Last summer, I decided to stay in Washington, D.C. to intern instead of returning home for break. This meant I had to venture out of my college dorm and lease my very first apartment! Even though I knew leasing an apartment would be more expensive than living at home for the summer, I wanted to take advantage of the internship opportunities in the city and had two really good friends who would split the apartment with me.
As it turns out, living on my own outside of a dorm room came with a lot of unexpected surprises and challenges. Leasing my first apartment—even with two friends—ended up being a much more challenging and expensive endeavor than I ever imagined. Because I didn’t budget for a lot of unexpected expenses that came up, I ended up having to get a second internship and a part-time job in order to pay for everything and have enough money for my upcoming semester abroad. I don’t necessarily recommend working three jobs in one summer for the sake of your sanity, which is why I wanted to write this article to help other young people realistically budget for their first apartment.
Here are nine unexpected expenses to expect when renting your first apartment:
1. Application fee:
Before you can even get an apartment, you have to apply for one. Every apartment is different, but I believe the application fee for mine was about $65 per person. This was just to get approved for a lease.
2. Security deposit:
Once you get approved for a lease, you have to pay a security deposit before you can move in. Even though you will (hopefully) get this money back by the end of the lease, it can be a large sum of money if you didn’t plan for it. For my apartment, we had to pay $250 for the security deposit.
3. First month’s rent up-front:
Before you can get your keys, you have to pay the first month’s rent up-front. This is important to keep in mind if you are relying on a summer internship or job to pay for your rent. Some apartments even require two months rent up-front, so it is important to know what to expect before signing a lease.
4. Moving fees:
Let’s just say I was about 0% prepared when it came to physically moving my stuff into my new apartment, which was a couple miles away from my university dorm. I didn’t really have any plan—I just assumed I would find someone with a car to help me. Unfortunately, everyone was busy with finals, and my family couldn’t come down to help me. I ended up panicked in my dorm room at 11PM the night before I was supposed to move because I still had no idea what I was going to do.
I ended up booking a U-Haul and hiring a moving service last-minute. I had never even driven in Washington, D.C. before, but there I was, driving a giant U-Haul around the city the next day. Even though I had packed my stuff into large cardboard boxes, I realistically couldn’t carry it all by myself, especially living on the sixth floor of my dorm hall. Between paying for the U-Haul (don’t be fooled by the $20 rental price they advertise), the moving service and packing boxes, just physically transporting all my stuff from my dorm room into my new apartment ended up costing me around $300.
5. Renter’s insurance:
I never knew renter’s insurance existed, but I still had to pay it before I could move in. Although rental insurance is usually a fairly low fee paid each month, it’s still an annoying expense if you didn’t financially (and mentally) plan for it.
6. Laundry room fee:
Unless you are lucky and have a washing machine and dryer in your apartment, you will also have to pay to do laundry when you live in an apartment. It costs about $3.50 to wash and dry one load ($1.75 per machine).
Sadly, water is no longer free. Neither is Wi-Fi or heat. Be prepared to pay a monthly utility bill.
8. Kitchen and bathroom necessities:
Unless you plan on eating ramen every day, you will probably have to buy some things for your kitchen. When I moved into my apartment, my roommates and I had to take a big trip to Target and purchase necessities such as plates, knives, forks, spoons, pans, pots and a toaster. You will also have to buy some cleaning supplies and basic kitchen commodities, such as dish soap, dishwasher soap, paper towels and trash bags. When it comes to your bathroom, you’ll at least have to buy toilet paper, toilet cleaner, a shower curtain and shower hooks.
9. Last but not least, furniture!
It was really shocking moving into my apartment on the first day and realizing it was 100% empty. No furniture. No couch, no tables, not even a bed. My roommates and I literally ate our meals off a large cardboard box for our first week before we had a chance to get a real table. Even though we could find cheap used furniture from other college students through social media, we had no reliable means of transporting anything since we lived in the city. We were also interning and working during the day, so it was difficult to find the time to purchase and transport everything. We had to get creative. We were lucky to have our kitchen table delivered by the person who sold it to us, and I used an UberX to transport a bed I bought from someone online (the driver wasn’t very happy). For our couch, we found a local truck driver to transport it to our apartment. Between purchasing the actual furniture and then paying to transport it, we spent a ton of money just furnishing our apartment with the basics.
My journey from dorm room to fully functioning, furnished apartment was extremely rewarding but definitely not easy. Many of things I had previously taken for granted suddenly had to be paid for. Overall, I learned a really important lesson in the importance of budgeting for big life events and the challenges that come along with living on your own. It wasn’t an easy summer, but definitely one of my most memorable ones.