Whether you're an up-and-coming college grad looking to move out on your own or a 30-year-old professional only now leaving the confines of your parents' home, you'll face the same financial and logistical challenges associated with moving for the first time. The primary budgetary concern most millennials consider when making the choice to move out—and with good reason—is the cost of rent.
The national average cost of a one-bedroom rental is $1,050, according to Apartment List, with rent in major metropolitan cities like New York going for $2,600. But the price of rent is just one of the many expenses young professionals must consider before leaving the nest.
Here are a few commonly overlooked costs associated with an independent lifestyle that you should prepare for before you pack your boxes.
1. Basic Home Necessities
General household items—like trash cans, cutlery and basic furniture—can easily be under-appreciated assets when moving. Every year, Americans spend an average $1,581 on household furnishings and equipment such as housekeeping supplies, furniture, appliances, and other miscellaneous home goods, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in its 2015 Consumer Expenditure (CE) Survey.
Kaleb Robuck, associate advisor at Miller Financial Group, experienced this reality firsthand. "One of the biggest surprises I personally had was all the supplemental home necessities that I needed once I moved into my new place," he said.
"I had all the major appliances that one needs to survive on their own; fridge, toaster, washer/dryer, microwave, etc.," said Robuck. "What I did not anticipate was the cost of all of the other things I needed to either live or to decorate my new place. I had overlooked such things as silverware, rugs, cleaning products, picture frames and curtains to name a few."
The seemingly minuscule expenses quickly added up for Robuck, and he easily spent over $400 on just a few of these necessities.
"I quickly learned the lesson that I don't need—and couldn't afford—1000-thread-count sheets or sterling silver [flat]ware," Robuck said. "So I started going bargain shopping. I went to the local dollar store to get my basic cleaning products and other small items."
First-Timer Tip: One of the most effective ways to save money is learning to discern what's a need versus a want. Once you do that, break your decisions down further: If you need a coffee maker, for example, determine whether your budget allows for a $100 Keurig machine that requires coffee pods that cost nearly $1 each or whether a generic $15 coffee maker and bulk can of Yuban coffee will suffice. Likely, the latter will do.
2. Miscellaneous Fees
You might have anticipated primary utility bills, like water and electricity every month, but what you likely didn't expect are added fees such as garbage removal charges, new-customer activation fees and even city-imposed surcharges that push your monthly costs higher. These costs not only can blindside you but also can squeeze your budget, making living on your own that much more challenging.
Pauline Paquin, founder of ReachFinancialIndependence.com, discovered that living outside of a city still has its price.
"I live in the middle of nowhere, and my most shocking fee when I moved in was a $20-a-month 'public lighting' fee added to my electric bill," Paquin said. "The nearest public light is over a mile away. I have been there three years and still no light near my house, in spite of the $700 [or more] I've paid so far."
First-Timer Tip: Before committing to a new area, spend time investigating the basic costs an average resident should expect. Call local service providers in the area to inquire about setup costs, an itemized list of fees associated with a new account, and any first-time customer offers available now or near your move date. Work these expenses into your overall cost-of-living projections to determine if moving to a specific area is sustainable for your budget.
3. Eating at Home
Eating out regularly is synonymous with being a financial black hole, but dining in the comfort of your own home isn't as cheap as you might expect either. If you're used to living in a home with a well-stocked fridge, prepare to spend hundreds of dollars each month. The CE survey revealed that the average household spends $3,971 annually on food at home, which equates to approximately $330 per month.
Overall, eating at home is still more cost-effective than eating dinner at a restaurant. The average cost of dinner at a restaurant for one person is $39.40, according to Zagat's 2015 Dining Trends Survey.
First-Timer Tip: Cutting costs on a vital expense like food is fairly easy when you take advantage of tech tools, such as coupon apps and loyalty rewards programs that offer discounts on each purchase, as well as fresh-food options at discount retailers like the 99 Cents Only Store. When shopping, employ the tried-and-true grocery list method, but make sure to research printable coupons from grocers and manufacturers for potential double-coupon opportunities. If you have a simple palate, you might even consider the Elon Musk Challenge, which encourages frugalists to eat on only $2 per day.
4. Pet Care
Moving into a new place with your fluffy, four-legged friend will bring you joy and a mass array of Instragram-worthy photos, but be prepared to limit your housing options as a result. Not all landlords allow pets, and those that do require a hefty pet deposit and even require "pet rent" in addition to your base rental rate.
According to surveys from Rent.com, 48% of pet owners found pet deposits to be the biggest headache when moving with a pet, and as many as 60% of respondents have paid a pet deposit anywhere from $100 to $500. And that's just the beginning of the pet-related costs that will eat into your budget.
The American Kennel Club reported pet maintenance cost statistics from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine that can break your budget if you aren't prepared. On average, dog owners, for example, spend $3,085 within the first year of bringing their dog home, including $650 just for veterinary costs. If you're accustomed to mom and dad picking up this tab, it's time to recrunch your moving budget.
First-Timer Tip: You can save money first by adopting instead of buying a pet from a breeder or pet store. To provide for your pet's needs, turn to Craigslist or garage sales for supplies like a crate or food bowls—just make sure to thoroughly sanitize all used items with an animal-friendly cleaner to avoid health or pest problems down the road. In terms of entertainment, browse Pinterest for great do-it-yourself projects to make pet toys from items you likely already have at home.
Like any major decision—such as which college to attend or which car to buy—moving out of your parents' home has numerous financial implications. Put thoughtful consideration into your budget and planning your move so you can avoid the dreaded paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle.