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"Looking for Your First Apartment? Here's What to Expect."

RELEASE: July 2002
CONTACT: Paul S. Richard, ICFE Executive Director

San Diego, CA. ""For many young adults, still living with their parents, the dream of being in their own apartment, a little privacy, or at least not having to share quarters with a younger sibling makes the added expense and effort seem worthwhile," says the nonprofit Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE), a San Diego based consumer organization. "Many younger, unsuspecting first time apartment hunters are in a state of shock because of the cost of rent, security deposits, utility, telephone and cable-TV connections and the actual move-in," according to the ICFE. Planning your finances for the big move means more than just figuring the rent payment into a spending-plan, a/k/a budget. There are many other expenses related to living on your own.

Importantly, if you are striking out on your own, you don't want to go back to your parents home for three meals a-day, so that will mean regular trips to the grocery store. Depending on eating habits, you should budget around $50 a-week for groceries, and this amount can be reduced through the use of coupons and planning. There will also be new household expenses such as paper products, laundry and cleaning supplies.

There may also be plenty of things needed, but not yet owned, such as dishes, silverware, cooking utensils, pots and pans, shower curtain, vacuum cleaner and maybe even ice trays. Needing these basic items many times catches first time apartment dwellers by surprise.

The biggest expense, after the rent, are utilities. Electric bills, in particular may fluctuate widely, from as low as $50 a-month to more than $150 a-month, depending on weather, how well the apartment unit is insulated, and of course, your personal habits, like whether or not you leave lights burning when you are not around. You may get an idea about utility expenses by asking your potential neighbors how high their bills are. Do this before signing any rental or lease agreement. Keep in mind the apartment location will affect your heating and cooling costs, so look for units on the east or north sides of a building to avoid afternoon sun.

Telephone and cable-TV service can also add up quickly. Telephone expenses may be controlled by not making long distance calls. Overall, phone service will cost about $20-$30 a-month. If you desire cable-TV, then factor in another $35 a-month, plus any premium channels you may desire.

Most apartment complexes include water and trash pickup in with the rent, but you should check to be sure, especially if you are not moving into a place that is not part of a complex.

Should all these added costs seem overwhelming and exceeds your budget, you may reduce them by finding a roommate, although be very careful who you choose. Many apartments require a lease of six to twelve months, which can seem like an eternity if you don't care for the person you are living with.

Overall, a two or three bedroom, two bathroom apartment, split two or three ways is much more economical than even a lesser expensive one bedroom unit. Additionally you will be able to share the costs of utilities and many other shared expenses, such as food and household cleaning items, so roommates are worth considering.

Remember also, renting an apartment requires, in most cases, a security deposit, usually equal to one month's rent and a credit check, for which there also may be a small fee, $25-$50. Other expenses may include, but are not limited to, off street or covered parking, laundry facilities, outside storage and renter's insurance.

All totaled, you can expect your overall cost to rent a $500 a-month apartment to actually cost about $1,000 a-month when including utilities, telephone, cable TV, food and other items. A spending-plan or budget will be very useful in keeping on top of expenses.

For more information on getting yourself financially ready to rent your first apartment, and help with setting up a one-page spending-plan, visit the ICFE's Web site at For readers without Internet access, you may receive the same information by sending $1 and a self-addressed, 60 cent stamped envelope to: ICFE Spending Plans, PO Box 34070, San Diego, CA 92163-4070

About the ICFE:

The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation).  The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely. 
The ICFE is an award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. It publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.

The ICFE became an official partner with the Department of Defense/Financial Readiness Campaign in June of 2004.The ICFE was an active partner in the California Student Debt Resource Awareness Project (CASDRAP) which resulted in a new web site: (  CASDRAP disbanded in 2010, shortly after the web site project was completed.  In 2011 the ICFE assumed the single sponsorship of the ( web site and is now responsible for its content and operation.

The ICFE is also an on-line help for consumers who spend too much.  ICFE's spending help was featured in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.

Visit the ICFE's other web sites at: and  Both sites helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G,  a free eNews, and an online resource center for students, parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools and a book store.

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