Guide to moving out on your own for the first time

Sharing is caring!

So, you’re finally doing it! You are moving out on your own and ready to be a “real adult”. This comes with a lot of responsibility but at some point, we all have to grow up. I was living at home for a little over a year after graduating college prior to getting my first apartment. 

I can confidently share some of the things I learned through the mistakes I made while living on my own for the first time. In this blog post I’ll be providing some tips that will explain how to move out on your own. Let’s get started! 

How to move out on your own for the first time

The number 1 question you need to ask before moving out on your own

Are you really ready to move out? Getting your first apartment can be really exciting! It’s likely the first time you truly feel independent. Though, the number 1 question you need to ask yourself prior to moving out on your own is – are you really ready? You need to be able to afford your rent and have a debt pay-off strategy

An important figure to know before moving out on your own is your debt to income ratio. This is your monthly debt payments divided by your monthly income. This is the time to consider your car loan, credit card debt, and student loans. Ask yourself if you can afford to pay rent each month on top of paying down these debts. If not, then you can either increase your income or continue living at home. If you have a good relationship with your family and they are not pressuring you to leave home, stay until you can truly afford to live on your own.

Know what you can afford 

For the majority of people, housing is the biggest expense. There is a popular personal finance rule which recommends not spending more than 30% of your overall income on rent. Unfortunately, that simply is unrealistic for most young adults who are working entry level positions. In an effort to save money I strongly recommend getting a roommate. I had a roommate for my first apartment and it’s the best decision I could’ve made financially. If you are going to have a roommate, make sure they’re reliable with a steady source of income. 

When preparing to move out on your own, you will need to take a close look at the money you bring in each month. Having a monthly budget will help you determine what you can afford. If you do not have a budget, this is the time to create one. I recommend reading these articles I’ve written. They will help you create a standard budget or manage your income if it is irregular.

Related blog posts:

How to start a budget as a beginner

How to manage an irregular income

Figure out what is important 

Once you’ve created your budget and know how much you can realistically afford, you will want to consider what you truly desire in your first apartment. You need to figure out what is really important. I made the mistake of completely settling on my first apartment. I signed the lease on the apartment because I wanted to save money but still be out on my own. I hated my very first apartment. It was practically falling apart. After four long months, the landlord let my roommate and I out of the lease because the unit was so unsafe. 

Figure out what is important to you and do not settle. Housing isn’t an expense you can skimp. You want to feel safe and enjoy living somewhere you will spend most of your time. Here are a few questions you should consider when trying to find the right apartment:

  1. Where do I want my first apartment to be located?
  2. Which floor should I live on and will my apartment have an elevator?
  3. What type of amenities do I want in my first apartment?
  4. What are the building fees?
  5. How much can I afford to pay each month for utilities?

Pay attention to red flags

When you are touring the apartment, pay attention to all reflags. Make your observations. If there seems to be trash and dog droppings everywhere this is a good indication that the grounds aren’t kept well. This could potentially mean that the maintenance team is slow to respond. It could likely take weeks for any of your repair requests to be taken seriously.

If you’re able, check on the neighborhood at different times of day. This will give you an idea of the type of neighborhood community you’ll be joining. Go in the morning, make note of how many people are out and up early. Pay attention to how many cars are parked (or not). When checking in the evening – are you able to tell if people are making use of the amenities such as the gym or pool? Do they have a food truck that comes or any other community events taking place? Finally, ask yourself if the place fits.

Make sure you ask to see the actual unit you will be living in. I made the mistake of only looking at the model unit. Never again! Landlords want you to see the best they have to offer. I was extremely disappointed when I walked into my unit for the first time. I was expecting it to be just the way it was when I toured. You don’t want to be surprised, so before signing the lease know exactly what you are getting.


When you are moving out on your own for the first time, you obviously don’t have any past renters’ history. Landlords are in the business of getting paid. They want to know that you are going to pay rent every month. Provide a letter from your employer with official letterhead. The letter should include your name, position, salary, and tenure. This shows them that you’re responsible enough to stay at a job. This likely means they can trust you to pay rent on time over the duration of the lease.

Most apartments require you to have a monthly income of 3 times the cost of the rent. If not, then you might need a co-signer. A co-signer is a person who will agree to cover the cost of rent if you’re unable to pay. You’d ask someone you trust like a parent or really close friend. They’d agree to carry the financial burden if for whatever reason you are absolutely unable to pay rent. 

Before moving out on your own for the first time, I strongly recommend you build an emergency fund. You don’t want to have to depend on your co-signer to pay rent. You can use your emergency fund to pay rent while you figure something out for the future.

Signing the lease 

You’ve finally found the perfect place! Congratulations, it’s time to sign the lease. You want to lock in the rate you saw when you first toured. I toured my first apartment months before I was actually ready to move and signed my lease early. There are certainly peak moving months when rates to lease are higher. For instance, many people find it easier to move in the summer because school is out. Property managers knows this therefore rent is typically higher in this season. 

Be sure to read over the entire lease carefully. Ask questions and figure out if this is really what you want. My biggest advice: if you were not ecstatic don’t sign. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask and get the answers you need. Moving out on your own is a really important decision. You don’t want to wake up every morning and hate where you live simply because you rushed. Trust me, I know this exact feeling! 

For more tips, be sure to subscribe to the Money Multiplied Newsletter and Instagram.