How to Move Out of Your Parents' House
November 23, 2010 11:12 PM   Subscribe

I want to move out of my parents' place so I can get on with being an adult. Please help me figure out what I need to know in order to do it!

I am trying to establish a battle plan so that by February or March, I can move into my own place. My ideal is obviously a place entirely to myself, because I have lived with people my entire life and I am tired of the constant human interaction (read: slowly becoming something of a misanthrope) but I am still inexorably tied to my parents’ finances, insurance, and lives and I feel trapped, no matter how wonderful and loving my parents are. (And they totally understand my desire to move... They're just not helping me get there as much as I'd like.)

Please help me figure out as many things as I possibly can that will help me prepare for this big transition so that I can disengage from the apron strings that are beginning to strangle me.

• What should I know about moving out?
• What things may I not be thinking of that I am going to have to start paying for?
• How can I do this and remain debt free?
• What skills should I start developing so that I don’t have to rely on my parents when I move out?
• What do you wish someone had told YOU when you did the Great Move into Adulthood?

FWIW, I am in my early 20s, female, in SoCal, currently self-employed with a retail job at the local Apple store. I have a small savings, and I have lived with roommates of some sort since freshman year of college and I can’t do it anymore. I have no debt, good credit, my own car (a gift from my parents), and I pay for one credit card each month. The other credit cards are “family” cards that my parents are willing to let me disengage from as soon as I have a reasonable steady income. I can cook, clean, and keep house fairly well, so I’m not crazy worried about that aspect of taking care of my life. It’s more the finances and unknown details that I’d like to know before I up and move myself to some apartment in the near future.
posted by patronuscharms to Home & Garden (41 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
You say you've lived with roommates: have you lived in a house/apartment with people about your own age? Or only in family / dorm type situations where there was someone else in the 'adult' role?

FWIW, I didn't find moving from sharing a house with friends to living in my own apartment to be a big transition. The hurdles were earlier: having to internalize that I really did need to buy food and eat food regularly, pay at least some of my bills on time, clean the bathroom, get some sleep from time to time, yadda yadda. I think that you'll find the leap is more psychological than practical.

Possibly unexpected expenses: car costs (budget for occasional repairs, car insurance, cost of parking, ...)? Any utilities that aren't folded into your apartment's rent (varies by apartment and city, but: electric? heat? water? sewage? garbage?) Renters' insurance (optional)? Health care?
posted by hattifattener at 11:41 PM on November 23, 2010

Response by poster: Sorry to thread sit, I'm rather anxious to hear everyone's answers. :)

Hatti, I'm an only child, and when I lived in the dorms, I had roommates my first two years, and then I had a single as a Resident Advisor but I had to manage 45-100 peers at all hours of the day. I also just got back from New York City where I was living with someone my age and it was utter hell, so I'm kind of OD'd on being with people, haha. I plan on getting cats and a dog and letting them be my roomies.
posted by patronuscharms at 11:48 PM on November 23, 2010

I share a place, but I've been on my own financially for about 10 years now. Here's what I pay for every month:

Food - of both the grocery and takeout variety.

Cell phone. I don't have a land line, but there's that, too.

Wireless internet.

I don't have cable, but you may want to. This can be packaged along with internet and phone services, so check your local providers for good deals. Especially if you're on the fence about whether to get all three of those things.

Rent, of course. Some landlords are sticklers about having money in hand by the first of the month, while others are more laid back.

Transportation costs. I live in New York, so for me that's a metrocard, a bike in good working order, and the occasional cab ride. In SoCal you will likely know your transportation costs better than I would. Don't forget the little things like inspections, cleaning, and oil changes.

Debt you may or may not carry. You mention a credit card. Maybe you also have student debt.

Little extras around the house. Toilet paper. Cleaning supplies. Dish washing liquid. This can especially be a big deal if you do end up sharing your space - nobody likes to be the roommate who ALWAYS buys the toilet paper. If you live alone, your domestic schedule will be less rigid and you can get away with using a box of kleenex for a few days until you happen to be going to the store. You can also be a little more tight-fisted about this stuff if you're broke - as someone who is going on 30 but still has roommates, it KILLS ME when my housemates buy the crap version of something because they can't come up with the extra 50 cents to get the sponges that actually work.

You will also have some more fixed costs which should be budgeted for, such as furniture and housewares. You will drop wine glasses and lose forks. Your tupperware will melt. Your parents may give you hand-me-down furniture, but there will be a time that you want to start replacing that stuff with your own things, or maybe you'll need something they can't provide. Furniture costs a lot more than you think. Even used furniture.

