You’ve decided to live on your own for the first time, congratulations! Maybe you’re moving out of your parents house, or moving out of living with roommates. Now, you get to decorate your new place exactly how you want and have everything match. The room is a bit bright so you’ll get some curtains and… oh wait, curtains are over $1,000 for the room?! Welcome to the joys of furnishing your own place. No matter the situation, living on your own requires getting a lot of stuff. This doesn’t even include the mortgage / down payment / deposit! Here are 10 financial tips on how to live on your own for the first time.
Don’t Buy Too Much House
Top living on your own tip: don’t buy too much house. Whether you are renting or buying, it’s important not to buy too much house. If you spend too much money on rent or a mortgage you will not be able to cut back on this expense if money gets tight. What does this mean? It means that your housing costs should be no more than 30% of your gross income (pre-tax income). This includes rent, mortgage, taxes, bills like electricity, water and wifi and any repairs you may have to make.
Even though the rule of thumb is no more than 30% of your gross income the lower this percentage is, the more money you’ll be able to spend actually furnishing your place and more money you’ll be able to save.
Organize Your Move
Being organized about your move will help save you money. Start by creating a few lists, including a to do list and everything your new place needs. In the “everything you need list” identify what you already have, what is needed, what is needed but can be purchased later and what is nice to have. For example, you’ll need a lot of kitchen items but you’ll absolutely need to have pots and pans to start if you plan to cook. While a good knife set is also needed if you’re not a big cook this is an example of a purchase you can delay.
Also create a list of general household items (paper towels, cleaning supplies, spices) that you often don’t think about because you’ve acquired a collection from living with your parents or living with other roommates over the years. You’ll avoid a lot of repeat trips to the grocery store, Costco or Target by creating a list of what you need here before you go shopping.
Now that you know what you need immediately and what purchases you can delay match this to your budget. Likely, this is more expensive than you anticipated but see how far you can get. There are tricks you can use to lower these costs and make your money stretch further.
Spend As Little As Possible Moving
Moving from one place to the next is always a pain and spending money on the move itself is unavoidable. There are ways to minimize this expense; however, moving expenses and effort tend to be inversely related. The less you spend, the more effort you will have to put into the actual move. The least effort will be to hire movers that pack everything for you and unpack everything for you. On the flip side, the most effort but least expensive option is for you to move yourself in your own car. In the middle, there are options to rent a uHaul, ask for friends help and offer to buy them food, etc.
When you’re moving to your own place for the first time it should be easy to minimize this expense as you have less stuff to begin with. At the same time, you will be spending money on moving after the initial move too as you begin buying more furniture for your place. Some of these purchases may require having to rent a truck or spending money on delivery fees.
Set A Budget For Furnishing Your Own Place
Everything about moving into your own place is expensive so it’s important to set a budget. Remember, you don’t need to have everything day one. You need wifi, a place to sleep and a few household items like toilet paper and some food. It’s ok if you don’t have a kitchen table or look settled for a couple of months. You’ve just paid the big expenses of first month, last month and security deposit or perhaps the closing costs and downpayment on your first home / condo. You’ll also have to start paying the monthly bills of living in your own place.
How much should you budget? That varies by person, and is really more about what you can afford and personal preferences. It’s more important avoid going into debt than being settled day 1.
Accept Furniture and Household Item Donations from Family Members
Your first place doesn’t have to look all put together – that can come with time. Forget what you see on Instagram, House Hunters and what your friends that don’t have their own place suggest when they come to visit. Earmuffs and blinders are key here! When you move into your own place for the first time without any roommates it is expensive. Even getting curtains for one room can be hundreds of dollars, if not over $1,000.
Understandably not everyone has the option to get used items from family. But, if your parents or your aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc, have things you need, accept them. Even if they don’t match or will need to be replaced soon it’s better than nothing. You don’t need to have these items forever, but moving into your own place requires a lot of things all at once and the fewer things you have to buy the easier it will be.
Are any of your friends moving? Or, are you living with roommates now and is there anything your roommates are trying to get rid of? Any time someone moves there are always items – big or small – that they won’t want in their new place. It works out for both of you if you can take something off your friends hands they don’t want anymore.
For the items that won’t last long, add them to your list of things to buy in the future. Prioritize this list and throughout the year look for sales. Always set aside some money in your budget to purchase items for your house in future years.
Scour Local Estate Sales For Furniture and Household Item Deals
Finding deals on household items and furniture at estate sales is one of the best kept secrets. An estate sale usually happens when there is a death and the family is trying to sell almost everything in the house before putting the house on the market. You’re able to get multiple things from one place at a steal and if you do need to rent movers or a uHaul, you can do it once. One friend ended up getting a $8,000 large dining room set in excellent condition for under $1,000. When she moved out (it didn’t fit in her next place) she ended up selling it and made a profit!
You may end up spending the same money you would have for something brand new at Ikea but there are two benefits to buying furniture / household items second hand. First, the quality of what you’re buying is much higher and you’ll be able to command a higher value should you ever try to resell the same piece a few years later. Second, you don’t have to self-assemble.
To find local estate sales, enter the town + estate sale into Google. If you live in a city, you may have more success looking at close suburbs.
Buy Second Hand Household Furnishings On Craigslist / LetGo
Craigslist and LetGo are also good to search for specific things you need to furnish your new place. I really wanted a wine rack from Crate and Barrel and didn’t want to spend $400 for it new when I first moved into my own place. After regularly searching for a few weeks I found one nearby on Craigslist for $125. A few years later when I moved I ended up selling it for $150. Both of these website / apps are best when you know exactly what you’re looking for otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time browsing. The strategy of buying second hand can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Use Coupons For Household Staples and Decorations
Normally I don’t talk about coupons often as I don’t think it’s worth going out of your way for 20 minutes to save $0.50. But, moving in on your own requires a lot of stuff so it’s worth it to spend a few hours looking around for the best deals and setting alerts. In this case, you’ll end up saving a lot of money by shopping around. Still, it is important to be smart about your time. If you see a good deal for one thing that will take 2 hours out of your day, is the amount you’ve saved worth those 2 hours?
T.J. Maxx and Homegoods generally has good deals and there are extra sales on holiday items after a holiday has passed. Bed, Bath & Beyond always mails 20% off coupons and you can try to split your transactions (or go with a friend) to use multiple coupons during the same trip. Usually, Bed, Bath & Beyond also accepts coupons that have expired. For higher end, Bloomingdales Home has Friend & Family sales (it’s free to become a loyalist) which you can take advantage of for things like bed sheets and towels. Macy’s also frequently has sales and coupons.
Budget Your Time Wisely
Don’t spend so much time on searching for the best deal that you waste all of your time. Everyone only has 24 hours in a day and each hour you spend looking for deals you could have been using to do something else, including doing something that would make you more money. You have a lot to buy when starting your own household and shopping around can take you to many stores and require a lot of repeated trips if you don’t plan correctly. Plan ahead as best as you can with lists and research ahead of time but never waste a couple hours to save only a couple of dollars.
You’ve Now Living On Your Own, Now What?
You’re now officially moved in and living on your own. Now what? It’ll always take some time to get settled and you’ll realize you’ll need things you completely forgot about. Don’t worry about buying everything at once. Continue to keep your lists of prioritized needs, needs and wants. Chip away at these lists over time and take advantage of yearly sales. Do more research on when the best time to buy certain items are, which you can find here, and here.
What are other ways you’ve found to save money when moving to your own place for the first time?