Moving out of your parents/guardians’ house is a really big step. It’s your first thrust into the world as an independent, and sometimes we aren’t always prepared for what is involved in such a big step forward. As much as having your own place, space and freedom is great in theory, sometimes the idea of that can overshadow the logical thought process and planning that needs to take place before making the leap. In order to help you prepare, here’s some pointers and advice for those of you thinking about moving out; what you need to prepare for and how based on my personal experience.
The Expense of Living
The most important thing you need to be thinking about before making any moves is affordability and cost. If you were like me at home with your parents – you may or may not appreciate how cost effective it is to do so. I only realised this once I’d moved out – I was under no illusion that it was going to be as cheap as it was living with my Mum, but I also didn’t realise just how much it does cost. I was paying board to my Mum, which was around £40-£50 a week. Out of my salary then in 2012 which was under £1000 a month as I was working in a call centre, it was nothing in the grand scheme of things – which meant I had plenty of money to fritter away over the month. I didn’t save anything at all – but that’s another topic I discuss in a previous post here.
So, let’s take it from the top.
You decide you think it’s time for you to have your own place. Excellent! The most tempting thing to do is to start apartment/house shopping! But I must stop you there.
The first thing you need to do as soon as you think about moving out is to write out a budget. Your budget needs to have what money you have coming in – and what currently goes out – and what is left after that. What is left will be what you will pay towards your rent minus your current board expenses, if any.
“A personal budget is a manifestation of your decision to grab your finances by the balls”
― Money Tree Man
This may seem boring and premature – ‘I only wanna look!‘ – but there is no point in shopping around before you know how much you have to spend. You will likely end up getting over-excited and decide cost isn’t an issue – or set yourself up for disappointment when you realise you can’t afford that 1 bedroom house in central London as originally thought…
You have to be realistic and mature about making this decision – as the implications of you finding out two months into your rental agreement that you can’t actually afford it are huge and can leave you in a lot of trouble. Don’t fire off ahead as tempting as it is. So – first of all, let’s write a budget!
Here is a list of our household monthly expenses to help get you started:
- Council Tax
- Gas (we don’t pay gas as no central heating/cooker/fire etc. Having just electricity is much more cost effective than paying for both which we have done in previous apartments)
- TV License
- Phone Bill (line rental)/internet
On top of the bills, we also pay out for:
- Groceries/Shopping e.g. toiletries, cleaning products etc.
- Mobile phone bill
- Travel costs (train/bus)
- Finance Repayments
- Work lunch/costs
- Money for days/meals out/leisure
When I was starting out and trying to find out how much certain bills cost, it was really difficult as everybody pays something different depending on their type of house, their service providers etc. and the information isn’t readily out there or available. Sometimes it was just like “yes, I know I need to budget for a water bill but HOW MUCH DOES IT COST!?!” However, I know how helpful it is to get a general idea so below is a copy of our rough figures that we use when we need to budget for something:
Again, this varies dependent on a variety of factors but it gives you some idea. We live in a two bedroom apartment in a Leeds, Yorkshire area on the main transport links. Our rent is quite high for where we live due to it’s location on the major travel networks (bus, train and road links) and we’re also in a private gated complex. We don’t live in or near the city centre. We’re half way between two major cities. We are in Council Tax Band B – so your council tax can vary depending on where your chosen house/apartment is located. You can find out your band by checking the postcode of the property here – but that obviously comes later.
Don’t rely on someone else topping up your funds either in order to afford the rent. What if they suddenly can’t afford to give you that £100 a month anymore? You’re left with £100 to find a month and you’re struggling. Make sure you are able to be responsible for your own finances. Also – don’t just think about if you can afford to pay your rent and bills and outgoings. You still need to be able to live. Life isn’t just about affording to go to work and coming home. Can you afford to do things, save some money for yourself, spend time out with friends, buy essentials like replacing worn-out clothes or get your hair cut? Don’t put yourself in a position when you’re not living anymore – consider cutting costs where you can such as how much you spend on your groceries (is that brand really better than the shops own-brand? – do I really need to buy a family pack of meat for just me? Am I wasting more food than I’m spending?) – it’s all about making informed choices so that you get the most out of the situation.