Clothing goes into this category as well, though in my experience being in my early 20's it was much easier to get family to buy me clothes as a gift than it was to get them to, say, buy me groceries or pay my cell phone bill. Clothing is also one of the easier expenses to economize on - thrift store clothing is very cheap, and if you spend money wisely and take care of what you have, it will last a long time.

Hobbies, interests, and travel. Socializing. I would imagine that you already pay for this stuff yourself. One thing to know is that it is a lot cheaper to entertain at home than it is to go out. This may not seem apparent when you're under a parent's roof, meaning A) you have less control over having guests, and B) you have more disposable income for going out.
posted by Sara C. at 11:52 PM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Are you asking about how to do it logistically, or how to tell your parents? Assuming the former:

The first thing I would figure out is finances. Calculate how much money you have coming in per month, total, then calculate how much you're willing to spend on rent (I think 30% was the ballpark figure?). Then it's just a matter of hunting for places that aren't too dodgy. If you only spend money you already have, you'll stay debt-free easily.

Monthly stuff you're going to have to pay for:
- rent
- utilities (water, electricity, gas)
- internet, phone
- groceries

Big stuff you're going to have to buy:
- furniture (unless you find a furnished place) - this can be expensive
- cookware (pots, pans, toaster, etc)
- possibly big appliances like fridge, laundry machine, dryer

Things you may have to think about:
- connecting utilities - do you do this, does your landlord do this, is it already done, etc
- ditto internet/phone
- if you get an apartment, does it come with a parking space, or how much would that cost

I suppose the main thing you Should Know is that your standard of living will take a hit. Obviously I don't know what your lifestyle is right now, but you'll be living pretty much like a student again - in a tiny place with possibly crappy furniture, not many luxuries, possibly not much in the way of savings. Beyond that ... it's great! You're free!
posted by Xany at 11:54 PM on November 23, 2010

Ugh, forgot to list electricity. And gas. Renter's insurance is a thing, though I haven't been diligent enough to figure that out yet. I would put that as an option, but not mandatory if money is tight.
posted by Sara C. at 11:55 PM on November 23, 2010

Most of the money issues depend a great deal on your choices and preferences when selecting a place. On your own will be more expensive than having a housemate. Unfurnished will be more expensive than furnished, better location will be more expensive than a dingy place on the other side of the tracks. You'll have to decide where your comfort and finances can meet.

It sounds like you've got a handle on the big things that'll trip people up - debt, cleaning, and cooking. One of the things I noticed when I moved out for the first time were how quickly the jobs built up against you - recycling and rubbish and sweeping and wiping down that table and scrubbing that weird bottom lip of the shower and all the other tiny things that you don't notice until you're in charge of them.

In terms of new expenses, the ones that come to mind are electricity, water, gas, internet, and phone for regular ones. Start-up costs are huge too, unless you have a full spice rack, a few good knives, a bed and room furniture. It turns out that I could cook well enough, but you also need to be the one who restocks the tinned tomatoes and sweet potatoes.
posted by twirlypen at 11:57 PM on November 23, 2010

First and foremost, you need to figure out what you can afford. How much money do you have coming in every month? The answer to that will determine the answers to the rest of these questions.

Where do you want to live? What's most important to you? From your post, it sounds like autonomy is a big deal. . .are you willing to sacrifice square footage just to get out of your parents' place? Maybe a small apartment is all you need.

Consider the safety of your new place. After working a closing shift at the Apple store, it will be dark when you get home. Driving into an apartment complex parking lot can be quite different from driving into the driveway at your parents' crib.

Regarding fixed expenses, you will have rent, utilities (water, electricity, gas?), cell phone, auto insurance, gas, renter's insurance (and yes, you really need renter's insurance), cable/internet perhaps, food, clothing/entertainment, savings.

Do you have a pet to consider? Be mindful that pets can complicate a search for apartments. (I am completely unfamiliar with the housing market in SoCal; I am in Houston and I pay a monthly pet rent and that's on top of the $400 non-refundable pet deposit I had to pay. Also, my dog eats 3 cups of good-for-her dog food a day and she also takes monthly heartworm and flea preventative meds. Now that I say all of that, my dog needs a job!)

You can cook and that will be a tremendous help to the monthly budget. Do some simple meal planning to streamline grocery shopping and daily meal prep. Do you need to set up a kitchen? What kind of furniture will you need overall? What about deposits for utilities? Apartment deposits? How will you move (movers, van+friends, et cetera)? In addition to figuring out what it's going to cost per month to live in the apartment, you have to figure out what the move-in experience is going to cost you.

Once you figure out what you have coming in each month and what you have going out, now you can examine how/if those two figures meet. Are the two numbers far apart? If your income is lower than your expenses, can you eliminate or forgo some expenses to make the gap a little smaller? If your expenses are lower than your income, then you can extricate yourself sooner rather than later from the family cards.

I'm of the mind that it's important to keep some savings handy (mainly because I did not do this), so make your moving plans with an eye toward keeping your savings intact.

Be realistic with yourself when looking at your monthly income/expenses. Don't expect that you're suddenly going to drop your $75 trip-to-Target slush fund if you really don't think you are able/are willing to do that (again, experience talking). What does your bank statement tell you about your spending habits? Any surprises there?

Talk to people who live where you want to live to get an idea of what utilities will cost you. Be mindful of apartments that face the setting sun.

Laundry. (After grad school, I swore I'd never live in another apartment without its own W/D.)

Plan the move
posted by heathergirl at 11:58 PM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

possibly big appliances like fridge, laundry machine, dryer

It would be worth doing the research in advance to find out whether apartments in your area usually come with these things, or to what extent various facilities are provided. As a New Yorker I take for granted that there will be a fridge and a stove, but generally not a dish washer. And there is usually no way to even hook up a washer or dryer - some buildings provide coin operated laundry rooms, while others expect you do go to a laundromat. That last is something you'll want to ask about when you look at apartments.
posted by Sara C. at 12:00 AM on November 24, 2010

1. i would definitely budget in Renter's Insurance. It's often quite cheap, can be bundled with your car insurance (if you drive), and invaluable if something does happen to your stuff.

2. If you share a place with someone, talk with them about how food would be handled. Is all.most food communal? Are some things communal (like salt and pepper, hot sauce) but other things are not? What about pots and pans? Will you be responsible for your own, or can you share, etc. Better to get that decided upon early on rather than having a blowout fight because you used your roommate's butter to cook in their pan.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:12 AM on November 24, 2010

Read the California rental laws. Know your tenant rights. Read your lease 3000 times. Do a thorough walk-through. Do not be afraid of your landlord. Take photos before you move in, and right before move out.

(I once let a $500 deposit go during college because the management company charged me painting and cleaning fees. They had painted and cleaned before I moved in, I was the only one who lived there, and had never put anything on the walls. I was simply too intimidated too I know better)
posted by shinyshiny at 12:18 AM on November 24, 2010

We could probably give you really concrete numbers if you told us how much you make.

I'll tell you what I pay for my place on the westside of LA.

$995 for small but cute 1 bedroom ( I got a great deal, but if you are willing to live in a studio under $1000 should be no problem)

Gas = $20ish
Electricity + trash = my bill for 3 month was $250, but that included all the initial hook up costs. Be prepared for a big bill to show up all at once instead of once a month. I did the math and electricity was about $20-25 a month for the summer. I don't have a/c.
Internet = $15
Cable = $70ish but I have a pretty pricey package.

Furniture is a killer, budget at least $500 if not a lot more. And stick to the bare minimum at ikea. Preferably buy ikea second hand on craigslist. Start looking for deals on furniture now, 4 months is a lot of time to scour craigslist and if you can keep the stuff at your parents in the meantime you should be able to save a lot of money.

Cleaning supplies --> vaccumm if you have carpets, probably a swiffer, broom, maybe a mop

Kitchen supplies --> places like Ross, TJ maxx and ikea are great for this. As is the dollar store. Never pay full price for a frying pan.

As far as moving in you are going to need at least 2 months rent. I would have several hundred extra for random stuff. You will easily spend $100-$200 at target for things like trash cans and every other random thing if you aren't careful.

Also start asking relatives if they have any old furniture and kitchen stuff you can have. I bet they all have a set of dishes from the 70s they were planning to give to goodwill anyway.
posted by whoaali at 12:33 AM on November 24, 2010

Oh and take pictures with a date stamp of every inch of the apartment before you move in.

Also if you are choosing between a cheaper or more expensive place go cheaper. You won't regret it and an extra $100-200 may not sound like a lot, but it is and it will add up. It's often the difference between just getting by and being comfortable.
posted by whoaali at 12:36 AM on November 24, 2010

For furniture, pots, pans, etc The Freecycle Network is a really good resource.

It's a mailing list (there are different lists for different cities) where people offer their unwanted stuff for free, to avoid the stuff going into landfill, and to spare the owner of the stuff the hassle of having to sell it.

On my cities list, I have seen so many couches, beds, wardrobes, TVs, tupperware etc etc offered for free to someone who will come and take it away.

I've even seen a car and a photocopier offered!

