What Is It Really Like Moving Out For The First Time?

You might feel like you’re 100% ready to move out on your own for the first time. And hey, you have a lot to look forward to. Suddenly, you’re going to be free to have a messy apartment, to eat take out all you want, to have friends over until sunrise if you want. It’s pretty great. But that doesn’t mean that it’s always a seamless transition, and it’s also perfectly normal to feel a little bit nervous at the idea of being on your own. We all know the feeling of waking up at three in the morning on your first night away from home thinking, where in the world am I and what was that terrifying sound? Did I remember to lock the front door? What was that thing my landlord said about rubbish day? Should I have turned the thermostat down?

 

Really, we’ve all been there. Don’t be surprised if the majority of calls you make during that first month of independence are to your parents asking why they never taught you how to unclog a drain or wire transfer your rent to your landlord or fix the squeaking noise that all of the doors in your apartment are making.

 

And, because we’ve all been there, this guide is meant to be a master resource that you can use as you get ready to move out of your family’s house. That way, you can focus on what makes living on your own fantastic instead of stressful. Plus, it always pays off to be the flatmate who is adulting the best, trust us.

Why it’s important to have a plan

When you’re on your own for the first time, there might be some meltdowns. But that’s not because your new responsibilities will necessarily be that hard. It’s just that you’ve never had to do them before. So, having a good plan will help you skip the meltdowns and get right down to the adulting.

 

We’re going to break it down into four different elements of moving away from home: the logistics, budgeting, the emergencies, and dealing with the change itself.

Let’s get to the details!

The logistics: Packing to move out

If you’ve been living in the same home for the last few years, or even your entire life, get ready for a bit of a shock. You have way more stuff than you realize. But it’s okay, there are simple tips that can make the moving process more manageable.

Step one: Write a checklist

First of all, you’re going to want to figure out the bare minimum of necessary items. These are going to be things that you can’t live without, and although the complete list will be a bit different for everyone, here’s a good checklist to start with:

General furniture:

  • Mattress

  • Dresser

  • Bedside table

  • Dining table and chairs

  • Sofa or loveseat

  • Bookshelf or side table - even if you don’t think you’ll use it, it’s nice to have a surface to place your internet modem or other items that don’t have an obvious home

Smaller items and appliances:

  • Rubbish bin (one larger one for the kitchen, and smaller ones for each room and bathroom)

  • Dish drying rack

  • Toaster

  • Coffee maker - trust us, you won’t want to be without this

  • Water filter

  • Slow cooker - this isn’t absolutely necessary but it’s such a lifesaver, especially if this will be the first time that you’re cooking meals for yourself and trying to juggle work/university

  • Vacuum cleaner, which is useful for both carpet and wooden floors

  • Shower curtain

  • Storage containers for toiletries

  • Bath mat

  • Toilet plunger and toilet brush

Linens:

  • Two sets of bedsheets

  • Two sets of towels

  • A set of hand towels

  • A set of kitchen towels

  • Cleaning rags, and plenty of them - as a money saver, you can tear up old t-shirts for cleaning rags instead of buying new ones

Other essentials:

  • Soap dispenser for the bathroom and kitchen

  • Plenty of sponges

  • A full set of dining ware, including plates, bowls, glasses, and silverware

  • A full set of cookware, including a medium to large sized pot, a couple of frying pans, and a baking sheet

  • Mixing bowls and a colander

  • Cooking utensils, like spatulas and wooden spoons

  • A cheese grater

  • A wine opener and can opener

  • A good quality chopping knife and a large cutting board

  • Oven mitts

  • Plastic containers for leftovers

  • Clothing hangers

  • Cleaning supplies, including window cleaner, floor cleaner and surface cleaner

  • A basic toolkit

Obviously, some of these items will be shared if you’re going to be moving in with flatmates, so it’s a good idea to share the list with your roommates so that you know who is going to provide which items.

 

And, although it might seem a bit awkward now, it’s a good idea to keep a record of who is contributing what to the new home. It can be an uncomfortable situation to have to argue about who paid for the sofa at move-in when you’re ready to part ways with your flatmate. Even if you’re so sure that you’ll remember, it’s good to have a record just in case.

Step two: Downsize

Now that you know what items you’re going to need in your new place, it’s time to downsize. At home, it may have made sense to have two or three of everything, especially if you have siblings who are constantly using your hair dryer or phone chargers. But in your new place, these extra items aren’t going to be necessary. In fact, they’re only going to make your space cluttered.