It’s also important to note at this stage that as well as weighing up your income and expenditure, you also need to think about your initial costs should you decide to take on a new home.
You will always need to prepare a deposit. A deposit, also known as a ‘bond’, is the initial down-payment you make on your property of choice. This will usually be the sum of a month and a half’s rent of the property – depending on the terms of the letting agent or landlord. So before you even pick up the phone to enquire about anywhere, you need to be able to get together a bond. There’s no way out of paying that. You will get that back when you decide to move out (minus any costs such as replacing fixtures and fittings that may have been damaged during your occupancy etc.)
As well as your bond, depending on if you go with a letting agent or a private landlord – you will likely need to pay referencing/agency fees. This comes in the form of a credit check to make sure you haven’t defaulted on rent/mortgage payments before, that you don’t have any CCJs/bankruptcies against your name etc. So this can vary from £60 – £150 per person applying depending on who the agent is. So add this to your list of costs just in case – you will usually find the terms of their referencing checks on their website.
You may also want to start thinking about the type of property you want first before you go searching – as this can also be another large cost. If you decide to go for a furnished apartment, this eases the pressure of buying furniture – but you will need to buy things such as a hoover, your duvet/bed spreads, furnishings like cushions or even curtains etc. You will also need to buy yourself some cleaning products/toiletries etc. But – with an unfurnished house, you will need to calculate the cost of the furniture you would want/require and incorporate this into your savings pot. Sofa, table, chairs, bed, wardrobe, storage, TV, TV stand etc. It is a huge investment so make sure to plan ahead for everything.
So remember the checklist:
- Application fees
- Furniture/furnishings costs
- Moving fees – hiring a van etc.
- Your first house shop to fill your cupboards, fridge, bathroom and under the sink products
Deciding How To Proceed
Now that you’ve wrote down your finances, and seen how much money you earn in comparison to how much you would be paying out, it’s time to decide whether you can either:
A) afford to live alone
B) even afford it at all
- If you realise that you can’t afford it – don’t let it get you down. You will get there eventually – and that’s what being a mature adult is all about. It’s being realistic and weighing up the risks over the benefits and making an informed decision, not going on a whim. You may be waiting to finish your training or degree, or in a job that’s just helping you get by right now. You are where you’re at because that’s how you’re surviving and it’s keeping you afloat. Don’t feel the need to be in the same position as your friend from school is – just because she is in her own house in a good job, that’s not pressure for you to take on. Take your progress at your pace and you will get to where you want to be when you’re ready for that to happen and make it happen. Houses are always there – there’s no rush.
C) find someone to live with (partner, friend, housemate)
Living with somebody takes a lot of financial pressure off. I live with my boyfriend and we split everything right down the middle with our bills. We pay our own expenses like mobile phone, travel costs, food (if one of you has a specific diet and won’t eat some of their food etc. it’s easier to just buy your own half of the shopping). Either way, you need to decide how you’re going to proceed. If you decide to move in with a friend, you need to have an idea beforehand as to their spending and lifestyle habits before making a commitment. You don’t want them to decide 3 months in they’re going to quit their job and go travelling or spend their rent money for the month on a Glastonbury ticket and you’re left to cover the rest.
Are they annoying? Do they have habits that annoy you – could you deal with them every night/morning/weekend? Living in an unhappy home or staying in an unhappy job is just as bad as being in an unhappy marriage. It is bad for your mental health and when you’re stuck in a rental agreement, you can’t get out as easily as you’d want. So take that into consideration.