If you live in a city which has a bedbug problem you may want to avoid soft furniture just to be on the safe side, but you may still be able to get a bookcase, wardrobe, TV, fridge etc through freecycle.
posted by Year of meteors at 12:41 AM on November 24, 2010

Response by poster: My Apple job is part time @ $13/hr, and I've only just been hired so I'm not super sure what that's going to add up to be. Let's say I make $1200/mo between that position and my freelance work. I was making that amount in NYC as an intern w/out having to pay rent and I have to say I went over by $300 each month I was there because food was so expensive. My hope is that, as a vegetarian, I'll be able to cook my own meals and not worry about that again this time.

(So many great tips here, please keep them coming. I'm going to need an arsenal to make this happen!)
posted by patronuscharms at 12:42 AM on November 24, 2010

Something that hasn't been touched upon yet, but is my big tip on moving out: look at a lot of places before you decide. Like you, I really wanted to move out, and at first I wanted to take just the first good thing that came along, but I'm really glad that I took the time research. It takes time to look, but on the other hand you find a place you really like and so it takes a longer time before you have to move again.

Apartment hunting is a skill, and there are a lot of little things you have to look at. These are some of the things that are important to me when looking:

The division of square meters in the apartment. This is the most important one, since you pay rent pr. square meter. Are the rooms regular? Generally square is good, although a litttle nook can be nice. Is the size of the rooms the right size for what they're intended as? I like a small bedroom, bigger living room and good-sized kitchen that has room to eat in it (dining kitchen = you don't have to make room for a dining table in the living roon, otherwise a little breakfast nook is nice).

Speaking of kitchen. Is there enough cupboard space? Enough table top space? You will be doing a lot of cooking, so this is important. Gas stove, electric oven and cooker hood are nice to have.

Sunlight. Are there many windows? Are they turned E/W/S/N? I'd always prefer West in thr living room, but then I'm from northern Euroope, and we are obsessed with sunlight here since we don't have so much if it - in SoCal it may be the oppoosite.

Floor of building. I would never live on the ground floor (1st in the US). The top floor io a building is safest burglary-wise, gets more sunlight (yay), and you don't have upstairs neighbors making noise.

Proper heating in the winter, ventilation in the summer.

Appliances. Are they installed and if not, are there room for them? I prefer to have a laundry room in the building and save the space in the bathroom.

Outdoor facilities. A small balcony can be nice, or otherwise a courtyard or something like that which is shared between the tenants.

Close to public transportation. (Or, in your case, parking space).

Pets allowed?

Nice landlord.

This all applies to me in a big European city, so of course YMMV. But the main point is this: Spend a lot (and I mean a lot) of time looking (both on ads and actual places), get to know the price range of your area and what is a good deal, and make a list with the things that are important to you and bring it with you when you look at places.
posted by coraline at 1:00 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know if landlords in your area want employment/income verification before renting to you, but it's a possibility to be aware of. It may be somewhat more difficult if a substantial portion of your income is from freelance work.
posted by sharding at 1:22 AM on November 24, 2010

I plan on getting cats and a dog and letting them be my roomies.

Not sure if you were being serious here, but don't do that until you're really sure you can afford it. Having pets can get seriously expensive.
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 2:40 AM on November 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

This will sound counterintuitive, but do this: ask your parents to help you find the right place. They want the best for you. They want you to get into a place that makes you happy and won't waste your (and possibly their) time and money and sanity. They could help you find a good spot that you can afford, help you get into it, and then leave you essentially on your own.

Then simplify your life:
  • Minimize clutter.
  • Keep no animal prisoners. Try a plant on the window sill.
  • Own no car. Use public transport and a bicycle.
  • Leave the credit card with your parents.
You'll develop lots of skills as you go, because you will get unreasonable landlords, broken pipes and appliances, huge utility bills, crazy neighbors, friends who overstay their welcome and won't take a hint, maybe a burglar or two, an empty fridge a couple of days before the next payday, etc. Keep your parents in the loop for these things, too, at least the first time around.
posted by pracowity at 3:42 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're making $1200/mo, so by the rule of thumb Xany mentioned (which is the one I've heard, too), you should only spend up to $400 on rent. Is that feasible for a studio in an area where you can live? If not, something's got to give. You've either got to find a way to bring in more income, have parents who agree to supplement your funds regularly, or share a place, for example. A lot of people who live with other people probably feel the way you do about it -- they're not all choosing it because they love having roomies, but because it's the feasible way to make their rent.
posted by daisyace at 4:31 AM on November 24, 2010

I think you should reconsider your stance on roommates... it's so much cheaper! And no offense, I don't think you can afford to live alone on your salary in southern California. Sharing and apartment or house with others is much, much different than living in a dorm, and you can consider it a stepping stone to eventually getting your own place. Plus, roommates will likely own furniture, cookware, etc so that will help your finances- you can buy things over time rather than having to spend a lot of money all at once.
posted by emd3737 at 4:50 AM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

I lived in Huntington Beach for a year (ish) on PT wages from Disney (i.e. $8/hour, 30 hours a week.) What you're talking about here is pretty tough, honestly; you need to be looking for a place that costs about $400 a month. For that I got one bedroom in a spider and crazy-person infested house, and I ate a lot of beans, and the first time my car had issues, I ended out on the bus till I moved back to Ohio.

