First apartment checklist: What you need to know

Woman sitting on couch with laptop in her new apartment.

One of the many times you realize how much you appreciate your parents is when you’re living on your own for the first time.

Suddenly, you recognize how much work went into creating and maintaining the home they provided for you, including budgeting, grocery shopping and preventing you from living in your own filth.

Now, as you prepare to get your own set of keys and put your signature on a rental agreement or lease, it all falls on you. Here are some things to consider:

A closeup view of an apartment lease being reviewed by two people.

Apartment lease: What should be in it?

Signing your name on a lease or a mortgage loan is no small commitment. If you’re renting, make sure you read the fine print to see what is included with the cost, what damages you’ll be responsible for, how much of a notice you must give before moving out and other details you might not think about until it’s time.

Also, get renter’s insurance. It’s inexpensive and worth every penny if something happens.

If you’re going all in with buying a home, learn how mortgages work. Know the difference between the true cost of a 30-year loan and a 15-year loan and realize that while your monthly payment may be small, it could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in interest over the long term.

How to make a budget

Electricity, natural gas, cable, your cell phone. The monthly bills for these essential and some not-so-essential items will now come to you. That’s on top of your rent or mortgage payment and any loans for vehicles or education you might have. Eating each day is nice, too.

If you haven’t done so before, it’s time to form a budget. Your income, expenses and debt will not only influence where to live, but how you live. Some of the creature comforts you had while living with your family may have to wait a few years.

Do you really need cable TV and three internet streaming services? These are questions you need to ask yourself. There are plenty of popular budgeting apps that can organize your finances and help you determine the answers.

An overhead view of two lattes at a coffee shop with hands near each.

How to choose a neighborhood

Choose your new address wisely. Is it close enough to where you work or go to school? How long will the commute be – have you tried it during rush hour? What about where you spend your leisure time? Do they have your favorite coffee shop, grocery store, a park or a gym?

Make sure to visit the area at different hours of the day and different days of the week, too. Some neighborhoods come alive in the evenings or weekends; the noise level might be more than you bargained for.

How to be a good neighbor

When you do choose a place, make a point to get to know your neighbors. It’s nice to see friendly, familiar faces in the neighborhood. When you know someone, you’re more likely to look out for them and they’ll be more likely to do the same for you.

If you’re ever in an emergency, they are your closest source of assistance. And, if there ever is a disagreement over noise, parking, etc., the discussion will go much better if it’s not the first time you are speaking to them.

What tools do I need?

Light bulb burned out? Squeaky cupboard? Leaky faucet? It’s on you.

Sure, if you’re renting, you can call the landlord, but their response time might not be ideal. Get yourself some basic tools, start searching how-to videos online and teach yourself a few fundamental home improvement skills.

A nice clean bathroom vanity cleaned with Amway products.

How will I keep my apartment clean?

Even if you did your share of cleaning and laundry around the house growing up, it takes discipline to keep a clean home when no one is reminding (aka nagging) you all the time.

But the joys of fresh laundry and a clean home – especially when it’s your home – are worth the effort.

We’ve got some tips here on basic items you’ll need, and the internet is filled with to-do lists and suggested schedules. Pick the one that most fits your lifestyle and put it in motion.

#Adulting: How to grow up

It’s time to take charge of your life. Start by making your own appointments, whether it’s a doctor, dentist, optometrist or hair stylist. Add experts on insurance and retirement savings to the list, too.

Getting sick, hurt or old may be the last things you’re thinking about, but preparing for them is important for long-term planning and financial security. Ask about health insurance, disability insurance and retirement funds. You may not need them right away, but they should be on your radar.

Now, call your parents and thank them profusely for all they’ve done!

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