How much should you save before moving out? - Give Me Back My Five Bucks
How much should you save before moving out?

How much should you save before moving out?

I recently wrote a post for Moneyville called My money mistake? Moving out too soon, where I talked about how I should have never moved out of my parents house before I finished school. Had I taken my parents’ advice and stayed at home, I would have come out of college with significantly less debt than I had. But it was my stubbornness and naive attitude that resulted in a disastrous 8 months of living independently, and ended with me eventually moving back home. Anyway, that post generated a lot of really interesting discussion, as well as a few e-mails that came my way.

A reader sent me this e-mail yesterday, which is what prompted me to write this post:

Hi Krystal,

I read your article in the Toronto Star and I was wondering how much money should one have saved before moving out? Your article brings great interest to me since I am approaching my late 20’s and I am seeing friends of mine get places on their own.

By the way, great article.
Mike

First a little background into my specific situation:
I moved out the summer after graduating high school – at age 17 – and moved to Michigan to go to University. Because of my hard work growing up, I received a full athletic scholarship. I had a wonderful two years there, but due to personal reasons, I decided to leave the team and move back home. I was 19 when I moved back home, and stayed there until I was 21 – when I moved out on my own again. It was at this point that I started to accumulate debt. I ended up moving back home at age 22 when I realized I couldn’t cut it on my own. I finished college and finally moved out of my parents’ house for the last time at age 25.

I don’t blame my parents for my lack of budgeting or my financial irresponsibility. While I do agree that it’s important to educate teenagers and young adults about money management, the fact remains that I was an adult and I made the decision on my own. I had a lot of growing up to do, and unfortunately I made a mistake. But, just like any other money mistake I’ve made in the past (and will make in the future), you learn and grow from them, and you make sure to do everything you can not to let it happen again.

How much should you save before moving out?

That’s a really good question. It’s obviously going to differ, depending on where you live and what you’re looking for – so I can’t really suggest you need to save X amount of dollars. Instead, here is a list of expenses to think about before taking the plunge and moving out on your own:

  • Cost of rent – you can significantly cut the cost of rent if you decide to live with roommates. This could be a good option because you have less of a financial strain put on your shoulders, and you have a built-in support system. Which might make it less intimidating to finally leave home. On the other hand, if you crave total independence, be prepared to pay for it! Don’t forget about any damage deposit (usually 1/2 months rent), or having to pay first and last months rent up front.
  • Apartment insurance - This can run anywhere from $10-25/month, depending on what you need covered. You might not think you need it, but you’ll be sorry if something happens and you don’t have it! Protect yourself and your stuff.
  • Utilities – you will now be responsible for utilities (hydro, gas, phone, etc.), as well as cable & internet if you choose to. Don’t forget about set-up fees to start service.
  • Groceries – I know first-hand that stocking your fridge/pantry for the very first time is expensive! During my move last month, I spent probably close to $400 on food and essentials (flour, rice, olive oil, etc.) – and my fridge is still pretty bare.
  • Furniture – if you’re moving out for the first time, chances are you’ll need at least a few pieces of furniture. When I moved out, I was lucky to get hand-me-down furniture from relatives, but I still had to make a few trips to IKEA. Make a list of exactly what you need, not what you want. One of the smartest decisions I made was to live with used and hand-me-down furniture for years. It was only until I bought my townhouse last month that I decided to invest and buy real furniture – and even then, half of it was used, and the other half was from IKEA.
  • Miscellaneous – it’s surprising how fast the little things add up. Don’t forget about cleaning supplies, forwarding your mail, packing supplies, boxes, renting a moving van, and replacing anything that has been damaged during the move.

Emergency Fund
Ideally you will want to have some money saved up should an emergency arise. The great thing about renting is that most major problems fall on the shoulders of your landlord or apartment management company to fix. But if (knock on wood) you get sick or lose your job, the last thing you want to have to think about is where your next rent cheque is going to come from. The general rule of thumb is to have 3-6 months worth of expenses in your Emergency Fund, but that might not be feasible for someone who is just starting out. Save whatever amount you feel comfortable with, but I would recommend at least one full month of living expenses to start with.