Looking at my current budget, I see that I spend about 25 percent on rent (including the storage place in LA that has all the stuff I couldn't bring on the plane) and 30 percent on recurring fixed bills (car payment, insurance, internet, phone, Netflix, water, gas, electric, parking at work.). When I was in SoCal, it was 40 percent on rent (50 percent in the slow season), 10 percent on gas before my car died, and almost everything else on food. Thank goodness for student loan deferments.

My biggest piece of "life transition budget" advice is to make a list of everything you use in a week. Crock pot, microwave, stove, fancy wok, fork, gym membership, water, air conditioning, ground cloves, everything. Then come up with prices for it all. Recognize you may have to do without a microwave for a while, and sleep on a Murphy bed in the scarier part of Long Beach.
posted by SMPA at 6:08 AM on November 24, 2010

I agree that the budget part will be hard. Where I live, it would be hard to find an apartment of your own, even a tiny one, for less than $900 and that would only leave you $300 for food/gas/phone/entertainment. Hopefully your rental market is more reasonable, but I think you'll really need to start by making a budget to figure out how much of your salary you can afford to spend on rent. Is the $1200 before or after taxes? You need to budget with your post-tax salary.

You may also find that landlords are unwilling to rent to you without having your parents co-sign, since your income is relatively low and you don't have a rental history in your own name (or do you? if you were on the lease for previous shared apartment, then those landlords would be good references for you).

Also, what if you lose your job? Will your parents help cover your rent then? I don't think there's anything wrong with that at all, but I think you do need to have a plan for what you'd do if you were without a job for a while.

A key question is whether you'd have to sign a year-long lease or if you could rent month-to-month. If you need to leave an apartment where you have a year-long lease, you could be in a really difficult position. Find out ahead of time what the consequences are for breaking the lease and if you're allowed to sublet (also how hard subletters are to find).

Read the lease! I find that a lot of people don't do that. And, ok, I'm a lawyer and particular about reading contracts I sign, but it's seriously important. You will be bound by it. You can ask a landlord for a copy of the lease before you make an appointment to sign it, so you can take your time to read through it. (Note though that I know nothing about CA housing law, so maybe it's different there -- I think reading a quick overview of CA rental law and rental law for your county would be helpful for you.)
posted by zahava at 6:35 AM on November 24, 2010

Also -- animals can be expensive. My cat just had to have $3000 surgery, with another $1000 or so for xrays, ultrasound, meds, etc. I've been living on my own for eight years now, and I still needed my parents' help paying for it. So -- make sure you have a plan for pet expenses if you get pets. I wish I'd gotten pet insurance, though I haven't fully explored what that would cover.

Around here, having pets definitely reduces your rental options and includes either a pet deposit (may be refundable or not) or extra "pet rent" each month.
posted by zahava at 6:48 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Let's say I make $1200/mo between that position and my freelance work.

Living in your own place isn't going to work in SoCal. You either need to get roommates or stay at home until your job situation improves. The rule is 25% of your gross income gets spent on rent (I'd include utilities in this number). That's a guideline, but it really works well as a maximum-- I've noticed I start to feel financially "cramped" when I run up against that number. Pets are going to be a monthly expense. Cars are a monthly expense.

$14,400/year (even assuming this is after taxes) is not an income conducive to moving out of your parents' house and living alone. This is still "group house/multiple roommates" stage.
posted by deanc at 7:27 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're really raring to go ASAP, but it would really be wisest to wait until you have a good sense of your monthly income before signing a lease. (Which doesn't mean you can't start looking at apartments now-- in fact, the more time you can spend getting a feel for prices and what's a good deal vs a rip-off, what neighborhoods you'd be okay to live in, etc, the better prepared you'll be to find an apartment you can afford that you're happy with.)

You should do a lot of thinking about what your plan is if your income goes down or you lose your job. Have your parents offered to pay and you're okay with that? If not, you really need to be factoring savings into your budget. (You should do that anyway, but if both you and your parents are okay with them being your safety net, then given your low income it may be reasonable to start by taking a partial step towards independence even if you can't afford to build up the savings you need.)

Are you on your parents' health insurance and will you continue to be? If not, you should look into catastrophic coverage that will have low monthly payments but cover you in case of major medical expenses.

