You may think that finding your perfect apartment will be a piece of cake, but don’t underestimate it. This is an exciting time in your life and you want to be sure that this experience is fun and memorable. Follow these tips for college apartment hunting and you should be on your way to living on your own in no time.
1. Know your budget and stick to it.
You should have a set budget for what you can afford each month. The easiest way to figure out your budget is to set limits and make sure not to exceed those limits.
- Find out what your monthly income is going to be. Whether you are working part time while in school full time, or you’re getting ready to venture into the real world with your first post-grad adult job, you need to make sure your monthly income will be enough to afford rent, utilities, and all your other regular expenses, such as gas and car insurance (if you have a car), your phone bill, cable and wifi, groceries and entertainment expenses.
- Jot down every single expense that you will be spending money on each month. This process is much more organized when you see your expenses next to your income right in front of you on paper. When you subtract the amount of expenses you have every month from your monthly income, you can see how much you will actually be able to afford in rent and what expenses you need to set strict limits to or even abandon. You’d be surprised at how quickly daily Starbucks trips, “grabbing lunch” and going out for drinks can add up to.
- Set a move date and save. If you know the date you want to be in your own apartment, it never hurts to start saving ahead. In fact, if you are getting ready to graduate or will be moving off campus for the upcoming semester, pretend as if you are paying rent already. Each week, put a certain amount of money in your savings account that will add up to the one month’s rent. That way, when it is time to pay first, and possibly last month’s rent, you will have enough, and will already be used to having to fork over that cash, it won’t kill you – as much.
- Set a weekly budget. Once you know what your budget limits you to each month, divide that amount by 4 to see what you should limit your extra spending to each week. It helps if you keep an Expense Log, where you write down what you spend on what each week to make sure you don’t accidentally go over your limit and run into trouble at the end of the month.
You can create a spreadsheet on Excel to help you organize your budget with income in one column, and expenses in another. There are also budget apps that you can purchase or download for free, such as Homebudget with Sync, Expense, and Mint.
2. Do your research.
Once you know what you will be able to afford, it’s time to see what is available for you. Monthly rent is determined by many factors, such as size of the apartment, location, and how old the building is. There are many helpful websites that make the search easy and personalized. Sites such as Craigslist.com, Trulia.com, Zillow.com and ApartmentGuide.com allow you to customize your apartment search by city and state with personal preferences, such as minimum and maximum rent, how many bedrooms and bathrooms, whether pets are allowed, if utilities are included, if there is ample parking, and even if laundry is available on site.
Some renters prefer to have their tenants recommended by someone they know, so be sure to ask around. Not all apartments that are available will be found online. Word of mouth can be very helpful. Your campus is filled with people who are in the same boat as you, or have already been through the experience of the first apartment hunt, so go to them for some advice. Chances are they made some mistakes, but also learned a lot of tips and tricks that can be useful to you during this great transition.
3. Consider location.
If you don’t have any transportation other than a bike or scooter , you should factor your location in. If it’s too expensive to live so close to campus, look into apartments that have bus stops and scheduling to see if that could be an alternative option for you. If your apartment is in the city, typically it will be much more expensive than in surrounding towns. If this is an apartment after graduating college, consider your commute to work. If pubic transportation is an option, it is a good choice to save on money for gas and parking. But, it isn’t the most reliable source of transportation. Google Maps is a great tool to map out any trip ahead of time. You can type in the address of your potential place and get directions to wherever you’re traveling to every day. When you see it mapped out for you, you will be able to decide if what it will cost is worth the location.
If you’re moving to a completely new town or city that you are not familiar with, www.city-data.com is a website that features all pertinent information to any city or town. You can find information on demographics, crime, population changes, class and surrounding towns to ensure this is a place you would want to live. Google Maps’ Street View feature also allows you to take virtual tours around any place in the world. All you have to do is type in the address and you can have a visual of the surrounding area.
4. Get to know your roomies.
If you choose to live with someone, or multiple people you’ve never met, make sure you fill out a roommate matching form, or even a roommate matching website.This form will help to fit you with people with similar living habits, preferred age range, employment status, etc. Splitting costs with a roommate is a great way to not only meet new people, but make your rent lower in a nicer place. For instance, if your rent limit was $1,000, but you were planning on living alone, the quality of an apartment will be much better if you pay $1,000 a month on a $2,000 per month apartment with a roommate.
Easyroomate.com, Roomiematch.com and roomates.com are resourceful tools to help you find exactly what you are looking for in a roommate. There are most likely people who are on your campus, or even other campuses near you who are looking for a roommate, as well. Ask around! You can also talk to someone in your Off Campus Student Services Center. They are very knowledgeable with the area and experienced with helping students take this next step.
Also, consider you might not want to live with your best friend if you guys have never lived together before. You have to remember you will be living in the same space as them for a year, and there might be things about them that you don’t know.
4. Look for furnished apartments.
For the easiest convenience of owning and moving into your first apartment, look for apartments that come furnished. Most times, the furniture is included in the renting price. Bringing your own furniture is more of a hassle than you probably want to take on. This is might be the best option if this is an apartment you will be renting while you’re still in school. Most likely, you will only be living there for one year, so it doesn’t have to be a beautifully furnished, state of the art living pad.
In case you do need furniture, check out these deals from Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and Wayfair. If you have furniture that you don’t need, putting it in storage is also a possibility. Check out these storage deals offered by Price Self Storage, American Self Storage, and PODS Moving & Storage.
5. Figure out what you will need.
It’s easy to plan the move, but don’t forget you’re going to have to fill that apartment of yours with stuff you actually need to live. If you’re moving out of your dorm room, you might have some essentials such as, a microwave, bath towels, a trash barrel, a vacuum, some office supplies, and hangers. But, you also need more cleaning supplies then it takes to keep your small dorm clean, kitchen supplies, like silverware, a dish rack, and pots and pans, and maybe even your own personal tool set. Here is a more extensive list of what you might need for your first apartment:
- Broom and Dust Pan
- Tool set
- Oven mits
- Spatulas, can openers, cutting boards, serving spoons etc.
- Measuring cups and bowls
- Cookie Sheets
- Coffee Maker
- Aluminum foil, baggies
Don’t forget – these things cost money! So, save save, save. If you have a roommate or roommates, you can all decide who will purchase what to decrease the entire cost.
This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.
Erin is a senior at the University of Florida. She majors in Advertising with a concentration in Business Administration. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in the fashion world. Go Gators!