Apartment Living Guide for the 20-something female

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Hey, how’s everyone doing? Gearing up for the holidays?  I personally LOVE Christmas for everything it represents (religion, family, presents!), so I’m really excited for the holiday season!

As most of you know, I’m getting married next September.  At the end of April, my current apartment lease is up, and the FH (future husband) and I will be renting a place together that will be our first love nest.  This is of course something I’ve been looking forward to for awhile, although it doesn’t come without trepidation.  This will be the first time I’ve (officially) lived with a guy, and I’m sure it’s going to take some adjustments.  I’ll be candid in saying that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with living with someone you’re serious with before you’re married, as it can be a great next step of a relationship, and also a good indicator of what that person will be like during marriage in regards to how they live.  I prefer to ease into the whole thing.  With this being said, I have unofficially “lived” with a couple boyfriends in my time (having adult sleepovers several consecutive nights; leaving your toothbrush and pjs at their place or theirs at yours etc.), but never officially.  Can’t say I’m not looking forward to sharing the rent, the chores, and the grocery bill 😉  However, this also means sharing my space, television time, and bathroom.  Hmm.  This could take some work.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to create somewhat of a guide for young to mid twenty-something ladies living on their own.  I’ve lived “on my own” now for a couple years (with a couple apartments) and feel relatively wise enough to share my knowledge of apartment living (the dos and don’ts) with you all.  Take from this what you will!

The College Dorm Room

Although some may not consider this to truly be “moved out,” I think it’s only fair to include this monumental and first time experience in this post.  My undergraduate college years were my first real taste of independent living and they deserve a look.  When living in a college dorm room, it’s safe to say 99% of the population has a roommate.  This was true for me, although I was lucky enough to be dorming with my best friend/step sister.  Therefore, I didn’t have the anxiety ridden summer before college clicking refresh on my e-mail waiting to see the name of the person I’d be living the next year with and then frantically FaceBook stalk them to see what they were like (second and third year of college only, the summer before my freshman year FaceBook didn’t exist yet…wow that makes me sound old…I’m really only 24, I promise! LOL).  Eating when you want, working out when you want, sleeping and waking up when you want…golden.  It was a beautiful taste of new found freedom and I was paying for it with financial aid so it didn’t cost me a dime (then…I’m paying for it dearly now)! The downside:  no privacy, extra long twin beds (hardly space for two).

Overall Score:  A-

The College Apartment

My senior year I was given the ability to live in an on-campus apartment with three other roommates (each with our own room).  This worked out pretty well, as I had more privacy (and a double bed!), as well as only having to share a bathroom with one other person versus my whole floor.  I had a full kitchen, and plenty of space.  This was probably the best set up, and again, felt free! Although looking back now it was SO. MUCH. MONEY. that I may have not done this.

Overall Score: A

Living at home, post-college

Oy. That’s really all I have to say about that. Actually, it wasn’t all that bad.  This one definitely has some major pros and cons though.  Pros:  rent free (!!), your old, comfy room and bed, no bills to pay or groceries to buy, never having to fight for a good parking spot (driveway!), the family dog, etc. Cons:  No privacy (literally, none), mom’s rules, feeling like you have to “check in” all the time, forced family dinners for the most part (a pro and a con), having to walk said dog, shoveling snow on aforementioned driveway, working far away, and did I mention no privacy?

Overall Score: B

First Apartment on My Own!

A monumental moment for sure.  I was absolutely IN LOVE with my first apartment.  I moved thirty five minutes away, which proved to be just far enough.  I still got to see my family, was closer to work, and lived in a cute, semi-walkable town.  I was on Cloud 9.  My apartment was affordable (at the time), I was able to get my own cat, I had a huge bedroom, double closets, and they plowed my snow (woot woot!).  It was lovely.  I bought a living room set (well, a loveseat and an oversized chair/ottoman), and was able to furnish my apartment with hand me downs and things I purchased.  I felt so accomplished.  I was still in still (now grad, getting my Masters) at this point, so some of my bills were covered by student loans.  At the time, again this is what I needed to do, and it was fine, nothing overly extravagant, but I was living in somewhat of a fantasy in the respect that I didn’t yet truly know what it meant to work 40 hours a week, and pay ALL of my own bills.  Granted, I was working part time, interning part time, and was a full time student, so I was banging 50-60 hour weeks, BUT the money part just wasn’t something I was totally and completely familiar with yet.  Pros:  Queen sized bed (YAY!), complete freedom and independence, freedom to clean and do chores as I, and only I pleased (although I’m a very clean person), complete privacy (I lived in a complex and they could care less who you had over when), and the ability to begin to manage my finances and create a budget for myself.  Cons:  Truly, none worth mentioning.  I truly, 100%, from the bottom of my heart loved this apartment and I’m so sad I let it go after just one year.  Sad.