If they’re a nice and easy-to-get-along-with person, take into consideration the type of job/contract they have, whether or not they’re on probationary period at work etc. – could they not get hours some weeks resulting in loss of wage or is there a chance they may not be taken on permanently by their employer at the end of their 6 months period? These are things to take into account when choosing who you’re going to live with. You need to also ask yourself these questions if you’re in a similar position – how secure is your job, your wage – is it regular and enough to cover your half of the rent and bills?
Take the time to make an informed decision – and don’t rush yourself into it. You must be able to afford and manage your own finances before taking that first step.
Now – so you’ve done your budget, you’ve realised you can afford it – with or without a housemate – it’s ready to start looking at place to live based on what you can afford to pay out…
Choosing A Home
So we’ve finally got to the active searching part! Now, I’m not going to pull the wool over your eyes, at first it’s really fun and exciting – but after you’ve trawled page after page after page, it can get frustrating and tedious so don’t get annoyed if you haven’t found the perfect home for you within hours. It can takes weeks and months.
The most important things to look at when choosing a home are:
- Nearby Amenities
- Facilities i.e. parking, garage, security
I have put location as the top choice as location is going to determine a lot of the other factors for you. Let’s pretend you work in the city centre.
At first glance, it might look like living in the city centre would be more cost effective because there’s no travel costs involved getting to and from work, you are nearby lots of amenities and it’s accessible to both you and your family/friends. However, you will be paying a lot more to live in the city centre. I mean a lot more. In Leeds, to rent a studio apartment (that’s a one room apartment, your kitchen, bedroom, living room all in one room – with a side room for the bathroom) – you’re looking at upwards of £700. That’s not including bills or any of the other stuff. It is extremely expensive, and limiting in terms of space etc. If you have a car, you normally won’t have anywhere to park your car or will have to pay to park it up for the whole week. So, it’s not cost effective in the grand scheme of things.
Now, if you could find a home on the outskirts of the city, where you are on a bus or train route, you will usually find the rent is a considerable amount cheaper – and with a lot more features and benefits. There’s more likely to be plenty of nearby parking for free, and you can get cost-reducing travel passes for the buses and trains. You will find properties are bigger, with more space and facilities to offer, than a more expensive box studio apartment. It’s not about picking the most luxurious home (unless you can afford it) – it’s about finding the most suitable place to live. Making it your own and more homely can come after that.
As well as being accessible to work, make sure you can get to see other people if you don’t drive. Don’t isolate yourself from your friends and family because you can save £20 on rent a month. Make sure people can get to you, and make sure you can get to them. It’s all about still being able to actually live – not survive – whilst being independent.
Now, when I talk about price, I’m referring to what I discussed above in terms of your budget and the cost. You don’t want to be paying rent on a property that leaves you with £10 a week to yourself after your rent and bills and outgoings. Don’t leave yourself with nothing as you need to be able to prepare for emergencies. So, filter down your properties first by price and go from there. Don’t fall in love with a house before knowing you can afford it or not! And it’s easy to do – they usually put the most luxurious and quaint-looking ones in the ‘featured’ properties section that distract you from what you actually need. Keep focused! Also – make sure your chosen property allows pets if you have them. You don’t want to find the perfect house and realise little Moggy or Lucky isn’t allowed to join you.
The place you’re looking at may well be a beautiful, quaint old victorian-era terraced house with original doors, windows, high ceilings and fireplace. But – as beautiful as it is – think about the energy waste the house may cost you in bills. If it’s an old house, and hasn’t been renovated or updated such as double glazed windows or central heating with updated insulation, there’s a very high likelihood that your bills for gas and electricity will be much higher than expected because your energy will be leaking out of the building. You may find the house permanently cold, so you turn up the heating only for the place to stay a stale temperature that just takes off the chill. But your bills will sky rocket – and you will be left cold. So, look at the building and it’s component, it’s age too. An old house is lovely – but not always cost effective.
