Moving Out at 18
January 11, 2010 8:54 PM   Subscribe

I'm gonna be moving outta the house when I turn 18. Any tips, tricks, or in-depth online guides out there that you think I may find useful?
posted by bobertdude to Work & Money (44 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Save your money now. There will always be unexpected expenses.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:57 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is a very vague question. What exactly are you looking for advice about? Finances? Finding an apartment? Roommates? Finding a job? School?
posted by Lobster Garden at 8:57 PM on January 11, 2010

Response by poster: anything and everything that could conceivably have anything to do with moving out. throw me anything. bonus points for those little quirky tips you'd never have thought of on your own, but learned through experience. personal accounts from anyone that moved out at 18 would be great too.
posted by bobertdude at 9:01 PM on January 11, 2010

work, make money find a place to live (with or without roommates), make mistakes, learn, repeat as necessary.

Optional: go to school, start a relationship, elope, be a bum, find deep personal meaning in all sorts of things, become disillusioned, find enlightenment, take drugs, abstain from sex, become a hermit...

I am totally not being snarky, but fundamentally there is not a "Life: for Dummies".

Have fun, do more good than harm.
posted by edgeways at 9:02 PM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you are going to live with a roommate, don't choose them based on how good of friends you are with them because that can always change drastically after living with someone for a while. Choose them based on their habits. Are they clean? Are they responsible? Do they party, drink, smoke too much?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:05 PM on January 11, 2010 [8 favorites]

What MaryDellamore said, x1000000.
posted by contessa at 9:16 PM on January 11, 2010

Before you move out, ensure you have a steady income. Make a budget based on that income that lets you put 10% of it away each month (preferably 20%) in case of unexpected expenses. Stick to your budget like glue.

Seconding MaryDellamorte regarding choosing roommates for their habits, not friendship status. Nothing ruins a friendship more than coming home to a dirty house after a week away, and there's a half eaten chicken from the supermarket on the counter complete with a maggot army growing inside it.
posted by barc0001 at 9:17 PM on January 11, 2010

A big OH HELL YES to MaryDellamorte. In a similar vein, if you've got a roommate, work on not being a self-centered, passive-agressive pain-in-the-ass* yourself. Step One: if your dishes are dirty more than an hour after you use them, you have failed as a roommate. After you've got that down, move on to Step Two: treat all intra-roomate interactions like the dishes.

*I realize that "self-centered, passive-agressive pain-in-the-ass" is basically a synonym for "18-year-old," but do your best.
posted by eggplantplacebo at 9:19 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I moved out on my 18th birthday. Based on my experience, here's the advice I have to offer, mostly apartment related:

-If you're getting an apartment, check out the neighborhood to make sure it's safe and the people are nice. I didn't do this and ended up living in a shitty part of town with drunks, drug dealers, homeless people sleeping in our alley, dumpster divers, people beating the shit out of each other in the alley every weekend, domestic violence, robberies, vandalism etc.

-If you're having a roommate, be it a best friend, girlfriend, whoever, get your own bedroom. Sometimes you'll get pissed at each other, and you'll want to have your own room to hide in for a while to cool off.

-Estimate your monthly living expenses and decide how much money you're willing to spend on what. I did this, and I found it very helpful and ended up accumulating a decent amount of savings over a couple of years.

-Get a place where you will have your own personal washer and dryer, and a dishwasher. Not having these things sucks. And people will steal your clothes if you're using a washer and dryer shared by an apartment complex.

-Do not live in a building more than 80 years old. It may look charming but in reality it sucks. I know from experience.

-It's a lot easier if utilities are included in the rent.

-I don't know if you're planning to go to college or not, but it's much, much more enjoyable than high school and you should definitely consider it. Plus you'll make tons of new friends.