 

So, you’re going to want to go through your items before you start packing and get rid of everything you can. You may be asking yourself why you should give away anything if you can simply store it in your family’s home in case you need it in the future. But, you’re going to be doing yourself and your family a huge favor by clearing out the items that you don’t need. They don’t want to have to look at your boxes and boxes of clothes you never wear or books you’ll never read or decorations that you’ve outgrown.

 

Of course, there will probably be a few items of sentimental value that you don’t want to let go of but won’t have space for in your new home - things like sports trophies, school yearbooks, photo albums from when you were younger, etc. But don’t just leave them on the shelf in your bedroom for your family to figure out what to do with them. Instead, store them safely in a plastic bin. If there’s a storage space at your family’s home, ask them if they wouldn't mind you storing those items there. If there’s no space at your family’s home, you might look into a storage option through Spacer.

Step three: Consider your important documents

There are going to be some items that you’ll need to put some extra thought into. Things like important medical documents, your birth certificate, and anything having to do with your education all need to be kept safe.

 

Perhaps your family already has a safe place to store these items. If they’re willing to hold onto them for you, great. It will be one less thing to worry about when you move into your new place. If not, you’ll want to figure out an alternative, such as adding a filing cabinet to your list of furniture or looking into document storage companies in your area.

To sum it up

In this section, we talked about how to set yourself up for a smooth move into your new home! You have a checklist of items that you’ll need in your new space, you’ve downsized to make the move more manageable, and you’ve thought about what to do with your important documents.

In the next section, we’re going to talk about how to set up a strong budget and start building the oh-so-fun skill of money management!

Budgeting: necessary and not as bad as you think

This is the stage that no one wants to talk about but will make your life so much easier. Just knowing what bills you have to start paying and some common expenses of living on your own will help you feel prepared.

Step one: Figure out your rent

First, let’s talk about the biggest expense - rent. If you’re not sure where you’re going to be moving to yet, this is going to be one of the most important factors in your decision. Are you going to be working full time? Are you going to be a student? Are you jumpstarting your music career? Whatever your financial situation, it’s important to look into the average rent in your potential neighbourhood to see if you can afford the monthly rent.

 

Generally, a simple online search will help you figure out which neighbourhoods are most popular with people moving away from home for the first time. This is usually because the rent is low and the neighbourhood has a lot of offer in terms of coffee shops and cheap markets. Take your time to visit a couple of different options in the neighbourhoods you’re interested in.

 

And while we’re on the topic of finding the right neighbourhood for your price-point, allow us to throw in some extra advice. This is going to be the place where you spend all of your time from now on! So make sure that you put a lot of thought into what this neighbourhood can offer you. Here’s a list of things to think about as you’re looking for the perfect place to live:

  • Access to public transportation

  • Distance from your potential home to work/school/other neighbourhoods where you’ll want to spend time

  • Average age of the residents

  • Safety

  • Noise level

  • Local businesses - are there plenty of grocery stores, restaurants, and coffee shops?

  • Your own gut feeling - hey, if you don’t feel like a certain suburb is a good fit, don’t force yourself to live there! You’re free to find a neighbourhood that is perfect for you!

Now, back to the price of rent. If you’re going to be living with flatmates, it’s not always so straightforward to figure out how much each person will pay for rent. Does one person have a larger room? Do some housemates have to share a bathroom while another has their own? It’s a pretty rare case when a flat is perfectly broken down into equal areas, so you might have to do a bit of negotiation to figure out the right price for each tenant. That said, if the rooms are just marginally different, it can sometimes be in the best interest to split the rent equally. But it’s important to talk to the flatmates about what they’re most comfortable with, so that you can all move forward in agreement.

 

Finally, make sure that you talk to your landlord about how and when you’ll be paying the rent each month. Is it going to be a wire transfer? Will they be expecting a check? Whatever the situation, it’s important to know before you move in so that you’re never hit with a late fee.

Step two: Plan out your other expenses

Once you have a pretty good idea of what you’ll pay for rent, it’s important to ask your landlord what other expenses you’ll be responsible for before you sign the lease. This will help you avoid a situation in which you find the perfect apartment only to realize that you can’t afford the monthly expenses.

 

And, while we’re not going to be able to tell you exactly what your expenses will be, here’s a list of common ones that you might expect at your new place.

  • Moving out costs - maybe you’ll be getting help from a friend with a truck or you’ll be trying to fit all of your boxes in your family’s sedan over multiple trips to the new place. Or, maybe you’ll have to hire a removalist company to help you out. Whatever the situation, you’re going to have to pay for a couple of things, least of all packing materials.

