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8 Budgeting Tips For Your First (Or Next) Apartment

budgeting tips for moving to an apartment
You’ve probably budgeted for your new rent payment, but have you considered these other potential costs as well?

You’re poised to move into your first apartment for rent in San Diego, CA — lucky you! Now that you’ve budgeted for the monthly rent payment, you’re primed to spend the summer kicking back by the community pool and enjoying all that your new place has to offer. But other than your rent, what not-so-obvious changes will your budget need to bear? Use these budgeting tips as a guideline to anticipate how your monthly expenses could change after you move into your new pad.

1. Utilities

Moving into your own place means you’ll be ponying up all the cash for every volt of electricity, blast of air conditioning, and dribble of hot water. While that may feel daunting, keep in mind, you’re also the only one using these luxuries. Gone are the days of waking up to the thermostat set at a balmy 78 degrees just because your college roommate likes to wear their cargo shorts all winter.

If you’re brainstorming how to corral your utility costs, check out alternative ways to heat your apartment, as well as energy hacks that can help save money. If your new apartment building doesn’t offer complimentary Internet, you may consider asking your neighbors if they’d be willing to share Wi-Fi. Reducing your Internet bill by half can have a large impact on your bottom line.

2. Building fees

Normally associated with newer apartments or large multi-unit complexes, building fees can be a surprising addition to your monthly budget. Closely examine the terms of your lease agreement upfront to help save you from sticker shock when that first monthly invoice arrives. Hidden rental fees may include the super fancy community room where you watch Sunday football games, a fitness center, and the 24-hour concierge who signs for all of your Amazon deliveries.

In addition to these soft costs, it’s also typical for building fees to include communal utilities such as water, sewer, and garbage. The good news: If they’re rolled into the monthly rent, that’s one fewer line item for your personal monthly ledger.

3. Parking

Moving to the burbs can have its benefits, especially when it comes to parking. A home with a driveway can save you a ton of cash you could have been spending on downtown parking meters, parking tickets, and neighborhood permits.

Attention, city dwellers: Be prepared to pay top dollar to keep your chariot within a reasonable walking distance. Rather than playing the parking meter game and risking citations each day, ask the property manager if there are any parking spots for rent. (If there isn’t a spot available now, there may be a wait list!) Another option? Sell your vehicle and choose a car-share service instead. Even if your building has available parking, the monthly outlay for a car-share could be cheaper than paying for insurance, loan payments, and gas for the vehicle you own.

4. Pet rent

If you’re moving into a suburban house with a fenced-in yard, you’ve got a free space for your puppy to run with abandon. Bonus: veterinary costs outside of metro areas are usually more affordable too. City pets spend their days in smaller spaces and need to be walked and exercised outside. Whether you’re dropping them off at doggy day care or paying a dog walker, this price tag is a force to be reckoned with: Petaholics, a dog-walking service in New York, NY, offers five walks per week at a monthly rate of $440. And even if you rent in a pet-friendly city, you may still have to pay an additional monthly fee for Fido. “Pet rent” can run anywhere from $15 to $50 a month and often requires an additional deposit in the event of any damages caused by your kitty or pooch.

5. Lawn Care

There’s no hard and fast rule about who’s responsible for lawn maintenance, so read your lease carefully before assuming you won’t be expected to flex your lawn mowing muscles. If you’re in charge of keeping the lawn and gardens in good shape, you can take the DIY route or hire the entrepreneurial teenager down the street to take care of it for you — either way, there is a cost involved. However, if you’re renting in the city, you might skip the added costs of lawn maintenance — it’s most likely built into your rent or other building fees.

6. Move-in costs

While the upfront fee to move into a new space is just a one-time payment, it is substantial and could feel like a burden — especially for newbie renters. But if you’re struggling to come up with the cash, you can always attempt to negotiate. Chris Guinn III of Dwell Realty, a full-service agency that manages homes for sale and apartments for rent in Portland, OR, frequently works with renters and sometimes suggests negotiating move-in fees upfront. “Quite often, the landlord will agree to spreading the security deposit over two or three months rather than in one lump sum — based on tenant risk factors from screening, of course,” he says. “Since this fee can be equivalent to a month’s rent or greater, the flexibility for installment payments makes a big difference.”

7. Roommates

Living in a shared space can make your living situation much more affordable. A bigger place, better location, and the best cable money can buy can all be yours — with a lower monthly payment! However, it’s an excellent idea to have enough cash in the bank to cover the rent and utilities in case your roommates flake. And while there’s set rule, it’s worth socking away the equivalent of three to six months’ worth of housing expenses just in case.

8. Laundry

If you’re moving into a building with shared laundry facilities, be prepared to pay to wash and dry each load. Depending on how much you value freshly washed clothes and clean sheets, your laundry costs can easily run $30 per month. And don’t assume all rentals with laundry rooms include washers and dryers. You may be required to rent units monthly or purchase your own — and both will put another dent in your budget.

Have you been surprised by the costs related to a new apartment? Share your tips and experiences in the comments!

This post was sponsored by State Farm.

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