Create a budget
This is where I completely failed when I moved out on my own. I didn’t make my first budget, or write down any sort of expense-to-income numbers until I graduated college in 2006. How scary is that? Take a good hard look at how much money you’re making, how much you will need to save (based on the expenses above), how much you will need each month, and see if you can truly afford it. Nothing is worse than the sinking feeling of moving everything into a new apartment and having your dream of independence crushed when you realize that you’re in the red every month.

Books to help you out
Here are a couple of my favourite books that just might help you save a little money and balance that budget:

Does anyone have anything else to add? Costs I missed out on, or advice for Mike?

About Krystal Yee

I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.

54 comments

  1. You definitely want to have enough to cover bond and initial rent, plus some more reserve funds. People here don't tend to live alone especially for the first time, so furniture isn't usually an issue – you'll just move into an already furnished house. Beds are still expensive though! I'm also amazed that some people just have no idea what to expect in terms of utility costs (okay, I guess I didn't either when I started out) and don't even think about insurance and the like.
    My recent post Love Drop- Help out the Aubins

  2. Great post!

    I just wanted to add one quick note. I'm not sure about BC's tenant laws, but in Ontario (where I assume Mike is from) damage deposits are illegal. The landlord can't charge any additional fee other than last month's rent.
    My recent post Freelancing- How valuable is your time

    • Thanks for mentioning that Melissa, especially since i will be looking for a place in a few months :)

      • In British Columbia its totally legal to charge a damage deposit as well as a pet deposit. The damage deposit and pet deposit each equal 1/2 month’s rent so if your place is 880/month, you are paying 440 for damage deposit, and then 440 for pet deposit.

  3. Transportation can be a big cost – $50-60/month for a bus pass or metro pass. If you used to rely on your parents for transportation and suddenly don't have access to their vehicle anymore, that adds up fast. Laundry doesn't cost a fortune, but even if you're doing a couple loads a week, that's $20/month plus buying detergent, fabric softener, etc…it's something that's easy to take for granted when you live with your parents. I moved out at 18, and I recommend living at home as long as possible :)
    My recent post 10 nice things to think about today

    • Good one! Transportation can definitely add up. However, if your parents live in the suburbs, and you plan on moving somewhere within walking distance of work/school, perhaps you might even save money by not needing a bus/metro pass.

      I lived at home off and on until 24, and am grateful that I was able to stay for so long. :)

      • Another thing to consider in this department is the transportation schedule. You may be able to find cheap rent on a bus route, but if the frequency drops to only once an hour in the evening (or no evening service at all), you may find yourself frequently shelling out for a cab ride home. I'd definitely build in a little financial buffer for that.

        If they're driving and aren't in a metro friendly area, I'd definitely recommend putting aside some money for emergency mechanical repairs (at least $1000) and your first year's routine maintenance.

  4. Prescription costs, glasses, dental. All things covered by your parents or their benefit programs will no longer be covered if not under their roof anymore. Do you have enough coverage through your own work benefits? What percentage does it cover? Do you even have benefits? If not it may be worthwhile to purchase a plan on your own or just budget a portion of your savings for it monthly. With no coverage these things can be VERY expensive.
    My recent post The Great Vaseline Incident of 2011

  5. As for a damage deposit – which is usually required – I would say don't expect to get it back. If you plan to not get it back, then there won't be any surprises if something happens.
    My recent post How To Land an Internship

  6. The MV article was interesting. If I could add another viewpoint, I don't necessarily agree that it was a "big mistake" to move out too soon.