  • Bond - this is going to be a one-time fee that you pay at the beginning of your lease agreement. It’s basically a safety net for the landlord so that if you completely trash the place before you move out (which, of course, you won’t, right?), they’ll have enough money to pay for the cleaning and repairs. If you’re an angel of a tenant during your lease and the apartment is spotless at move-out, you should be able to get all of your bond money back.

  • Utilities - this is going to depend on your specific situation, but may include electricity, gas, oil, excess garbage, septic pumping, and excess water usage.

  • Internet, phone, and television

  • Parking fees - if you’re living in the city, it may be necessary to pay for a parking space. Check out Spacer orParkhound to see what the monthly rates are in your neighbourhood.

Alright, so all of those expenses have to do with your living situation. There are a few other expenses that you’ll need to factor into your budget. Again, it will depend on your unique situation, but here are some common expenses:

  • Food - There are a few key ways to cut down your food costs every month. The biggest one? Cook at home. Be conscious about the prices of the ingredients you buy, and make it a point to cook all of your own meals. If you’re a student or have a full-time job, cook large portions so that you can take the extras with you the next day. Or, always have the ingredients you need on hand to make yourself a sandwich or a salad for lunch. That doesn’t mean that you can never enjoy a meal out with your friends, but it’s a good habit to start eating most of your meals at home.

  • Transportation - Whether you drive or use public transportation, you’re going to have some monthly fees. For a car, in addition to fuel prices, you might also include insurance, registration, car washing, and repair costs. You can check out our recent article on the costs of car ownership in Australia,here. You can cut costs in this area by walking to your local grocery store when you can, and possibly riding a bike to work or school even a couple of times per week.

  • Pet expenses - if you have a cat, dog, rabbit, or another animal, you’ll need to factor in your pet’s living cost. How much do you spend per month on food? Toys? Grooming fees? And the biggest one - vet fees. If you have a pet, it’s important to always have some money set aside to pay for emergency situations.

  • Clothes - every once in a while, you’re going to have to buy some more clothes. If you’re going to be frugal in one area, though, this should be that area. It can be tempting to spend an afternoon shopping to blow off steam or spend time with friends, but try as much as you can to limit unnecessary spending. You can factor in a little bit of money every week for shopping, but don’t make it a regular habit.

  • Exercise or gym fees - exercising is obviously an important part of your overall health, and you may want to factor in a monthly gym fee or exercise class. One way to save a bit of money here might be to forego the gym and jog in the park, ride your bike, or start an at-home routine. There are plenty of exercise videos online that you can use instead of paying for group classes.

  • The fun stuff - you’re human. Every once in a while, you’re going to want to treat yourself to an afternoon coffee, or a night out with friends, or some unnecessary purchase that brings you joy. That’s alright. You’ll want to factor in a little bit of money every month for just this kind of thing. But try, try, try not to go over the budget that you set for the fun stuff. We’ll be honest - this is one of the most difficult parts of adulting, but you’ll feel much better at the end of the month if you can say you didn’t spend all of your savings on that brand new phone or super expensive makeup set or tickets to see a band that isn’t even in your top ten.

Step three: Put together the budget

At this point, you have a pretty good idea of everything you’ll be paying for month-to-month. It’s time to put it all into your budget. This is a stage that can be intimidating at first, but don’t worry. You don’t need some complicated Excel document or expensive software to keep track of your budget.

 

Really, all you need is a basic template that you can use to write down your expenses in one column and your income in another. When you compare the two columns, you’ll be able to see whether your spending is realistic given the amount of money you’ll be earning every month.

At first, it’s a good idea to write your budget in pencil. Trust us, there’s going to be some erasing and rearranging when you’re starting all of this money management business. But after a while, writing your budget at the beginning of the month will be a breeze and it will give you peace of mind.

 

If there’s one other piece of advice that we could share about creating a budget, it would be to make it visible and visually pleasing. Your budget shouldn’t be something that you write out on a scratch piece of paper and then shove in the drawer for the entire month. Instead, it should be something that you don’t mind having out so that you can refer to it often and remind yourself of responsible spending habits. Whether that means adding artistic touches and plenty of color is up to you and your personal style. You can find plenty of inspiration online, from sites likePinterest, or use design software, likeCanva, to create your own template.

 

Once you’ve got the perfect budget, tack it up on the wall so that you can see often. Your friends might laugh, but it’s absolutely worth it.

To sum it up

In this section, we hope that we cleared up some of the confusion and anxiety about writing your own budget. The basic idea is pretty simple: figure out what bills and expenses you’re going to have to pay every month, and compare that to how much money you’ll earn. Then, make a visual copy and start working on your money management skills.