I'll add more later if I think of anything else.
posted by Lobster Garden at 9:24 PM on January 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

Oh I thought of something else too in regards to roommate living. If you have an SO or when you get an SO that is not a roommate, it's okay if they spend the night with you here and there. It is NOT okay if they stay for more than a few days or start bringing their things over that take up communal space. They should not have a key, unless you want them to have it in case you lock yourself out. They should not be there when you're not there unless you've just run to the store real quick or you left for work in the morning and they are just sleeping in a few more hours. So many people make these mistakes and it can resentment can build up on your roommate's side.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:28 PM on January 11, 2010

Avoid credit card debt like the plague that it is.
posted by kensington314 at 9:30 PM on January 11, 2010 [14 favorites]

If you're going to be the only one of your group of friends out on your own, make sure your place doesn't become the de-facto party house/crash-pad for your group. Also if you have a steady income (or plan on having one), and your friends don't, that doesn't have to mean that you're the one who has to fund the pizzas, cases of beer, whatever, for everyone else. You'll burn through a lot of hard earned cash that way, and nobody will really appreciate it anyway.
posted by contessa at 9:31 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

You have to eat. It's a lot cheaper to eat at home. Familiarize yourself with the kitchen and the basic tools and panty staples and a few recipes.
posted by zinfandel at 9:33 PM on January 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: When I got my first apartment, I moved in and then found I had:

1. no food, and
2. no food related accessories (pots, pans, dishes, forks, etc.).

I was perplexed at first because I hadn't thought about it.

So you may want to acquire some of these things. The GoodWill, flea markets, yard sales, friends and relatives can be good places to get these things for cheep or free.

You'll also need other basic living items: bed (or at least a mattress on the floor), blankets, pillows, sheets, towels, soap, etc.

I also had no experience managing my own finances and generally did a poor job of it. Get yourself a book if need be. Get a credit card, but pay it off every month. Failure to do so can lead to years of effort to get out of debt (yes, this is from personal experience).

You'll need cash on hand for first/last/deposit on a place and deposits on a phone and utilities. You may be able to find a move-in guide on the web for your location which lists contact phone numbers for whatever utilities you need.

All this can be scary and overwhelming. It's also freeing as you get to make all your own decisions.

I remember the first day I came home to my new apartment. It was quiet, nobody wanted me to do anything and what I did with my time and my new space was totally up to me. I loved it.

Here's some other random crusty old person advice:
* Don't get too much stuff. You're young: keep it easy to move around so you can go where you like without too much stuff slowing you down. Most people end up with careers, kids and possessions which make it harder to move around later (they have their own joys though).
* Be nice to your neighbors. Some will have jobs and kids and need their sleep.
* Follow your bliss. Go where your heart leads you and you will end up where you need to be.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 9:36 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you don't know how to cook, fuck up until you learn instead of just eating cereal and hot dogs.
posted by domnit at 9:37 PM on January 11, 2010 [11 favorites]

I'll pass on a bit of advice that I gave to my kids... Don't lend out *anything* that you expect to get back.

For example: If you need that $100 to pay the rent, don't lend it to your best friend (or your cousin, or your significant other) no matter how much they beg and plead and promise they will pay it back. You'll end up not having money for rent and potentially a busted relationship. If you have an extra $100 in the bank and your friend needs it, give it to them. If they pay it back, bonus - if not then no hard feelings. I mean it, don't expect it back. But don't give out money you cannot afford.

Same with things, if you love something so much that you don't want to see it ruined or lost - don't lend it out! No matter how much someone says they'll take care of something, accidents happen and then you're minus your stuff and again a ruined relationship.

On the opposite side - never borrow anything that you know you will not be able to pay back or pay for if it's ruined.

It's sad how many relationships are ruined over money.
posted by patheral at 9:40 PM on January 11, 2010 [9 favorites]

Treat roommates and neighbors as you would want to be treated. Don't own more than you can move yourself. Bonus points if you can do it in one car load. Learn to cook and enjoy it. Cooking is a great thing to do while waiting for something cool to happen. Don't get a credit card unless you absolutely need one. Use a debit card and keep track of the money you spend on it.

Be prepared for dramatic personal relationships. Having your own place means your friends may be showing up at all hours with their problems. Don't keep a fridge full of beer unless you never want them to leave.

Christmas tree lights provide nice, even light if you tack them up on your ceiling.
posted by irisclara at 10:08 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Familiarize yourself with the kitchen and the basic tools and panty staples and a few recipes"

Freudian slip? But valid. Use protection.

If you don't have the money for an extraneous purchase, don't use credit under any circumstance.

If you do have the money for it now, look at how your savings account is doing. You'll probably change your mind.

If you do have the money, and your savings account is flourishing, use credit to buy it, then go home and immediately pay that credit. Do not wait. You will build credit history this way without costing you an extra dime.