    While it might not have been the best move, it was also a great learning experience that might have helped you to form subsequent good financial habits.
    My recent post Sharing A Younger Sibling’s RESP With An Older Sibling

  7. I find its the little things that add up the most – the things that are always "just there" when you live with your parents. Laundry detergent, dish soap, toilet paper and paper towel. Thank goodness for places like Wal-Mart, but even then! I never think of these little items as actual costs.

  8. For myself I wanted to make sure I have $5,000 in the bank before I moved out. I rented a room at a flat rate which really cut down on my living expenses. If you end up renting with a bunch of people and one moves out you get stuck splitting their portion until you find another renter. I wanted to ensure I had enough for any emergencies and sure enough I had to get some dental work done which put me back about $1000. I think the more money you have when you leave the better but $5000 worked fine for me.
    My recent post Emergency Sewing Projects

    • $5,000 was my goal before moving as well. I burned through maybe $1,500 of it in the first 5 months (not bad), but ultimately I ended up having to buy a car (SoCal…) which ate up another $2k in that savings fund. that said, I would still tell someone planning on moving to save up at least $3 or $4k before getting out on their own.

  9. Still think this issue is much more complicated than this. Moving out has a lot more to do with being ready emotionally than financially. I moved out at 18 and have no regrets. It builds character when one has to eat ramen noodles for every meal, etc., for a while.

    • I totally agree. But I do think that you need a good balance between being both emotionally mature and financially ready to move out, otherwise it will end in failure. Some people can do it as soon as they graduate from high school, and others need just a little more time.

  10. This is a good list to start with. I would definitely recommend sitting down and creating a realistic budget. That alone will help Mike figure out how much he will need before he moves out. Having an emergency fund will also help with unexpected expenses.

  11. I think for college students moving out for the first time — it's wise to save money where you can. Hit up Value Village etc for reusable essentials, like plates/pots/utensils and other things — you can probably even find some cool accessories/decor for cheap. Being practical and realistic goes a long way. If you're 20 and have two other roommates, no one will care if your dishes are Royal Doulton or not.

    My recent post Better Late Than Never

  12. In Mint Condition

    In college, I also worked $9/hr jobs, but they were extremely helpful in beefing up my work experience in my resume. Sometimes I regret not getting a waitress gig that could have gotten me $30+/hr from tips. But in hind sight, I would not have advanced so quickly in my IT career without those $9/hr IT jobs. I also would not have graduated with so much debt, hah.

    Although you may consider moving out too early a "money mistake", in the larger sense that 'mistake' has lead you, in a way, to your PF career and who you are today. Mistake? I think not :)

  13. In college I went through a phase when I couldn't keep up with paying rent because of my excessive spending on unimportant things such as clothes, coffee and other material possessions. The rent racked up and I had to work part time so that I can pay them off without my parents knowing I'm in debt. I think it's helpful to have a weekly budget and stick with it not only during bad times but consistently.
    My recent post Why Are Gas Prices So High

  14. As a young adult, it is their responsibility for the financial decisions they make, but I feel that there is a big piece of the puzzle that is missing for a lot of kids as they grow up. We as parents need to do more to teach our children how to handle money. I like the list you created and think it is a good example. I will pass it on to some of the young people I know.

  15. if you are like me and “stuck” at home for too long look at this it will help. also forget about haveing all the cozy things you started with like internet and cable TV. also no need to go to Ikea there is a lot more affordable things at the thrift store. Use coupons and get out of your parents house as soon as you can. the longer you stay the harder it is to leave. also if you have a pet be ready to cover them as well. You may want to stay at home but trust me leave ASAP if you dont you may get stuck living with mom and pop and that is not fun. trust me.

    • I agree! I moved back home after college due to financial reasons, and I feel so trapped now. I worked through high school, and during college, but only made minimum wage at those jobs. I got a job close to my parents house after college, but I don’t earn a hefty pay-check from there, either. However, I know how difficult it will be to move out at first, but I can’t stay here any more. And now that I’ve been here for a while, I fear that I may never have a good chance to leave. I almost think it’s just best to take the plunge and move out, before I dig myself too deep. I am in a bit of a difficult situation, because I want to go back to graduate school, and will begin taking required pre-requisite classes for programs I am interested in. These classes are close to my parents house, as well, and unfortunately, I will probably need to remain here until I complete them.