If you use apps such as RightMove – the property will have an energy rating, which will tell you a little about it’s energy expectation. My mum lives in a victorian house, and there are gaps under the outer walls and window ledges that let in a breeze of air. She doesn’t have central heating so when it comes to winter, her bills are upwards of £350+ for 3 months because of how much energy has just drifted out of the house. Take a friend or relative with you if you can that knows something about buildings if you’re not sure – an engineer or building surveyor friend is always helpful.
Think about what you need first. Do you just need one bedroom – or two if you’re house sharing or for storage? Websites now will allow you to filter down houses based on as many or as little requirements as you need – such as if it’s furnished or not, number of bedrooms, garden, how many bathrooms it has, whether it’s an apartment or a house or a bungalow. So think about what you need in order to live. Do you need an office for your job? Or just space for a desk? Do you need room for a nursery? Do you need room in your bedroom for plenty of storage/wardrobes etc. Do you already have furniture – will it fit in the box master bedroom you’re looking at? It’s all going to amend how much the property costs so decide what you need and filter down properties by price to how much you can afford.
Not only does the house need to be suitable, but you need to be able to get your shopping in regularly. Again – it’s all about being cost effective. Do you drive? That’s not so bad, you can get to and from the big shop with as much or as little as you need. But is there a small corner shop nearby that you can nip into on Christmas Day for milk or late at night for some bread? These little things help when you’re running short or in an emergency.
If you don’t drive, check where the local supermarket is – and what shop it is. Is it more expensive than say an Aldi or an Asda? Can you afford to shop there? If you can’t drive, how will you get your shopping home? Can you get a week’s worth of shopping on the bus or will you need to take a taxi? It’s all about weighing it up – you don’t want to live next to a Waitrose or a Sainsburys if your food budget only allows for say a Lidl or an Asda. If you need to get a taxi or bus to your local shop, make sure you budget for that and don’t leave yourself short after three or four £6-£10 a time taxis a month. What if you forget something you need and there’s no shop nearby? That’s another unexpected taxi cost. It all adds up, I promise.
Is there a doctor’s surgery nearby/dentist? Can you get to your registered doctor from where you are or do you need to re-register? Same with if you have children, do you live near a school or a park? Is it out in the middle of nowhere, or does it have everything you need? Can your kids get to school? Can you get them to school? Can you get home from work in time to pick them up from school etc.? It all ties in together.
For some people, the neighbourhood isn’t a consideration if the house is good. But when I’m looking at places to live, the neighbourhood is so important. You need to be able to feel safe where you’re living. Does the cost of the house reflect in the neighbourhood? If houses in that area are strangely cheap to say just 5 minutes down the road, that’s usually a good indicator as to the status of the neighbourhood. You can often google certain areas, and there’s usually forums on the general goings-on and why it is/is not a desirable location. Remember, you will be living there – don’t let the cheap rent draw you in if there’s a chance you’re going to be dealing with trouble/robberies/crime etc. It’s not worth the stress. And again, for your kids too. You want to be able to let your children play outside and if the neighbourhood isn’t great, you’re not going to feel comfortable letting them do so.
I touched upon this briefly earlier, but depending on your lifestyle/requirements, make sure you have what you need. Are you disabled and need accessibility? Can the apartment/house be adjusted to your needs i.e. do they allow installation of handles,accessible showers, can you get your wheelchair or scooter in and out? Or do you need a garage for your car or extra storage? Is there parking available outside the property or allocated parking in the complex? If a property is located next to a train station or an airport, do people use the parking outside to get free parking when catching a train or a plane? Sounds petty but after a while, when you’ve been at work all day and you keep coming home to some random car parked in your spot so you have to park 3 streets away, it can become a problem and a huge annoyance. Make sure to research the area, go visit the area for a walk around if you can and get a feel for the place.