 

And if you find sticking to your budget really hard, you’re not alone. Living on your own for the first time is usually more expensive than you expect, and it can be difficult to consistently make smart money decisions, especially if your friends don’t seem to be as focused on their budgets as you are. But don’t get down on yourself. Try your best, and adjust your budget as you need to. Money management will get easier over time if you commit to it.

The emergencies

So far, you may be thinking, Great! This all seems super easy and manageable, and I’m totally ready to move out on my own. But, just wait until your fridge suddenly stops working or you cannot figure out why the water heater died on you or a bird has flown into your bedroom window.

 

In this section, we’re going to talk about all of those weird and sometimes concerning situations that you might have to deal with in your new place.

 

First of all, we need to talk about what does not constitute an emergency. These are things that, while annoying and inconvenient, will make your landlord very cranky if you call them at 3 in the morning.

  • Minor repairs - broken cabinet doors, a hole in the drywall, a single electrical outlet that’s not working are all examples of things that don’t need immediate attention.

  • Minor leaks - it can be nerve-wracking to see water under the sink or behind the toilet, but not all leaks need to be dealt with immediately. If there’s a minor leak, put down a bowl or a couple of towels and call the landlord in the morning.

  • Someone is parked in your parking spot - this is super annoying, but it’s not an emergency.

  • You see mold in the apartment - we don’t want to suggest that mold isn’t an important thing you should tell your landlord about. But it can wait until morning.

  • Cockroaches, spiders, mice, and ants in the apartment - yup, they’re gross. And yeah, at some point, you’ll probably have to deal with one, two, or all of the above, but it’s not an emergency. Get yourself a spray and call your landlord during normal business hours to let them know you might need fumigation.

Now, what does constitute an emergency? Here are the big ones:

  • Fire or smoke - call Triple Zero and then contact your landlord

  • A gas leak - if it’s located in your apartment, shut off all appliances and open the windows. Make sure to call your landlord, or, if you can’t get through, call 1800 GAS LEAK (1800 427 532)

  • A burst water pipe - look out for sudden leaks in the ceiling, or large leaks in the apartment

  • A break-in - call Triple Zero and contact your landlord

  • Problems with electricity - if the power goes out, it might be a simple fix like tripping the breaker (not a huge deal and you can fix it yourself) or it might be a problem with the wiring in your apartment (potentially, a very big deal) so if you’ve tried flipping the circuit breakers with no luck, it’s time to call the landlord

  • There’s an aggressive, or otherwise dangerous animal on the property. Okay, okay, we’re getting pretty far into the hypotheticals, here, but as unlikely as this scenario is, it’s still a good idea to know what to do. Don’t approach the animal, but make sure to call the landlord or your area’s local hotline for stray or dangerous animals.

Dealing with the change: get ready for an emotional ride

The final important stage of moving into your very first apartment is going to be to deal with the change. That may seem obvious, but there are actually a few things that you can do to prepare yourself and make the whole transition much easier.

Step one: Get to know your new neighbourhood

Maybe you’ve visited your new suburb a couple of times, but you probably didn’t have to figure out where the nearest laundry or market was. Getting to know your neighbourhood is going to require you to explore some of the more mundane, but necessary, places that you’ll be visiting as a resident. Here are a few ones to have pinpointed on your GPS:

  • The nearest hospital

  • Farmacy

  • The grocery store

  • A hardware store

  • The laundromat

You might be thinking, well, I could easily just look these places up on Google before I need to go to them, but try to see this instead as a great opportunity for you to explore your new neighbourhood. So, within a couple of days of moving in, why not just walk or drive around and make sure that you know exactly where each of these places are? And, of course, there’s the added benefit of being able to pick out new restaurants and cafes to try along the way.

 

And okay, maybe this isn’t a completely necessary step. But getting to know where these places are in your community will give you a sense of ease and comfort in your new neighbourhood. Just give it a try. And, if you really want to challenge yourself, why not try it again without relying on your phone? That’s how you’ll open yourself up to learning the lay of the land and becoming confident in your new suburb. If you get lost, simply take out your phone and get back on track.

Step two: Get yourself into a normal routine

The best way to become comfortable in your new life away from home is to get yourself on a schedule. Try to wake up at a reasonable hour every morning, do some exercise, make yourself a good breakfast, go about your day, and set yourself up with a short self-care routine before bed.

 

This is something that might sound a little bit weird - after all, you moved out of your family’s house to enjoy the freedom to do whatever you want, right? - but setting yourself up with a routine is actually going to make you feel more comfortable and confident on your own. Because without the structure that you might have had at home, it’s normal to feel a little bit lost in the beginning.