      I apologize for how long this is, and I realize that I am now basically ranting about how crappy living at home is. Overall, I think it depends on an individuals situation, as well as their relationship with their parents and family. I personally have never had a close relationship with either of my parents, or really anyone in my family, and have always looked forward to moving out, ever since I graduated high school. So moving back home, and living there now is practically – no, actually, it kind of is – torture for me. Don’t get me wrong, I greatly appreciate my parents helping me out with the financial side of things, but I don’t know how much longer I can stand living here for. I hate relying on my parents (and people in general) for things, and really just want to be independent.

  16. I have mapped out my paychecks and expenses VERY thoroughly. I have it all sketched out as a calendar where I have monthly goals to deposit $500/mo to reach $10,000 saved after 1 1/2 years before my move. If you think about it, an apartment with all it’s utilities, food, gas, toiletries, etc can all add up to $2000 a month. $10,000 would last 5 months if we were both out of work. While unlikely because I hold a stable job and she will have her Masters by then, you need to always think of having emergency funds. I also plan on paying out $300 a month until this move to pay off my gf’s student loans. I don’t want any interest to begin building once we’re moved. Once I have $10,000 saved for emergencies, I want AT LEAST $2500 in my checking account to start out the apartment itself. Once I begin accruing more money while moved in, I want to divert half of those savings into a retirement account like a 401K Roth for my future (It’s good to start that in your 20s). The other half saved up will be put into another savings account which will be used for our planned vacations because we want to travel to a different country/state every year for 5 years until we decide to have kids. By that time, we will get travel mile credit cards. I think this kind of planning is only possible when you are in love with someone. Otherwise I wouldn’t think so much into it.

    So you should have:
    1) Emergency Savings account (Rainy Day Fund)
    2) Large enough checking account (Your day-o-day use account that is not in danger of going negative and overdrafting)
    3) Retirement account (so you’ve invested your money to handle your retirement times of no longer working, not relying on social security and battling inflation sicne your money saved now is worth 2/3 or less when you’re retired)
    4) Basic Savings account for recreation

  17. You should look to set aside at least $1,000 allocated for emergency funds, 1st months rent, utilities, food and appliances/furnishings that need to be added or replaced. And $1,000 should just be viewed as a minimum, especially if you choose to live by yourself, in which case you’ll probably want to save even more.

  18. Glad to see some parents help out their children. I basically got told by my parents to live in a cardboard box and eat grass before I ever consider coming back to live with them. They have conceited idea that anyone can live on $8 an hour and have a wonderful life although you would never see them do it.

    It has been a living hell for the past six years surviving on my own bouncing from one job to another and just barely being able to keep up with my bills. It is really annoying because I know that I could have gotten out of debt faster and been more financially independent if I wasn’t so in debt.

    Yeah, living with your parents isn’t fun, but look at the alternative. Being in debt and barely making enough money to survive, always worrying about money, and not having the freedom that other people have. I think the worst feeling is knowing that if all else fails, that I have nothing to fall back on. Literally, I am all by myself with no one to help me. That is the most depressing thing of all. I really hate my family and hope they know the suffering I have gone through some day very soon!!!!

    • bro i definitely feel you! i make 8.50..i work at mcdonalds! i struggle every pay period just to pay bills. im living on my own! and loan payments suckssss!!!1

  19. I would recomend becomeing very familiar with places like Dollar Tree, you can get all kinds of necissary items there like cleaning supplies, personal items and kitchen supplies while spending a dollar or less on each item. The larger stores have all kinds of fun things in them, but the small ones are really usefull too. They won’t be brand-name or anything, but a bottle of generic dish soap that costs a dollar will clean your dishes as well as the five-dollar bottle of Dawn. I’d also recomend looking into the local thrift stores and making it a point to go garage-sale hunting on weekends.

