Friday, April 27, 2012

Fiscal Fridays: Moving out

I’m really excited to finally have another Fiscal Fridays post for you guys! They’ve been kind of absent lately, but this week I got an actual question from an actual reader. You guys, this pretty much made my day. She actually sent a series of questions, and asked that I not use her name, so I’m going to call her Sarah and answer her questions below in a Q&A format.

Sarah is planning to move out on her own for the very first time, and is trying to prepare financially for the big move. Fortunately, I’ve moved about seven times since I was 18 (thanks to new apartments every year and subleasing in between some leases), and I moved six times when I was living at home with my parents, so I consider myself a semi-pro on the subject.

So without further ado, here’s my advice:

How can I trim my budget to save as much as possible in the next three months?
Because I don’t know the details of Sarah’s current budget, I can only give general feedback on this one. When I had to cut down my budget, I first made a list of all my bills. Rent, electric/gas/water, cell phone, cable, credit cards, insurance, etc. Then, I made a list of the other things I spend money on, like groceries, gas for my car, dining out, entertainment, clothes, etc. Next, I looked at all the money I spent on a monthly basis and determined what was essential and what wasn’t. Rent? That’s pretty essential. Cable? Going to the movies with friends? Not so much. So be cruel. Cut out absolutely everything that isn’t completely vital. Every dollar counts. That coffee and bagel you get every morning before work? Cutting it out could save you as much as $100 a month!

I do suggest allowing yourself to spend a very small amount of money each week on whatever you want. (I.E., the Financial Diet method.) This gives you a little outlet to blow off some steam, so to speak, while still saving a lot of money. If you’re really serious about saving a lot of money quickly, you’ll want to eliminate even this small spending pool.

I’m hoping to have around $2,000 saved up by the time I move out. Will that be enough?
There are several points to make here. First, I try to never “hope” when it comes to budgeting. I try to plan as meticulously as possible, using only certainties. That way, I don’t end up in a panic when I wind up saving a little less than planned because of an unforeseen expense or a lapse in determination to save.

For the sake of argument, let’s say Sarah does succeed in saving an even $2,000 by the time she moves out. Again, without knowing any of the details of her situation, I would say that this should be enough money as long as she has a job lined up in her new city. Moving is expensive, and moving out on your own for the first time is even more so. You’ll have to pay for things like the moving truck/van rental, boxes (unless you’re able to scavenge some), other packing supplies like mailing tape and bubble wrap, the deposit and maybe even first months’ rent for your new place, etc. In addition, there are often deposits needed for utilities like electric, water and gas in your new place. And there are always—and I do mean always—unforseen expenses that you should be prepared for.

Do your research. Find out how much rent costs in your new town, and if you have a place picked out, figure out what the move-in cost will be. I’ve always used Uhaul to transport my stuff when moving, but there may be a more affordable option in your area. If your utilities aren’t included in your rent, call the companies to find out what startup fees you’ll need to pay. Plan it all out now, so you can be prepared in three months when moving day arrives.

Also consider furniture. I’m not saying you have to go out and buy a brand-new living room suite, but you will probably need the basics. Ask family members if they have anything they’d like to get rid of. Check out thrift stores and consignment stores (but check to make sure they fumigate items first—no one likes bed bugs). If you must buy something brand new, stick with affordable stores like Target, Ikea, Walmart, etc. Yes, it will be cheaply made and probably not last as long, but now is not the time to buy investment pieces. Your first apartment will have the worst furniture you’ve ever owned in your life. End of story. Essential pieces to look for: a bed or futon, a dresser, a full-length mirror, a couch or chair, somewhere to eat (whether it’s a coffee table for in front of your couch or an actual kitchen table), a desk or laptop table and possibly a TV and stand. Everyone’s needs vary. Know what yours are.

Finally, a huge unexpected expense is house sundries. You’ll need to buy cleaning supplies, laundry supplies, groceries (including basics like flour and sugar), dishes, small appliances, towels…everything that you take for granted in your parents’ house. Again, go for the bare minimum for now. Some Clorox wipes, dish soap, Windex, OxyClean, a Swiffer broom/mop combo, shower cleaner and toilet bowl brush/cleaner should be sufficient. Maybe a Magic Eraser or two. Head to Aldi or another inexpensive, off-brand grocery store for your pantry basics. Thrift stores also tend to have tons of kitchen goods—dishes, appliances, pots and pans—for really inexpensive prices. Again, if you’re buying anything new, head to Target, Walmart or Ikea. You don’t need anything to match or look pretty, you just need it to work.

Do you have any general advice for moving away from home for the first time?
I’d just say that it’s all about preparation. Knowing what you’ll need to buy right away verses what you can do without for a few months. I’d also say that you should never, EVER move out of your parents’ house if you don’t have a job lined up. It’s a lot harder to ask for money if you’re living under a different roof, I’ve found. Plus, it would just be awful if you got moved out and ran out of money after just a few months, then had to move back in.

As far as packing goes, use small boxes for heavier items like books and large boxes for lighter items like pillows and blankets. Wrap anything delicate or breakable in bubble wrap or newspaper. And keep like items together: Don’t pack kitchen items in with your bedroom items. Also, I like to pack all of my cleaning supplies in one box and load them in last, so they’re easily accessible. New apartments usually need a once-over before you start unpacking.

Also, don’t go out and buy a ton of organizational stuff, extra furniture, décor, etc. for your apartment right away. Live in the space for a while to figure out what works and what doesn’t, so you don’t waste money on things you don’t need.

It’s important though to make your new place feel like home. Again, head to the thrift store for inexpensive art, or check out Pinterest for easy and affordable DIY projects. (Check out my board here for some ideas!) Stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s also usually have some great, inexpensive home décor items.

Finally, moving away for the first time can be scary. It’s easy to feel homesick, especially if you don’t have friends who already live in your new area. Know that those feelings will pass, and you’ll soon find it hard to believe that you ever missed living at home! If you’re in a completely new city and don’t know anyone, change that! Go out and socialize. Grab drinks or lunch with your coworkers. Chat with your neighbors. Some cities have social media sites designed to help people network and connect. Columbus, for example, has Cbusr. Having friends will make the transition into a new city much easier.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. Have a question about moving or other financial topics? Email me at


  1. Holy crap.... you are so awesome! So money savvy! My biggest problem is self control. I need to use a whole lot more of it so that we can save a whole lot more $$ :)

  2. This is awesome. You obviously know your stuff. I will come to you with budgeting questions from now on :)


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