Roommates ALWAYS need to be on the lease. Doesn't matter if it's your best friend or anyone else. Worst case scenario, things can go sour. Don't let them screw you over.

If you have a roommate, remember that they can't read your mind. If something is bothering you, and it's a legitimate problem (legitimate in the sense that a third party could sympathize, not legitimate because it bothers you. This is an important qualification), you've got to talk about it. Better a small confrontation than simmering resentment with the person you're in a legal obligation to hang around (previous tip).

Respect those around you. Turn the radio down. If you do have a party, bake anyone you could potentially piss off a plate of cookies and deliver them with your cell phone number. Ask them if they'll call you if they have a problem before they call the cops. Results in only mildly disgruntled neighbors and no tickets.

Don't have many parties. Find other places to party. That way, the people who aren't smart enough to read AskMe are left cleaning up the messes.

HAVE FUN. You're young, don't get wrapped up in the little stuff.
posted by troutforbrains at 10:10 PM on January 11, 2010

Another note about borrowing money... if you have to do it, always borrow the actual money. Don't get a doctors/therapists/hair/etc appointment thinking that when the bill comes the person who said they'd pay it for you will do so, because if they don't you're still stuck with a bill you can't pay.

If you're in a relationship, think about creative ways to take the person out that don't involve a lot of $$$. It'll pay off in the long run.
posted by biochemist at 10:34 PM on January 11, 2010

Best answer: It may be helpful to know whether you are, at this stage, planning to move into an apartment on your own or out to dorms at college or some other situation.

The advice kensington314 gave you is extremely important. Do not mire yourself in credit card debt. STAY AWAY. Yes, at some point you will need to build credit history, and yes, you may be a responsible person... but it is so incredibly easy to misuse credit cards. Please be careful with this. You will come to deeply regret it later if you get yourself into consumer debt at this age. If anything at all, keep a credit card only for real emergencies.

Depending on the situation, you may be about to set up a bunch of utilities and stuff on your own. This can be overwhelming at first. You may need to accept a lease on an apartment, car insurance if you're off your parents', telephone or cell (again if you're off your parents' family plan), internet, power, garbage/water/sewer depending on the place. Things like that. It can be easy to fall behind on all these bills if you're not used to them. Try to set up online bill paying with your bank. Set up reminders online if that might help you; just don't get behind. Being chronically late with your utilities can affect your credit! And don't neglect renter's insurance. It's pretty cheap and if anything happens (robbery, fire, flood, etc.), you should at least have the more expensive items you own insured so you can replace them.

If you need household items, try to hit up garage/yard sales. It may not be your favorite way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon, but if you're looking carefully, you can score some pretty nice stuff that's being sold primarily by people who are upgrading to newer things (dishes, small kitchen appliances, etc). And don't load up on every little kitchen gadget you see. You're young, and chances are you are going to move at least a few times. Moving really sucks, but it sucks more if you have to lug around 10 boxes of kitchen items, trust me.

If you aren't already particularly skilled, ask your parents for tips/help in laundry, stain removal, cooking, and car repairs if you plan to have a car. Figure out cheap ways to clean things; vinegar, baking soda, and water are all good, cheap cleansers, and a little hydrogen peroxide -- the stuff in those big brown bottles -- easily removes fresh blood stains.

If you are going to school, take it seriously. Triple that if you are going into any kind of debt for it. Accepting the burden of debt has to have a greater reward than 2-4 years of all party and no study. That may or may not be hard for you. It would have been hard for me at 18, which is why I didn't start until I was 26. College/university will, at times, feel like a great big hassle that isn't worth it. It probably IS worth it, so try not to let all the little things snowball and convince you to give up. You'll have to decide for yourself, but try not to quit on the basis that your school makes everything a pain in the ass.

RESEARCH! Ask for help. Your parents, your friends, the great big ol' internet. There's tons of resources for everything, you just have to look. And since I mentioned it: accept your parents' help in whatever form(s) they offer it, but don't rely on them.

Be careful, but have fun. Experiment. Travel, even just to the next state. Be a good roommate and a respectful neighbor. Don't indulge in melodrama. Don't expect anything you lend to be returned; if it is returned, that's a bonus. Try to make and live by a reasonable budget, and while you're at it, try to save some of your money. It will be hard, but worth it. Don't be afraid to start all over.
posted by asciident at 10:37 PM on January 11, 2010

I also moved out at 18. I agree with all of the advice here so far, particularly about saving money, having your own room, and never lending anything you want/need back.