  20. Great starting list. I’ve added more items to this list, such as tooth paste and brush, combs, rugs, etc., the small stuff you do kind of overlook when still living at home. But similar to Eric, I’m in a situation where I have a roof over my head and “sometimes” a meal since I’m still at home, but my parents keep telling me to live under a bridge (like a troll) and eat dog poop. I buy and make my own meals, pay the bills, stock up on the small stuff, etc., and have come to realize that my work is unappreciated and I’m ready to move out. So thanks for the list. Like everyone else have said, I’ll save, save, save, and stock up on my own things for a comfortable life on my own. Thanks for the list and support of other readers!

  21. HI!

    THANKZ Me n my BF are planning to move out in January and we need all the advice we can get so we can do it right the 1st time around.

  22. Lots of good points above. But nobody mentioned Craigslist. I have gotten ALL kinds of stuff for free from the free section, including clothes, furniture, and other household items. Some of the most unusual stuff is listed for free! It can be work to troll through the ads, and then to make sure the “seller” is somewhat legit, and sometimes you have to travel a bit to get the thing you’re after, but patience pays off. you can really score!

    • Hi Vie:

      I’m getting myself mentally and financially ready to move out of my parents home and the craigslist.com free section is awesome advice. I just looked on my city’s free section and found great free stuff AND moving boxes. Thanks

  23. My friend and her husband are newlyweds, married only a few months. They’re pretty young (21 yrs.) had no previous independant history of living on their own or anything like that. Some people make it work which is good but recently they both dove literally from october to november unplanned, into a monthly payment of $800 for a tiny yet high class apartment. She told me they had no furniture other than a bed and a dresser, $0 in savings, had to borrow money from parents for a deposit, have no groceries, have animals and themselves to feed, $350 car payment/gas and have insane credit card debt, have utilites, phone bills just like we all do. They also both work full time jobs, and they live in stress in panic every month, living in the red zone. They were living in a cute little place before, paying only $250 per month to kick off their marriage, only when it wasn’t good enough for her high standards of living. She desired a place, bigger and better than the previous. Might have been a nice dream but it was out of their means of living since she was putting others in situations where they have to give up their hard earned money to help them financially. She also doesnt like to buy used furniture, says old furniture is “creepy”. While independance is important, even more so for a married couple, and having a nice place is great, being in financial panic, causing hell for other people every month isn’t wise. I wish my friend listened to the advice she was given. If she had stayed in her cute place she had before for just a few months more to save a few dollars or at least get out of debt, she would be able to enjoy her fancy apartment. There is alot of wisdom in this article. Live by smart decisions, listen to advice from those more experienced and life is so much easier and therefore much more enjoyable. I hope my friend comes around with being more open minded to advice and I wish them both the best and hope they come out of their financial hell hole.

  24. If you’re a recent college grad, you should definitely consider loan payments…

  25. Once you get where you’re going and your budget seems to be working out you can finally start to relax. You may even find you’ll have some extra money. You’ll make some new friends and find some fun things to do in your down time. You MUST budget your alcohol intake as well as your money. One drink can lead to to two which can lead to three which can lead to buying drinks for the whole bar. The very nature of alcohol and drugs is that they make you want more. Plan your partying! You don’t want to go in the red because you’re a generous drunk. And you don’t want to accidentally become an addict because you have extra money to spend. I had to move back in with my parents because I made a lot of money as soon as I moved to NYC, bought some drugs for myself and my “friends” to celebrate, and next thing I knew I was an addict. Definitely don’t do drugs. I can’t tell you not to socialize with alcohol but set a monetary limit for yourself before you start drinking.