Is there enough security for you? If it’s a shared apartment complex, is the entry secure? Do you need a pin code/fob/key to enter or can anybody just walk in off the street? Do you have a secure postbox, is there lift access if you or a close relative who lives with you/visits are disabled or you live on the top floor? Again – think about your shopping. Can you manage taking a week of shopping up 8 flights of stairs? I lived in an apartment with 3 and no lift – and that was a killer. Think about what you need.
As you can see, there’s a lot to think about when planning for and looking for a place to live. You need to think logically about all of the above as they each tie in with another. This is where you’re going to be living – you want to be happy, relaxed and secure. That’s your human right – especially if you’re paying for it. Don’t settle for second best just because you think living alone will make up for it. All of the above factor into each other – and affect the balance if not in sync. Make sure you have all of your needs met – you can get to work, can get the shopping, have enough space, feel safe and happy in the neighbourhood etc. They’re all equally as important as the other.
Here’s some quick top-tips to help with your budgeting/cost saving when planning:
- We don’t pay for TV services from Sky/Virgin etc. as Freeview provides loads of channels, and also has the on-demand service such as BBC iPlayer, 4onDemand, ITV Hub – all part of the Freeview service which is accessed via internet. This saves us on average around £40-60 a month. We stream movies online and plug our laptop into the TV through the HDMI port for free. No cost for TV packages, movie packages, entertainment channels etc.
- Your phone and internet tie in with one another. ‘Line Rental’ is the telephone line connection you’re paying for which both your phone and internet connect to. You don’t need to pay extra for a phone package – especially if you have a mobile. Take off any phone package extras – people can still call you and you can still call them – you will just have to pay per minute if you use the house phone. To be honest, not many people use their house phone nowadays to make calls with the introduction of unlimited minutes with mobile phone providers.
- Avoid mobile phone contracts where possible as you end up paying more. Don’t upgrade your phone to the latest model every year and instead try using a pay monthly/pay as you go non-contracted service with providers such as GiffGaff – for example, they offer a bundle for £12 for unlimited minutes and texts, 4GB internet data, roaming abroad uses data allowance and no top-up required etc. Much more cost effective.
- Again, as mentioned above, if you can find a place that has an electric cooker, electric heaters, etc., this saves you money on a gas bill.
- Meal planning is a really great way to reduce food waste. If you make a meal plan before heading out for your food shop, you will only buy what you need and won’t end up throwing out items that have gone out of date. We used to have a chalkboard where we would write the use-by dates on the meat packages, and decide which day to use which pack of meat to avoid throwing out good food.
- Where possible, use public transport if it is more cost effective. If it costs for you to park up at work, as well as pay for fuel, consider weighing up price of bus or train fares in comparison.
- For soft furnishings, consider trying places like B&M or Home Bargains. I got our lounge rug on sale there, and also our sofa cushions. Aldi also do fabulous quality homewares – our faux-fur blanket weighs a ton, is incredibly luxurious and warm and was only £30. You don’t have to buy big label to get good quality or beautiful items. It’s what you do with items that make them look good.
- Don’t be afraid of trying charity shops for things – you can get some absolutely gorgeous vintage furniture for next to nothing like cabinets or tables. Charity shops are good for getting books or glassware like vases for cheaper. It’s called recycling – not being cheap! And plus, the money you pay goes to a good cause. Same for car boot sales! Most have just tat but there are some lovely little finds – I bought a 1970s camera last year for £3! Just watch Kirsty Alsop’s programmes on upcycling and recycling on second hand goods. She has the most beautiful home!
- Try looking ahead of season or after season in preparation for the following year; buying jumpers during spring and summer in preparation for winter or dresses and tshirts in Autumn can not only be cheaper as they’re on sale but also more plentiful as nobody else is looking – try Ebay etc.
If you have any other questions about moving out and being independent, don’t hesitate to get in contact with me! I’m always happy to offer some help and guidance where you’re unsure. It can be a daunting and scary experience, but it is worth it when you can finally do it.