If you’re thinking about getting your own place, you probably think it will be sublime but let’s look at what new challenges might arise.
Your expectations for your first apartment are high and you think you’ll be able to do whatever you want, but in reality, you suddenly have responsibilities and have to work really hard just to afford it. Before you think “It’s a great idea to get my first apartment and live on my own”, consider these things and think about if you’re ready to put all your money into the walls that contain you.
If you’ve already had your first apartment, you might remember some of these hilarious experiences that make having your own place more of a pain than a pleasure. Alas, perhaps living economically, is not only good for your wallet, it’s also good for the psyche. Let’s divulge.
I think that the real estate industry has made a fortune off of marketing living on your own to recent graduates and college kids. Furniture companies, kitchen supply companies, landlords and yes credit card companies make a fortune off of young people living on their own before they are ready or need to.
This creates a downward spiral of debt and lack of freedom in choosing jobs for young people who are suddenly overwhelmed with responsibilities and bills. They quickly become consumed with paying bills and lose the idealism they had in college when they were ready and brave enough to change the world.
When we suddenly feel like we need to do anything we can to get that promotion at work to be able to afford a little vacation, and we feel like we can’t speak up for what is truly important out of fear of losing our jobs and home, life is becoming very backwards.
Many cultures do not pressure people to have so much of their own space and because of that they can take a siesta, they have a laid back lifestyle and they are not obsessed with material possessions, big houses, big cars or the forever increasing square footage of their dream home.
Honestly, our culture is overwhelmed with the concept of having too much space per person, it’s using too many natural resources, causing too many stress related heart problems and disorders, and this needs to be changed. We are the ones that can put an end to it with our very own, free will.
The tiny homes movement is a great example of the grassroots movement toward living debt free and stress free. When people are able to pursue what they love instead of what they feel forced to do, they thrive. Whoa, things just got real.
In your mind, you probably pictured a perfectly decorated apartment, and you and your closest friends are able to stay up however late you want, having fun and just enjoying life. Well, unless you’re a professional decorator and you have a savings account that you can dedicate to decorating; it’s going to take a lot of elbow grease to make your home decor something to be proud of.
And it’s not magically going to decorate itself. You’ll have to put in some man hours to be able to afford furniture, take time to search for items, and finally, make it all blend together. Maybe that doesn’t intimidate you, but after you have your first party, you may be humming a different tune when you’re hungover and all your lovely friends left their empty beer cans and wine glasses for guess who to clean up.
That’s right, it’s all on you. Let’s not forget that hosting parties can also cost a pretty penny, unless you’re comfortable telling your friends to bring their own and make it a potluck.
Other people think that you are throwing a party every night and enjoying the freedom, but the truth is that you are cleaning and washing the dishes after each party, and you’re sick of it.
The number one pitfall of first time apartment shoppers is that they have shiny new car syndrome, and they bite off more than they can chew when it comes to rent. If you’re not really used to being on your own financially, don’t do what most people do and increase your rent payment by 300%.
Chances are, you don’t have the budgeting skills to really pay that much and you may have to get a second job just to pay the bills. You don’t want an apartment that you can never enjoy because you’re working so much, and you certainly don’t want to have to skimp on doing things or getting high quality food that will keep you healthy.
Honestly, that’s what I did when I got my first pad; I was so stressed and ended up hating the place! Realistically, your rent should be about ¼ of your monthly income.
You probably envision lounging with a book and sipping a latte in your window sill or painting while you listen to your favorite music as loud as you want. However, you may find activities like this boring and prefer to be in the company of others. Do yourself a favor; do not move far away from friends, because when people are busy, they are less likely to take a trip to see you and the other way around.
Also make sure you ask if the place has heat and air conditioning. I have often moved into places so excited that I forgot to ask and spent the winter freezing under the covers next to a space heater! Do your homework and think about how much the AC and heater will cost so you can actually afford to use it!
What commonly happens is you go from spending lots of time with your friends to spending lots of time by yourself. You suddenly have no idea how to spend your time and end up going to bed early.
Living alone is highly overrated, and since humans are social creatures, living together and saving money seems like a much smarter option. Of course, the person you choose to live with needs to be someone you like, but don’t think that all your problems will just melt away when you get your own place.
If you’re new to living on your own, you might not realize all the tasks you will now be responsible for on a daily basis. You will be the only one that cleans, does the dishes, takes out the trash and folds the clothes. If you were relying on someone else to help out around the house, it can take up a lot more time than you think.
The dust builds up quickly and when something is broken, you are the one that will have to call your landlord or deal with it. Suddenly, you may be asking yourself why you thought it was such a grand idea to get your own place.
You want to go out, but you must do the laundry. You want to go hang with your friends, but you don’t want to come home late alone for safety purposes. You want to have people over, but your neighbors complain if they hear a mouse squeak and they’re older so they go to bed early. You want to just dance in your house to music, but it’s too loud and you’ve already gotten noise complaints.
What can you do? Well, you can make a list of all the things you want to buy for your place that you probably can’t afford or you could call your friend on the phone so you don’t feel as lonely. I found myself on Facebook more than face to face with people when I got my first apartment, because by the end of the work day, I was so exhausted I didn’t even think to invite people over.
