Your First Apartment
Tips on how to manage bills, cooking, transportation and cleaning in your first rental.
So you’re moving out of the dorms (or other on-campus housing) to live in your first apartment. Congratulations! In most cases, this represents a new level of independence and responsibility, and hopefully, it means more personal space.
Unfortunately, the challenges that come with off-campus housing often prove too much for college students, but that won't be the case for you (right?!). Dirty dishes pile up. Bills aren’t paid on time. Problems with roommates arise. What was once a swinging bachelor (or bachelorette) pad quickly becomes a disaster -- unless you're prepared.
If you’re living with roommates, clearly outline what is expected of all of you at the beginning of your lease, especially regarding payment and the deposit.
You can avoid these problems -- and hopefully any unwanted pests (human or otherwise) -- with just a little bit of time and effort. Make the most of your off-campus housing experience with this apartment checklist below.
What You Need for Your First Apartment
- Finding Furniture: With the constant graduation and influx of students, you can easily find affordable furniture for your first apartment. Be on the lookout for garage sales and check websites such as Craigslist. You can often even get hand-me-down furniture for free at the end of each term.
- Paying Your Bills and Rent: Keep track of all the monthly bills you’ll have to pay: rent, utilities, television and Internet. To avoid any late fees, make your payments several days before they are due or set up an auto-pay online.
- Buying and Cooking Food: When you lived in a dorm, you probably had access to cafeterias and dining halls. See if you can still purchase some kind of campus meal plan, or make regular visits to the grocery store. Eating out can be expensive and unhealthy. If you'll have roommates, consider sharing cooking and shopping responsibilities.
- Cleaning: Remember how convenient it was to have professionals come and clean your dorm bathrooms for you? Those days are gone. While it’s common for college students to live in messy environments, take pride in your living space. Designate one day a week for cleaning and laundry. Most of the time, a few hours a week is all you’ll need to devote. If you have roommates, consider an easy chore calendar so no one feels the brunt of domestic duties.
- Taking Transportation: It may take you a week or two to figure out the best ways to get around campus from your apartment. Check bus schedules and know where you can park a car or bike. As you’re learning your area, leave a few minutes early for class to ensure you arrive on time.
- Insurance: Some leases may provide an insurance plan. If not, make sure you purchase renter’s insurance. You’ll want to be covered in the unlikely event there is a disaster or some kind of emergency that ruins your belongings.
- Roommates: If you’re living with roommates, clearly outline what is expected of all of you at the beginning of your lease, especially regarding payment and the deposit. Nothing can ruin a friendship faster than a freeloader who’s not pulling his/her weight with the rent.
Don’t let any of these tips and suggestions fool you into thinking your first apartment is going to be stressful and difficult to maintain. You’ve embarked on a new level of freedom. Enjoy it. A little responsibility will go a long way.