Overall Score:  A+

Second apartment:  Post graduate school, aka real life

And that my friends, brings us to the present.  My second apartment, and my first apartment after finishing my Masters.  My moving into this place, and my graduation coincided with one another, so it was truly big changes happening at the same time.  I had the opportunity to increase my hours at my job to full time (thankful!), no more interning, no more books, professors, papers, studying etc.  Welcome to adult life Michelle.  I found this lovely little place that just called to me, in the same small town that I was living in in the first apartment.  They decided to raise my rent for my new lease term at the other place, and I just didn’t feel I could swing it.  It wasn’t a significant amount, but in my mind, I just didn’t think I could do it.  In hindsight, and you’ll see why in a moment, I definitely could have and should have.  You know, all those shoulda, coulda, wouldas.  Anyway, I found this cute privately owned house that an older couple was renting the top half (separate apartment) out.  It seemed perfect…older couple, seemed cool, an apartment with a bit more charm than the first one (it was an older house with SUCH a cute kitchen), and a more walkable location.  Same distance from work and family, so that wasn’t a big deal.  I was in love.  I signed the lease, and in I went.  We were going steady for a few months then here we go.  They weren’t fans of the FH being over as often as he was for awhile there (going through a tough family time), and although it was only for a brief period, they didn’t like it, and let me know.  I felt watched, I felt cheated (they didn’t keep up on things they promised at the lease signing, but I failed to actually make them write it in the lease…FAIL on my part), I felt like I had no privacy.  And I didn’t.  And I really don’t.  I learned to really budget and completely control and manage my own finances.  I pay all the bills, buy all the food, take care of my cat and her costs, have a car payment, a cell phone, student loans etc.  Some weeks I’m left with $5 (literally) in my bank account.  Sometimes when payday is two days away, I have to make those last 20 miles in my gas tank stretch because I won’t have enough to buy gas until Friday.  This is real life people when you’re just starting out in the work world and not making $80,000 a year.  Sometimes, you eat Ramen for dinner.  Wait, am I still in college?  Pros:  Cute kitchen, a lot of amenities include, slightly cheaper rent than the last place); cons:  no parking on the street in the winter (surprise!), can’t have a lot of people over or make a lot of noise (this is how I feel), older appliances and structure so things are breaking, not working as they should, one closet in the whole place (yeah.)…I could go on.  Overall, I love the place, note a fan of the landlords.  Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to April.

Overall Score: B

As you can see, I haven’t given any of my living situations a horrible score; I mean I’m pretty happy where I am now, and where I was then.  A few parting tips for ladies living on their own:

  • PUT IT IN THE LEASE! I can’t stress this enough.  If you want something, ask for it.
  • Take not of quiet hours and/or guest policies before you sign
  • Know the snow/winter policies and procedures
  • Realize that an extra $40 a month may just be worth your mental health and sanity (and a bigger bedroom waaahhh)
  • Always stick up for yourself.  If you think something isn’t fair or not right, speak up!  Chances are they could be taking advantage of you because you’re a young lady renting on your own and they think you have no brains/courage
  • Invest in a toilet snake. Yup, I said it.
  • Learn to downsize
  • Save your money; you CAN move out! 🙂

I can’t wait to see what my next adventure brings.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my years living with female roommates and by myself, and wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I think it’s an important experience every girl should have before they move in with a guy or settle down completely.  Now, I’m ready to take that next step (into a two bedroom!) and live with my FH, and eventually H.  😀

Hope this helped someone out! Later!

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