Just to add a bit, I would get a checking account with overdraft protection and use a debit card exclusively- build credit through paying utilities, making car payments, or using a gas card. Avoid debt at all costs.
posted by emilyd22222 at 10:40 PM on January 11, 2010

You don't need to separate colors for laundry. I've never done it and have never had problems and laundry is not an all-day event for me unlike all my other friends - I can throw together lighter and darker colors and do a load anytime I need to instead of waiting till there are enough whites and then freaking out about not having enough socks in the meantime.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 10:55 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't spend all you earn.
posted by devnull at 12:43 AM on January 12, 2010

Best answer: Housework has to be done by someone. It never, ever does it by itself. Be prepared to remove the skidmarks from your toilet. Wash your dishes at the very least every night. Accept the fact that people will lie when they say that they will do the dishes (if you're moving in with housemates). You, and your bedroom, will become stinky if you don't change your sheets regularly. Make sure you've always got enough money put aside for bond and two weeks rent, just in case you need to move without much prior warning. Apart from basic cutlery and crockery, you will also need those granny things like bowls and various plastic items for saving leftovers and putting stuff out for others to eat en masse for gatherings etc. You need to be able to cook at least two things without having to think about it much and have the staples necessary in your pantry (usually pasta of some kind). Have a designated spot to put your keys when you come home or else you will lose them. Have a spare set of keys (both car and house/flat) handy (either with someone trusted or secreted somewhere not obvious). You really have to make paying your utility bills a priority. Have more than one mirror in your house. Make sure you have paracetamol or aspirin, bandaids, at least one bandage, an antiseptic cream, safety pins, a little sewing kit, tweezers, WD40, vaseline and other things that you've taken for granted as always being available in the bathroom and kitchen handy. Always make sure you've got lots of toilet paper. Always check that you've locked the doors and closed the windows that someone could get through before you go out. If you're moving to a house, make sure you've got the whole 'mowing the lawn' thing covered. If you're sharing a house and you have a desktop computer you should probably log off, particularly if you're having parties. If you move, make sure you change your mailing address and if you can't really remember all the addresses then set up some kind of re-addressing thing with your local post office. Make sure you've got up to date contact details in your wallet. If you don't wash your clothes regularly, buying lots more to always have something to wear and clean undies just makes an even bigger pile to deal with when you finally get around to it (but you will find things that you forgot you owned). When you move out of a place, you are totally responsible for all of your shit (including the shit that you no longer want).

I'm sure there's loads more, but that's a start anyway.
posted by h00py at 1:41 AM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Whether you have room-mates or not, you will need to do some household chores for yourself, namely cleaning, washing, tidying, and so on. These things are much easier if you do them little and often, BEFORE things start to look like they need cleaning or tidying. Once the place starts to look like a dump, the work is much harder and much more intimidating. Plus, you will be always living in a dump. If you have some lingering resentment of being made to do these things by your parents, get over it: now you are doing them for YOU.

Washing up is much easier if you do it immediately, otherwise the food dries on the plates.

Cleaning the kitchen is easier if you wipe the counter down really quickly after using it, rather than scrubbing off the crusty stains after three months.

Cleaning the toilet is easier if you give it a quick toilet-brushing every week rather than waiting until things are a uniform brown colour down there.

Putting dirty pans in the sink will make you not want to do the washing up, because it's more work hauling all the pots out again.

Washing starts to smell if you leave it wet in the washing machine.

Get yourself a screwdriver set, some spare fuses, light bulbs, batteries, and a torch in case of power cuts.

If/when you get paid, you can no longer just spend money on STUFF until it's all gone and then stop spending. You need to work out some way of making sure you don't spend your rent/grocery money, and you need to try and make some savings, so that you can handle unexpected expenses without a credit card.
posted by emilyw at 2:06 AM on January 12, 2010

When you move in to a new place take some time to visit the neighborhood as soon as possible. You need to figure out the following during the first days:

- where the nearest wash-o-matic is, in case you don't have a laundry machine, or (often) the one you have breaks down;

- what are the nearest GPs, dentists and pharmacies;

- phone numbers for plumbers and electricians.