What's your plan for phone, internet, TV? I assume you have a cell phone, so there should be no need to pay for a landline. Are you okay with going without TV and looking for bargain internet that may be on the slower side? Or if cable and fast internet are your priorities, are you willing to keep other entertainment expenses pretty low? How much do you spend on fun stuff now? It might be a good idea to try to cut back on your entertainment expenses now, so you can figure out what's livable for you, with the bonus of being able to save up that unused money.

I don't know how you feel about this, but if you'll be making $1200 a month that's $14,400 a year which is about 133% of the federal poverty level. Once you're living on your own as opposed to with your parents, you may qualify for a variety of government benefits-- not making any guarantees on any of these, but they could include food stamps, housing assistance, energy assistance, health insurance (Medicaid), etc. You should also look closely at your taxes the first year you file for yourself, since you may qualify for a variety of tax credits based on your low income (there are volunteer tax preparers who can help you)-- although this is obviously down the road a bit, one thing that might be good to know in advance is that you will likely be able to get $1 from the government for every $2 you save for retirement up to $2000 through the Savers' Credit-- you're not going to have much money to spare, but that's a really good deal.

Oh, and this is a smaller thing, but when you say "I pay for one credit card each month"-- you said you had no debt, do you mean you pay a monthly fee? If so, it's generally not that hard to get a no-fee credit card, so you should try to switch.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 7:43 AM on November 24, 2010

Even if you adjust for poverty and allot 50% or even 66% of your income for rent, it seems extremely unlikely that you can live on $1200 a month on your own. You need gasoline. You need insurance. You need tires. You need to pay for utilities. You need to buy food. You will at some point need to see a doctor or dentist.

You will absolutely not be in a position to feed and provide veterinary care for an animal. Please, please don't put yourself in that position. I know you're young and maybe bad things don't happen yet in your world, but you will do your future psyche a huge favour by avoiding the heartbreaking pain and human failure of not being able to afford to provide lifesaving care to a pet hit by a car.

Please do a precise monthly budget before signing a lease. Ask your parents, friends and other householders you know for help with estimating expenditures.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:44 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

You'll need to put down first and last month's rent as a security deposit. IF you get pets, cleaning deposit.

I know someone who lives in MidWilshire in a very small studio for about $700 a month, plus gas and electricity. You might have to put down a deposit for one or both of those if you don't have a previous credit history.

Land line or cell phone or both? Some buildings come with free wi-fi, but if not? Cable TV?

$1200 a month--before taxes?--isn't really enough to live solo, at least in any neighborhood that your parents wouldn't be terrified for your welfare.

Housemates don't have to be as annoying as college roommates. I know plenty of group houses who don't interact at all. I think if you can't get more hours and/or a 2nd job, you might think about a group house.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:55 AM on November 24, 2010

Renter's insurance is a thing, though I haven't been diligent enough to figure that out yet. I would put that as an option, but not mandatory if money is tight.

Agreed on principle, but renters insurance is pretty cheap. And being on a tight budget means you might be able to afford $20 a month, but not "surprise, your TV, computer and cell phone got rained on".

First, it is daunting. Living on your own is one of the biggest life steps we make. So don't feel badly if you screw it up or it is challenging. Because it is. Be thankful that you have a family that can help if you trip along the way.

You need to figure out whether it is actually feasible. Nobody wants to hear this, I certainly wouldn't have listened when I was at that point, but: having free housing is a huge financial blessing. That doesn't mean you should sponge off the parents forever, but use the opportunity to get your ducks in a row. Use it to build savings, or to slowly work toward independence. When I lived at home, I slowly moved to paying for all my own stuff. Both because I wanted to get used to it, and because I wanted what *I* wanted. Made it much easier when I moved out, because I already had a handle on paying a lot of my own stuff.

So, figure out a budget. Best would be to go a week and write down everything you use, eat consume, etc. It seems picky, but the little things will get you. Use that information and other things you know you have to consume/use, and figure out what your expenses are for a month. Split it into categories based on how/when you pay for the things. Don't combine groceries and eating out into a "food" category. Makes things blurry. You need to know that you can spend $100 a month at the grocery store, and $100 a month in fast food and Starbucks.

(Some people use an envelope method of budgeting. Every week or month, they put the money they can spend on each category into a separate envelope for each one and then use only that money to pay for those things. Might be helpful?)

Then, start apartment shopping. Just get a sense of what you can get for what price, and what is included with that price. For the purposes of budgeting, you might want to combine rent, heat and electricity into one larger category, since different places included different things. Also, watch out for seasonal expenses. You might find that you can easily handle a $75 a month heat bill. But what that really means is that it is $4 half the year, and $300 in January. And that's also around the same time you are doing a lot of Christmas shopping. So you are in a situation where you can handle things on average, but you end up relying on credit for a few months and it starts to snowball.

