses at the end of every month, and he has already received one. I’m also not one to part willingly with money, whereas R isn’t as strict with his budget.

The easiest way we went about this was to simply add up our necessary monthly expenses, estimate food costs, and subtract it from our monthly income to see what we had left. Then, we asked ourselves what we were comfortable having leftover at the end of the month after rent. We settled on $1,200 as the max we would like to spend, split between both of us.

Our expenses were student loans, cell phone bills, car insurance, car payments, food and gas. This will obviously differ from person to person, but it worked for us as a preliminary budget. The worst thing was not really knowing how much it will cost us to live together, as we haven’t lived on our own yet.

I am in favor of overestimating and preparing for the worst, while R doesn’t seem to think we have much to worry about. In any case, I have a healthy emergency fund built up, and R is working on his. Always have a backup plan!

What do you need in an apartment?

R and I wanted a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment with a kitchen so that we could cook. Besides that, we were okay with studios that had the bedroom and kitchen connected, as long as it was open enough.

We definitely didn’t need 2 bedrooms or any extra space (they would have been over our budget anyway). As we are not sure how long this situation will last, we did not want to sign a lease.

Essentially, we were looking at a basement apartment, or something in a single-family home. The “regular” commercial apartments in communities were way too expensive. We also knew we wanted utilities included, unless the apartment was under budget. Ultimately, utilities included won out when we compared apartments to each other. It was one less thing we would have to worry about.

I do have to note that we were totally willing to forgo cable and phone hookup, as we only really need the internet. I don’t watch much TV, and I always try to rent from our library. Make sure you evaluate this as well beforehand, and don’t be afraid to ask about the utilities!

Additionally, if you have a pet you are bringing with you, you should think about how much space they need. Most of the apartments we saw did not allow pets at all, and I have heard of pet deposits being required in some cases. Make sure your pet is well-behaved!

Where are you going to live?

Now, where to go? Obviously, moving closer to our jobs was a priority, as that would be more convenient, and tons of PF blogs advise to go that route. R works further East than I do, but we both work along the same major highway, and we agreed that we wanted to be located near there.

Your budget is also probably going to dictate where you can live, at least in part. Where I am, most 1-bedroom apartments were similarly priced – there wasn’t a huge difference in the areas we were looking at. If we couldn’t reside close to one of our jobs, then we at least preferred to live in the opposite direction of traffic. Once we became seriously interested in an apartment, I would check how the flow of traffic was during rush hour.

I would have loved to be within walking distance of either of our jobs, but there were no apartments available nearby. If you have that option, you should definitely consider it! Saving money on gas and potential car expenses would be great.

Please stay tuned to the next portion, which to me was the most stressful: actually searching for and looking at apartments!


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