I second h00py for the "useful" stuff you *need* to have in your bathroom/kitchen, especially emergency care things and the sewing kit. Find someone you trust and that is easy to reach in case of need, to give your spare keys. (so that if you get locked outside -- believe me, you will -- it's not a drama nor a large expense to get the lock replaced)

and... pay *all* your bills on time! Anything other use of your money comes next. If you think you have too much bills, or you cannot pay them at some point, then cancel some subscriptions immediately. (conversely, do not subscribe to services where you cannot cancel on relatively short notice)
posted by knz at 2:14 AM on January 12, 2010

I'll pass on a bit of advice that I gave to my kids... Don't lend out *anything* that you expect to get back.

For example: If you need that $100 to pay the rent, don't lend it to your best friend (or your cousin, or your significant other) no matter how much they beg and plead and promise they will pay it back. You'll end up not having money for rent and potentially a busted relationship. If you have an extra $100 in the bank and your friend needs it, give it to them. If they pay it back, bonus - if not then no hard feelings. I mean it, don't expect it back. But don't give out money you cannot afford.

I have a rule of thumb that is a slight twist of this. If someone asks to borrow $100, tell them you cannot lend them the $100 but you will give them $50. (If you can afford it.) You will lose half of what you would if you "lent" them the $100, you will gain good will by "giving" it to them and you have a higher probability of getting it back.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:40 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Make sure you know what moving out entails. You will need first, last and security deposit even for most room-mate situations. Make sure you know what the bills for the house are and how they are divided. Learn to budget. Learn to cook in order to stick to that budget. Eat fruit; it is your friend. Think about what you are going to do with regards to healthcare and (presumed) lack of insurance. Budget for birth control. Be respectful of your neighbours.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:40 AM on January 12, 2010

If you're still covered by any insurance under your parents get your teeth cleaned, and have a full physical done before you leave.
posted by handabear at 6:04 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't forget renters' insurance!
posted by Lucinda at 7:02 AM on January 12, 2010

* Don't get into debt with credit cards.
* Being roommates is hard, and can kill a friendship.
* Un-sexy stuff like soap dishes and trash cans add up to cost a lot more than you might initially suspect.
* Set up an automated way of transferring money—even if it's only $20 a week—from every paycheck to a savings account, preferably an online-only savings account that will discourage you raiding it for pizza money because of the transfer delay.
* Drinking and drugs can be fun, but only in moderation.
* For your first apartment, look for rent that less than what you think you can afford. You will run into expenses you didn't expect.
* In fact, overall, you will run into expenses you didn't expect.
* Have fun.
posted by paulg at 7:05 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

You are becoming your own person. It cannot truly be done until you separate from your parents care, so walk out the are now, you.

Take this seriously. You are young and the world is wide open for your experience. You are no longer a reflection of your family and friends. You will be the product of your own values. And everybody will see you as such. Integrity counts. So does being kind.

Stand up for what you believe to be true, and be open to the idea that you can be wrong or have incomplete knowledge to judge. The world is bigger than your experience. This is good. Meet it head on. Be confident. Nobody knows the adult you yet. Decide what kind of man you are going to be. Do not let the media guide you.

You will have many relationships. Non-success is not a sign of failure. You don't need to quickly commit. You don't need to quickly dump the motherfucker. Finding love is a process, not a sun-bursting-through-the-clouds-Hallmark moment. Because it really means finding out who you are. And that changes. Be passionate and romantic. Don't buy into the crap you see in romantic comedies.

Treat people with respect. Especially if you have not met them or do not share their background. It bears repeating...integrity counts.

And by all means...Rock On.
posted by nickjadlowe at 7:06 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's my take on roommates: Roomates leave. They get married, they get a new job in another city, they don't like your sleeping hours, they're irresponsible, or they just get lonely and move back home. Whatever, but they do leave. That puts you in a situation with several options: you have to either find a new roommate, move out, or handle the rent on your own.