So, another tool to use would be the envelope fund like above, but to save up for occasional expenses. Say you like to buy a new phone every year or so. Put $10 into an envelope every month, and by the time you want a new phone, you've got the money for it. Same with Christmas- $20 or $50 a month saved up makes it a breeze and a pleasure to buy stuff for people.

Getting too long... quickly-

- You have a free car. That won't last forever, and you will have to maintain it and feed it. Don't forget to budget for gas and repairs and insurance, and have room in the budget for when it comes time to get a new one.

- Savings. As I have gotten older, I have realized that it takes a lot more money than I thought. I figure that to be on steady ground financially, I can only spend about half of my gross salary. The other half needs to go towards taxes and savings. (Ends up meaning that about a third of take home needs to be saved in some manner or another- retirement, rainy day, building equity in a house, etc.)

- Watch the little things. I have NOT done this, do my own detriment. When I first started out, I made less money and managed a car payment. Now I make more and my car is paid for. Instead of saving that money, I foolishly let it get eaten up by living a nicer lifestyle. Now when I need a car, I will have to figure out a way to make more money or reduce my lifestyle. It isn't fun.

So, in the end, if it isn't feasible, make a different plan. Take a year or two before moving out to work on improving your earning power- training, career building, etc. As unpleasant as it will be to stay home for that time, you can feel good that you are investing that unpleasantness in your future.

Or do like the almost everyone else does and just punt. Do it, move out, and fight the battles as they come.
posted by gjc at 7:55 AM on November 24, 2010

(So many great tips here, please keep them coming. I'm going to need an arsenal to make this happen!)

You're going to need a money tree to make this happen. You do not bring in enough income to afford to live by yourself in Southern California, let alone with pets. Pets are expensive and people don't want to rent to you when you have them. They will sometimes let you rent if you throw money at the situation, but you do not have money to throw at anything making $1,200 a month.

I know that it kind of sucks to have to live with your parents or with roommates, but until you figure out a way to seriously increase your income, those are your realistic options.

And as someone who has ended up with more than one pet that came from a really nice person who just wasn't really prepared to deal with the expenses of pets, please, please do not even consider getting an animal until your housing and money situations are extremely secure.
posted by crankylex at 7:59 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

You have a free car. That won't last forever, and you will have to maintain it and feed it.

Ain't that the truth. I had a free car, too, when I was an otherwise poor student. But eventually cars need to be repaired, and eventually they need to be replaced. You can drive a car on a low income, but after about 5-10 years, you can barely maintain it, and you certainly can't replace it.

The first priority for the OP is not moving out of the house, it's getting a better job (I know, a near impossibility in this economy, but it is what it is).
posted by deanc at 8:13 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Find a Cheap flat, pack your things. Move out. Its not that complicated.

Renters Insurance? what - i wouldn't bother with that. never have. but i think insurance is a waste of money.
posted by mary8nne at 8:29 AM on November 24, 2010

Agreed on principle, but renters insurance is pretty cheap. And being on a tight budget means you might be able to afford $20 a month, but not "surprise, your TV, computer and cell phone got rained on".

Oh, I fully agree. But then I don't have renter's insurance. Which would make it a little hypocritical for me to be all, "Oh And You MUST Have Renter's Insurance, Or You Will Die." In over a decade on my own I've never had renter's insurance and never needed it. I agree karma is a bitch and one of these days my slacker ways are going to bite me in the ass. But it's honestly not a survival level expense along with paying the rent on time, making sure you have electricity and water, feeding yourself, and the like.
posted by Sara C. at 8:59 AM on November 24, 2010

N-thing what everyone else has said about your income. Living on your own is not all that different than roommates, and I'm sure you'll do fine - IF you can come up with a lot more money. I make about 1300 after taxes in a relatively small town in Kansas, and I'd say I'm right between "getting by" and "comfortable." I have enough for all my bills and to go out to eat once in a while, but I'm not saving much of anything, and that's not really okay long term. I do not see any way you could live by yourself in southern California, unless you could find a place to rent as cheap as mine ($500/month.)

Here's a list of everything you will have to pay for:
Renter's Insurance ($15 a month or so)
Car payment (right now free, generally around $300)
Car Insurance ($100 or so)
Gas ($50? obviously depends)
Groceries ($200 if you cook a lot with reasonably healthy ingredients)
Gas/Electric (probably $100 - $150 a month)
Water (sometimes free, if not around $30 - $50 a month)
Internet/Cable (anywhere from $30 for just internet to maybe $100)
Cell phone ($40 - 60)
Health Insurance?
Dental Insurance?
Furniture - craigslist, freecycle, parents and family friends, ikea, and target would all be good sources. You need a table, chairs, a sofa, a mattress, bed springs, and frame, at least one dresser, probably a desk, hangers, pots and pans, silverware, tupperware, mixing bowls, serving spoons, knives, a bookshelf or three, a TV stand, a coffee or side table or both, curtains, a cutting board, and many other things which you will constantly discover for the first couple of months.

