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Secret Costs of Moving Out on Your Own

I can still remember the taste of freedom and excitement, laced with nervousness and anxiety, when my father drove me one and a half hours away to a small town in Maryland and helped me unpack my belongings into my first apartment.

It was the summer after my college graduation, and I had landed a job as an International Sales and Marketing Specialist for a start-up company. I graduated, then went home and spent a week sifting through my childhood belongings and deciding what was trash, what were memories I would hold onto forever, the things I needed to donate, and the things that would be useful in my new adult life. I also remember how my belongings took up about a quarter of the space in my new 1,000 square foot apartment, leaving the place feeling empty and cold.

Perhaps you are graduating college this spring and will be moving out on your own for the first time, or are moving out alone for the first time in a long time. From my experience of living in 4 apartments since my graduation, I’d like to list out common costs besides food, entertainment, and clothing that you will run across so that you can properly prepare.

First and Last Month’s Rent

Not only will you need to cover the first month’s rent when you first move into your apartment, but it is very likely that you will need to pay the last month’s rent up front as well.


There are several deposits that may be due when you first move into an apartment. The first is a deposit equal to a month’s rent that ensures you will not damage the property. When you are ready to move out, your landlord will assess any damages, and subtract the costs of these damages from this deposit.

If you have a pet, you will most likely have another deposit that is around $300, but could be anywhere from $100 to one month’s rent. Some pet deposits are non-refundable, meaning that even if your pet does not leave damages, you forfeit the money. Other deposits are refundable, so be sure to find out which category yours falls into. When you look for an apartment using Apartments.com [1], they list the pet information for you.

When you set up utilities for your apartment, such as turn on the water, electricity, cable, trash pick-up etc., if you do not have a high enough credit score [2], then you will have to pay a deposit (sometimes even if you have a great credit score, but no history with a particular company, then you will have to pay a deposit). Typically utility deposits are around $50-$100 each. For many utility companies once you reach a one-year mark they will use the deposit instead of your bank account to pay bills until the deposit is used up, or you can request your deposit at that time to be paid back to you by check.

Insurance costs

A waiting period of between 3-6 months is typical for your health insurance benefits at work to become effective. Or perhaps you do not have a job yet, and so your health insurance is lapsing. In this case it is a very good idea to purchase a catastrophic policy that will insure you in case of emergencies until the new Health Care Reform Bill [3] goes into effect expanding health insurance on your parent’s policy through age 26.

Even if you think you are in good health, things could still happen such as you break a limb, or your appendix decides to burst. A catastrophic policy has a high deductible (such as $2,500 to $5,000), but then will cover most of the rest of any emergency-related costs like hospital stays, surgeries, lab tests and intensive care. It will not cover (or not substantially cover) your routine visits to the dentist, eye doctor’s, or general practitioner, so try to schedule these once you have regular health benefits again. You can compare health insurance quotes [4] easily online.

Another type of insurance you may wish to consider is renter’s insurance. This will cover the cost of your personal belongings if anything happens to the apartment you live in, such as theft, fire, or flood. Typically your landlord will not cover your personal belongings on their insurance plan, but be sure to find out. A tip: You can purchase renter’s insurance through your auto insurance company and get a discount on your policy or get a quote [5].

Basic Supplies

Finally, there are some basic supplies that everyone needs in order to live on their own. After about a week or two of living on your own, you will notice that you will need to do your laundry, and clean your home! In order to do this you will need cleaning supplies and laundry supplies (does your new apartment have a washer and dryer, or do you need to use a Laundromat? Either way you will need laundry detergent, a laundry basket, and possibly dryer sheets).

Unless you plan on eating out a lot (which can get very expensive), there are staple food items that are needed for every pantry. Some items include basic spices and seasonings, flour, sugar, rice and noodles, baking soda and baking powder, condiments (ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, etc.) and more. Also be sure to purchase some basic cooking items, such as a pan for the oven, a frying pan, and a pot for cooking on the stove, perhaps a microwave, and a toaster, some plates, forks, spoons, and knives.

In order to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to prepare for your transition, it would be a great idea to work on each of these in the months leading up to your move. You can start stocking up on supplies as you see sales, and research different health insurance plans. If you have a family member who has recently gotten married, moved into a home, or gone through another transition, they may have an old set of dishes that you can borrow or have. Also, start setting aside money in a savings account [6] to be able to pay the deposits or work ways to generate extra income [7]. The worst that can happen is you end up saving too much money, which means you will have an added bonus: the seed money to your 6-8 month emergency fund.

Now that you are ready to move out on your own, see the 6 Mistakes of New Earners and How to Fix Them [8].