Step three: Engage actively in your new community

This doesn’t have to mean that you’re going to run for local government or anything like that. Instead, just think about the small ways that you can start to feel more at home in your new community.

Maybe it’s as small as saying hello to your new neighbors or introducing yourself to the baristas at that coffee shop that you know you’re going to be hitting up all the time. Or, you might sign up for a free class at the local community centre to meet some locals while learning something fun at the same time.

 

Or it can be a little bit more involved like volunteering at local events or charity organizations. Even giving up a few hours once a week or once a month will help you to feel connected to your new neighbourhood.

 

There’s also a little Step three, subsection A, here and that is: make the most of your free time. Wherever you live in the country, there are bound to be wonderful farmers markets, vintage fairs, and music/culture/beer/wine/all-of-the-above festivals happening all the time. Take advantage of all that your neighbourhood has to offer, and you will feel more connected to your community and more at home in your new neighbourhood.

Step four: Troubleshoot any problems with the flatmates

It doesn’t matter if you’re moving in with a group of your best friends, living together can create problems. Even little annoyances, like a flatmate leaving the lights on or not cleaning up after themselves, can cause some serious tension in the house.

 

There are a lot of different ways that flatmates can deal with issues and annoyances. One way that we absolutely don’t recommend but have seen and experienced often, is the note-writing, cold shoulder, refusal to participate in household chores kind of behavior.

 

If you feel like you’re falling into this pattern yourself, pause, take a breath, and see if you can challenge yourself to express your frustrations directly with your flatmates. It can be helpful to write down your concerns as a way to find some emotional distance and organize your thoughts before talking to the housemates.

 

If, on the other hand, you’re dealing with a housemate who is acting out negatively, again, challenge yourself to face them directly. Ask them, with as much neutrality as you can muster, what is bothering them.

 

They key to having a harmonious household is to find solutions to problems together. Often, what happens is that everyone in the house will silently allow issues to fester and grow, and then eventually the lid pops and everyone is yelling. One way to prevent this from happening might be to schedule monthly meetings where all of the housemates sit down for a chat. Or, if you or another flatmate starts to notice some tension, maybe you can all agree to hold emergency meetings to deal with any issues and move forward with solutions.

 

We know all of this sounds super unpleasant, but being mature and level headed in these kinds of situations will be beneficial to the entire house. And, as annoying as this must sound, these experiences are also preparing you for dealing with less-than-savoury coworkers in the future.

Step five: Don’t be afraid to reach out to loved ones

For some reason, there’s this idea that when you move into your first apartment, you’re all of a sudden an adult. And in many ways, that’s going to be true - you’re paying bills, managing your relationships with flatmates and landlords, cooking for yourself, etc. But that doesn’t mean that you should feel embarrassed about wanting to check in with your family and ask for guidance and support.

 

All change, no matter how wildly exciting it is, can still be a difficult thing sometimes. So don’t feel like asking your help will make you any less of the amazing adult you now are.

And with that, you’re just about ready to move into your very first apartment

In this guide, we shared with you all of the knowledge that we all wish we had when we were moving away from home for the first time. Obviously, there are going to be some unique lessons that you’ll have to learn on your own, but in this article, we laid out some of the basic things that will help you to get on your feet in your new place. So let’s sum it all up:

  • Packing. The first step of any move is packing, and this is going to be a really important and exciting stage. Put together a packing list of all the things you’ll need in your new place, and check in with your flatmates to make sure there’s no overlap. Also, get rid of anything that you don’t need, pack up and store the things you don’t want to donate, and find a place for your important documents.  

  • Budgeting. The next step is equally important, even if no one wants to talk about it. Figuring out everything that you’re going to be responsible for paying in your new place is absolutely essential for a smooth transition. Make yourself a realistic budget, make it beautiful, and make it visible so that you can start building up your money management skills.

  • Dealing with emergencies. No one really tells you what you can expect when you’re living on your own, and there are going to be some things that will throw you for a loop. In this section, we talked about how to differentiate between non-emergencies and emergencies so you know how to act when crazy things start happening.

  • Leaning into the change. No one is going to feel 100% comfortable in their new environment on day one. To make the process easier, follow the steps we laid out in this section, and most importantly, give yourself time and a whole lot of patience. This is an amazing, sometimes stressful, endeavour, and it’s going to be totally worth it.

Good luck with your new adventure, and make sure to share this article with any of your buddies who are going through the same thing!

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