I do have a dog, he has had no health problems yet, but he is still a puppy. I pay about $50/month for his food and treats, and most of his toys have been gifts from friends and relatives. His vet costs for just shots and neuter are around $300. Instead of pet insurance I put away $50/month to save for possible future vet costs. I also lived on my own for about three years before I felt comfortable enough to bring a dog into my life. I'd suggest you do similiarly.

You will probably also need an entertainment fund - going out to eat once or twice a month, a netflix membership, gym membership, any shopping you do, etc. You can cut this section out entirely if you want/need to, but your life won't be much fun.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 9:53 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Small note: don't get a dog or cats yet. You will have a much easier time finding an apartment (now and in the future), and have better rental opportunities, if you have no pets.

having said that: enjoy your time alone! I only lived alone for less than a year, in a horrible roachy apartment, living on rice and sugar and pasta, but it was still one of the best times of my life, just because I could keep the place as I liked it and see people (or not) on my terms. Bliss!
posted by davejay at 10:22 AM on November 24, 2010

Oh yeah -- and if there's a way you can rent in a location where you won't need a car, and can walk/bike/take public transit instead, you will be so much better off it's not even a question. A monthly bus pass, even though somewhat expensive, is peanuts compared to insuring and maintaining even the crappiest of cars.
posted by davejay at 10:24 AM on November 24, 2010

Maybe you can get a really cheap studio apartment or mother-in-law flat, but these can be VERY small and may be right up against a house or other small apartments and very noisy.

I would instead look for a shared house, but one where you have your on on-suite bathroom and the room is not tiny so you can have a small bar fridge and microwave in it. That way you maximize privacy, but it might still be affordable.

I would leave non-cage-dwelling pets out of it for now - they usually prefer more space, can cost a lot, and can add stress instead of reducing it if you are not fully prepared.
posted by meepmeow at 11:01 AM on November 24, 2010

Response by poster: No pets till I have a flush income! Totally was going to be the case to begin with, sorry I didn't make that clearer. :)

Well, it looks like I'm between a rock and a hard place since I'm only a part-timer right now. I've put in applications for much bigger jobs (ie admissions counselor at local university) so if a miracle happens, I could have that income, my part time income, and my freelance income to bolster my move into Big Kid-dom.

Thank you so much for all of your frank, well-articulated answers. I have a lot to think about, and I'm really glad I came to all of you first. Huzzah, HiveMind!!
posted by patronuscharms at 1:10 PM on November 24, 2010

Idea for the pet thing:

If you are craving animal companionship but you don't want the responsibility and cost of a pet, look into volunteering at a local animal shelter. Sure, it's only a few hours a week, but the animals there need a lot of love and socialization, as well as basic care like feeding. You get all the benefits of animal love, without the detriments!
posted by spinifex23 at 1:21 PM on November 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Couple things you should consider before moving out:

1. You may not want to have roommates (like you I despise having "my age" roommates who want to be friends and interact all the time. Blegh puny humans!), however rent and utilities on your own may be a LOT steeper than you realize. You can usually get good rent rate in a terrible apartment, or a good rate renting a room in a decent house situated in a semi-safer neighborhood (this is the path I took).

2. If you have a lock to your own room (or if you're end up living in an apartment, either way) consider getting AAA, because you WILL eventually lock yourself out. During my second week on my own I did just that (without my car keys! Cell phone! Everything that makes modern life function!) and it cost over $100 to get back in (costs more or less depending on the lock manufacturer. I opted for a Schlage and well, thems some tough cookies to open). A friend said with AAA you get your first 3 unlocks for free.

3. Unless you're planning on staying pretty close to your current neighborhood, don't forget how lonely it gets when you have to rebuild a social network.

All in all, good luck!
posted by french films about trains at 11:52 AM on November 25, 2010

But it's honestly not a survival level expense along with paying the rent on time, making sure you have electricity and water, feeding yourself, and the like.

I kind of think it is, given that this can happen, and you can lose everything through no fault of your own like a fire. Pass up renter's insurance if you must, but realize how much you are gambling.
posted by smackfu at 2:05 PM on November 30, 2010

I kind of think it is, given that this can happen...

Again, agreed in principle, but I feel it would be hypocritical of me to tell the OP that she shouldn't move out of her parents' house till she can afford renter's insurance, considering that I've lived on my own for almost half my life without it.
posted by Sara C. at 2:16 PM on November 30, 2010

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