So, my advice about roommates is that they're great to have, and having one (or three) will cut expenses like crazy but *never* put yourself in a situation where if a roommate leaves you will be homeless if you cannot find another by the end of the next month. In other words, when you're looking for an apartment, look for one that you can afford if you have to. A roommate situation should be treated like a raise or a bonus, money in the bank.
posted by patheral at 7:14 AM on January 12, 2010

. Learn how to make a budget. Budget for car repair & insurance, or bus fare or gas for your friends who drive. Budget for emergencies.
. You can have a lot of zany fun without damaging people or property.
. Credit card debt is horrible. Avoid all but education debt, and be cautious about that.
. Being a grownup is less fun than you thought, but being genuinely inependent feels pretty good.
posted by theora55 at 7:54 AM on January 12, 2010

-Don't live with your best friend from high school, unless you don't want to be best friends with them anymore.

-Not all plastic can be nuked in the microwave.

-Purchase a small filing box and keep your important documents in there (birth certificate, employment records, bank information, etc).

-If you set off your apartment smoke alarm, open up windows, turn on fans, and don't open the door to the hallway (which could trigger the building-wide alarm). Flap a dishtowel at the smoke detector to make it shut up. Unless there's an actual fire, in which case you should probably focus on that.

-Visiting lady friends appreciate a clean bathroom, especially a clean shower, and clean hand towels. Also, make sure you have a small trash can in the bathroom.

-On that note: wash your towels on a regular basis, at least weekly. Moldy-smelling towels make your skin smell moldy and believe me, people will pick up on that.

-To get people to leave, hide the booze and claim you're all out. Turn off the music. Start cleaning up. This is usually enough to give them the hint.

-Hide your valuables if you are hosting a party and there will be some guests you don't really know.

-Tip the pizza guy. $2 is a good start, more if it's late at night or you've ordered a ton of pizzas.

-Dish soap and dishwasher detergent are two very different things. Dish soap is for washing dishes in the sink. Dishwasher detergent is for the dishwasher machine. Do not mix them up.

-Don't leap into pet ownership. When you're young, your situation can change rapidly. You might have to find a new place in a hurry, and not all apartments accept cats/dogs, which will really slow down your search. Or maybe you want to study abroad, or even just spend a weekend out of town. Save the pets for when you're more settled with a consistent will keep you from having to make one of those "I'm moving and can't take this wonderful pet with me" posts on Craigslist.

-I don't know if you're a gamer, but I've seen kids drop out of school because of World of Warcraft (or some other equally addicting game). Don't be that guy.

-You will most likely have a couple friends who won't know how to handle this new freedom (particularly alcohol), and they will self-destruct (by which I mean flunk out of college, get into legal trouble, rack up insane debt, develop an addiction, things like that). Don't let them take you down with them. Everything in moderation.
posted by castlebravo at 8:25 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know a lot of people have said it, but it's really important, so I'll say it again: DON'T GET INTO CREDIT CARD DEBT.

As regards actually moving: Make sure you have a garbage can, toilet paper, a shower curtain, and sponges before you actually move in. Also pots & pans &c. You need, at a minimum, one frying pan, one cookie sheet, one baking dish, one little pot, and one big pot, plus a spatula, a big spoon, a slotted spoon, and a ladle. Add to that one decent sharp knife and silverware for 4, and you should be prepared to cook.

And for reals, learn to cook. Pick up a copy of "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman. Plan your meals for the week, make a shopping list off the recipes, and go shopping off your list. You will spend two to three times as much if you don't learn to cook, plus your health will go to hell.

Drink good booze; if you find yourself contemplating the cheap booze because there's so much more of it, stop and evaluate why you want to drink lousy booze. A little pot smoking here and there hardly ever hurt anyone, but don't start, you know, Doing Drugs. If you have a roommate who swears he just smokes pot but you keep finding your spoons bent and your roommate vanishes for days and shows up wild-eyed and babbling about how crows and cats are smarter than all of us, he's not just smoking pot. (Bitter experience, that.)

Take care of your teeth, please. If you have to, find a dental school and go once a year. I didn't, and when I finally had a molar explode due to persistent decay, I had eleven thousand dollars' worth of dental work that had to be done immediately to avoid losing my teeth. And I was 26. My husband was in a similar boat, except his rock-bottom experience came in his mid-thirties and cost him $19K. I tell you, we could have had a lot more fun with that thirty grand than we did.
posted by KathrynT at 9:40 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't burn your bridges behind you when you leave home. Be nice, even if you have been fighting with people there.
posted by Idcoytco at 10:01 AM on January 12, 2010

If you move to a place where utilities aren't included in the rent, save yourself a serious load of money by keeping the AC off when you're out of the house (e.g. while at work) & blinds drawn during the summer, and heat turned off/low during the winter. It's funny how expensive electric becomes when you're the one paying the bill!