  26. All of this advise sure comes in handy.. I am planning on moving out soon with roomates. I feel it is time to do so i am going to school part time and working. i am now 22yrs old and all tho i have older friends who live at home with their parents, i feel im getting too old to be here. Those friends have graduated college already and i am assuming they have college debts. I dont, i go to a community college and planning to become a nurse.. Things at home arent ok for me anymore and that home feeling isnt with me anymore. I know saving money is a great way to start but i am afraid that if moving out doesnt not work, i will be forsed to move back home since i know getting out wont be easy since my parents are so difficult.

    Any advice?

  27. If I were living at home still and planning to move out soon I would take advantage of not paying for the living costs. For example use their home phone and ask for furniture or maybe some money for your birthday. Gather up coupons and take your mom shopping. Maybe she will pay for stuff like detergent and soap. The things you always had around your house that mom or dad would use to do this or that. Moving out should be a happy expierience but if your broke than your going to be miserable. Take advantage of what you can and thank those people when your not in debt.

  28. Timely article as I am getting ready to do a video on “Flying the Coop” – When can I realistically move out on my own? The key word is realistically. I saw a question on Yahoo asking if she could afford moving out because she didn’t like living with her parent’s. She took home $500 every two weeks and wanted to rent an apartment in New York for $900. She wanted to think positive. I can positively say she can’t afford it. The two key areas you mentioned in your article are Emergency Fund and a Budget – (They should have a mandatory class in high school on moving out on your own.) The biggest 3 budget categories are Housing to include utilities (40%), Transportation (15%), and Food (15%) These are recommended %’s. Other categories to consider would be Giving, Investing, Insurance, School, Emergencies and of course some fun stuff. You should stay with your parent’s until you save up enough to handle the expenses of moving out and know that you are close to the percentages in your budget. Here is a 30-day Budget Challenge that might help out any 20-something that is thinking about flying the coop.
    http://www.debtfreesquad.com/30-day-budget-challenge/
    Jeff

  29. And have a credit card as a backup but try not to use it too much as you will quickly go into credit card debt.

  30. im 24 years old woman and still living at home with my parents. I plan to move out but do not know how much I need to save first. I planned on buying as my first option instead of renting I planned on going in the area of Oswego or plainfield IL if anyone is familiar with that area. I read MIkey comment on how much he saved I was headed in the same direction saving for another year and half but how much to take out each month from my paychecks is the question. renting might be an option I don’t know. can anyone give advice

  31. I had to move out at 18 for univ. in Toronto. It was an emotional time jumping into independence like that. But I’ve grown so much over the years. I’d definitely recommend using used furniture from family and if possible buy furniture that’s light, collapsible and easy to move when you move. For example, plastic folding tables and drawer storage towers – these are always on sale at Canadian Tire.

    To cut down on costs, look for a place that includes all utilities – heat, hydro, water. You might have to sacrifice on space, but in the end it may be worth it if you only have to cover for internet and phone (or cable if you need it).

    nomorebrukpocket.blogspot.ca

  32. I don’t have any particular plans for moving out anytime soon, but I have invested a good amount in my emergency fund to cover 10 months of average rent, food, gas costs.
    Great post nonetheless, saving and budget planning is always a good idea

  33. It depends on where you live on how much you should save before moving out. Myself and my older brothers each roughly spent $5000 for first few months rent and all we needed in new place. Live in dayton ohio.

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  35. I find it surprising how long people seem to live with their parents for if they grow up in cities. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, so when we graduated high school, we moved out. We came back in the summers, worked our asses off, and scrimped and saved enough money to get through the next year. One summer, I had four jobs at the same time! After we graduated post-secondary, we started work somewhere right away, whether it was in our field or not. Moving back home simply wasn’t an option.

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  37. I’m almost 17 and thinking about college and life. I want to move from AZ to MI, and this might sound absurd, but I’m doing it. Already saving, but I’m saving enough to cover my rent for a year… I won’t have to worry about a place to live, just everything else. It helps me feel better because I’m a worry-wart :)

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