Maybe it’s better to not have to work quite as much, have more energy, be around people and be ok with sharing space. Sometimes, the grass is not greener.
When your friends know you got your own place, they may think it’s cool to come over and crash at any time. It may be hard not to hurt your friend’s feelings when they’re lingering on your couch night after night, and you want them to leave. You work hard to pay the rent and you might feel like they are mooching.
When people know you have your own place, they may automatically assume you’re having people over when it comes time to socialize. That might get really old for you, not only because of all the dirt it tracks in and how you’ll have to clean up after people, but you don’t necessarily want your drunk friends hanging around until all hours of the night when you’re ready to go to sleep.
Don’t get stuck in the habit of just letting your friends come over for coffee or you will never leave the house. It’s ok to say, I just want to get out of the house. We are often too proud to admit that we are actually having trouble adjusting to living alone, but there’s nothing wrong with admitting it.
Having too much time to think about things can drive you a little bonkers, so make sure you get out and do things with people! We need to talk to people about their lives and vent sometimes.
Sometimes we think we can cure our loneliness by getting a puppy, but all that does is tie us down to our home even more because the puppy needs to be walked, fed and cleaned up after. Don’t live in la-la land and think that a puppy is going to solve your problems. It’s more money down the drain and it’s a lot of responsibility.
For the first few months you will get woken up all throughout the night by this little one and it can be very exhausting raising another living creature on your own. You’ll find yourself thinking, “why don’t you get yourself a dog, you always wanted a dog” but don’t give in.
You may constantly hear “you should be happy, you’re living alone” but it makes you mad. When you live alone, it can be pretty tough. You don’t really think about the stress before you move in because you’re just so excited and the last thing you want to hear is your parents trying to talk you out of it.
It may not be considered cool living with your parents, but who cares, because living in a place you can barely afford isn’t the least bit fun. You don’t want to damage your credit by making late payments just to pay your rent and you certainly don’t want to have to work all the time.
Remember, there are extra expenses that come up, like all of your cleaning supplies and replacing broken items.
You are going to have to get all your soap and toilet paper. You will need to plunge a toilet, replace light bulbs and buy your own kitchen stuff. Realize you may get scared being alone at night sometimes, and don’t tell strangers where you live. I’m not saying it’s terrible living alone, it can be cool, but I just wish someone had told me what to look out for before I did it.
Don’t be a premature apartment renter just because you think it will make your life easier. If you don’t want to feel like you have to work at a job you hate because your overhead is so high, take my advice and stay at home with your parents or rent a cheap room.
Your quality of life is greatly affected by how you spend your time, how much you believe in what you’re doing and how much freedom you feel you have.
Make a budget before you get your place. Have extra wiggle room for things that could come up, that don’t have to do with your apartment. What if you have car trouble, and need to get it fixed to get to work? What if you have to buy new tires? Remember, cars also cost more than we think because of oil changes, new tires, new brakes and the yearly registration renewal.
Gas and food, cell phone and insurance should be added in too. Don’t forget to leave money for personal items like shampoo and miscellaneous: haircuts, movies, dinners with friends and that type of thing.
Whatever you do, don’t just cut it down to the wire with your budget. If you “think” you can afford it, you probably can’t. You need to feel like you’re getting a great deal that you can easily afford.
If you’re not happy with your job, don’t get your own place. You don’t want to be tied in to a lease when you get a job an hour away, right? You’ll only be trapped in the job you hate and having to kiss your boss’s tail to get a promotion so you can afford internet at home. Really, you should think about this stuff.
Just because our culture tells us we need lots of space, doesn’t mean we really do. There are tons of people in debt and having to work two jobs to pay it off. Don’t become a statistic; think your decisions through thoroughly. Don’t use your credit cards to make ends meet either; you’ll lose so much money on the interest, it’s not even funny.
Your ego will tell you that life will be incredible once you get your own place, but that is just something that has been spoon fed to you since you were a child. Many families live together their whole lives and think nothing of it. Many people share bedrooms, live in lower income areas, and live well below their means.
If you value your time and relationships with others, don’t let the idea of having a fancy place to show off eat up all that time. You really don’t need to listen to what most people think is cool to enjoy your life.
The people that are your true friends will like you for how you treat them, the depth of your conversations and the things you are most passionate about. What matters is will power to change the world into a better place, not having a swanky pad.
I feel many women are falling into this trap where they don’t like their job, but they think they need to be able to afford a certain lifestyle. We really need so little to be happy. When I sold all my furniture, and everything I owned could fit in my car, I was free to take a lower paying job that I really cared about. I rented a cheap room and really enjoyed my life.
I think a lot of our country’s problems can be fixed if we reevaluate our own concept of space and how we use it. Don’t let your home restrict your freedom. We are not defined by how much money we make, we are defined by how much good we do in the world and how much we fight to counteract the trends that are blocking happiness for people.
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Shannon is a contortionist and yoga teacher that loves to inspire people to lead empowered and healthy lives. She writes practical advice for health and gives real world insights to empower women emotionally.
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