Don't give anybody a key to your place. If you must, choose one trustworthy, responsible person whose only need of the key is to hold onto it in case you lose yours, or if something goes wrong and they need to enter when you can't.

Buy generic.

Be a good neighbor, and realize that any loud noise past say, 9 on a weeknight is not cool. Midnight on the weekends.
posted by contessa at 10:13 AM on January 12, 2010

Roommates: what MaryDellamorte said. Don't move in with friends. Move in with people who have standards of noise, cleanliness, visitor rules, that suit you -- you won't be happy with people who are a lot cleaner than you any more than you'll be happy with people who are a lot less clean than you, etc.
I'd say that unless you are extremely busy and well connected outside the home, having room-mates is a lot better than living alone, but choose them carefully.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 10:30 AM on January 12, 2010

A billion times don't get into credit card debt and get healthcare.
posted by stormpooper at 12:56 PM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

As others have said above, learn how money works and don't Don't DON'T GET INTO CREDIT CARD DEBT.

It blows my mind to think about how foolish people are with credit cards! They'll wait for a sale to save money, and they'll pay crazy amounts of interest on what they bought. Every time you use a credit card, you're not spending your money. You're borrowing money from the bank that issued you the credit card. You're only spending your money when you make payments on your credit card.

I have two credit cards and I use them, but I never spend more money than I already have in my checking account at the time. That means I can always pay off the card each month.
posted by 2oh1 at 1:14 PM on January 12, 2010

Best answer: I moved out at 18. It was kind of a big deal for me, I packed all my stuff and left with a buddy of mine from high school. As we were driving away "Time for Me to Fly" by REO Speedwagon came on the radio.
We rented the worst apartment in the worst part of the city. There were drug dealers on the street corner all hours of the day and night. The lease was in my friend's name, but I paid $200 a month to sleep on a futon. Despite being on my own, I hadn't finished my high school degree yet. Most of the time I would bike, but even in the best weather it was an hour each way, so when the snow got really bad I either had to have my girlfriend pick me up or borrow my roommate's car.

Lesson 1 - Have your own reliable mode of transportation and be able to fix it if it breaks down. Your personal relationships will suffer greatly when you treat friends like chauffeurs, and if you should be responsible for an accident with one of their vehicles, you may have more than your friendship to worry about (injury, liability, etc.). I did somehow manage to finish school on time and get my diploma (I even did pretty well).

Because I wasn't officially renting, and because I was paying less than half of the monthly fees, all of the utilities and bills were in my roommate's name. I thought "at least I won't be responsible if anything goes wrong," but he turned it into this sort of leveraging device to make me feel guilty whenever we would have a dispute about dishes or cleaning or anything like that. Not only that, but I had a really hard time getting mail because technically, I wasn't supposed to be living there. Important shit like checks and tax forms wouldn't show up.

Lesson 2 - Make sure that wherever you're living, there's at least one bedroom per person, and that that person is capable of paying for all of their own rent and utilities. Ideally, you won't have any roommates at all if you want to avoid disputes about bills and cleaning. Also make sure that you're living somewhere. You may be perfectly sane, smart, responsible, clever even; but being homeless will greatly increase your chances of becoming sick, injured or victimized in some way.

Our apartment building was pretty old, so there were these big windows that could be slid up and down and they had about half a foot of space between the window and a screen. There was a hole in the corner of one of the screens and in the winter, a squirrel would sometimes come sleep in that space to keep warm. I started putting popcorn in there and soon that one squirrel became a family of squirrels. I thought it would be no big deal because there wasn't any way for them to get into the apartment. Soon though, I was waking up in the middle of the night itching, feeling like I was being stung by something. Eventually we figured out that the squirrels were carrying fleas and that the fleas were following the warm air flowing under the window. They'd totally infested the futon mattress and it had to be thrown out. We patched the hole in the screen too. I was lucky I didn't get some sort of rare squirrel plague.

Lesson 3 - Don't keep pets. You're barely responsible for your own life, wait a couple years before assuming responsibility for another creature. Same goes for kids. Not to knock young parents, but don't hamstring yourself at such an early age, wait at least a couple more years until you're entirely satisfied you can fully meet the requirements it takes to provide for a person or animal. Maybe start with some plants.

Towards the end of my stay in the first apartment I "lived" in, I was walking home from work late one evening and I saw a couple of guys busking on the street corner. One was a guy in his early 20s with a mohawk and leather jacket that had all these studs and band patches on it. The other was just wearing a sweatshirt and jeans and could have easily been in his 40s. The younger guy told me they were just trying to get enough money for some pizza. I recognized a lot of the bands on his jacket and we had a good conversation, so I asked if these dudes wanted to come hang out at my place.
We were having a decent time exchanging stories and stuff, when all of a sudden, we heard someone screaming bloody murder out on the street. We got up and went to the balcony and saw eight or ten guys kicking and beating an old grey-haired guy on the ground. His pants were down and they were jumping off of cars onto his head, kicking his face into the curb, real scary stuff. So I asked the dudes I was with if they wanted to go down there with me and try to help this guy out. Only the younger guy agreed, so we grabbed some baseball bats and headed downstairs.
Luckily by the time we got down there most of his assailants had become bored and were already dispersing. They had knocked some of his teeth out and broken his nose. He'd clearly pissed himself. We pulled up his pants and grabbed a ripped grocery bag of some of his things and carried him inside.
Blood was dripping onto everything. He was an old Mexican guy who didn't speak a lot of English, but he basically told us that he worked at a factory that recycles oil drums on the other side of town. He had taken a cab home, paid with a 20, and got a couple of ones back. He said that these guys tried to rob him for the change that he got from the cab fare, but when he resisted they started hitting him. He didn't want to go to the hospital, he said, he just wanted to lay there for a while and asked for some help to get to his own apartment which was only a block or so down the street.
Eventually my roommate, who also worked late, came home while we were gone helping this old guy back to his place. Understandably, he flipped shit when he saw all the blood in the apartment and that I'd had two perfect strangers in there. The other two guys left and then we had a big fight that pretty much ended our friendship.

Lesson...What are we on? - I don't actually know if there's any one specific lesson I could extract from this story because there are so many places where things were just out of control. I was going to say "don't move into the shittiest part of town," but that doesn't even begin to cover what all was going on.
For starters, be careful about who you talk to and invite into your home, especially if you're alone. This was something my roommate was repeatedly shouting at me in the four and a half hours we were arguing, but I was 18 at the time and didn't know any better. I thought I was being adventurous.
More than that though, I want to point out that even when you're being somewhat careful, there's no guarantee of safety. The Mexican guy was robbed for the change he got from a 20 dollar bill. He will forever be missing teeth because of that incident. With the amount of killings we'd seen on that corner, I'm surprised he wasn't shot or stabbed.
In fact, I'm surprised I wasn't shot or stabbed when I went down there to help him. Or when we took him back to his apartment. Or any other time during the year or so that I lived there. If I were a female...well, you know what.

A few more things I'd recommend:

Don't go into debt - I count myself lucky to somehow have never fallen prey to creditors the way others in this thread have warned against and the way I saw many friends do. It can quite literally ruin your life.

Speaking of things that can ruin your life,

Be careful with drugs - Better probably to not do them at all, but if you must, careful, okay? Same goes with sex.

There are so many more things, but I'm not going to get into all of them because most are already mentioned upthread. You should know that at the end of my proud evacuation and year-long exile, I ended up moving back in with my parents. Being 18 gives you a lot of legal rights and responsibilities, but it doesn't magically make you ready to handle them all.
posted by Demogorgon at 2:31 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why are you moving out? Are you moving out because you want to (are you parents pleased or sad or have you not yet told them) or are you moving out because your parents told you to? The reasons might make a difference.

If you're female, don't let a man know where you live until you know the man really well. Don't ever feel obliged to tell anything to a stranger that you don't feel comfortable telling. (Such as your phone number, address, whether or not you have a boyfriend, room mates, etc.)

If you think you'll be sad to leave home, buy the same laundry soap that you used at home and, if possible, bring familiar sheets, towels and rugs and other familiar textures and smells.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 5:21 PM on January 13, 2010

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