Moving Out on Your Own: Helpful tips to create a budget

After graduating college, I crashed on my grandmother’s couch for about 3 and a half years. I contributed about $300 a month to her monthly expenses.  I enjoyed having a large portion of my salary as disposable income. My grandmother enjoyed having extra money to travel and see Broadway shows.  It was a good situation for both of us, but I knew eventually I wanted my own place. Once I moved out, I wanted to make sure I saved enough money to handle my monthly expenses as well as any unexpected expenses that may come up.  

How much do I need to save before moving out?

Before moving out you will need to save enough money to cover your security deposit, first month’s rent and basic furniture. Before I moved out of my grandmother’s apartment, I needed $7500 to cover those expenses. These expenses could be higher or lower depending on the cost of living in your area and whether you decide to purchase new or used furniture.

Before you move out you need to consider savings for your upfront cost. You will also need to consider your income to cover your monthly expenses.

When I moved out, I had enough to cover all of the upfront expenses as well as a 3 months of emergency savings. When I moved out, I lived comfortably and was able to put a portion of my income toward savings.

Setting Up a Monthly Budget

Car Payment $440
Car insurance $250
Rent $1200
Internet $100
Cell Phone $100
Debt Payments $350
Gas $50
Groceries $0

Determining your Monthly Rent Payment

How do I get my first apartment?

Before beginning your apartment search, you need to determine how much apartment you can afford. The general recommendation is not to spend more than 1/3rd of your monthly income on rent. So, if your monthly income is $3000, the recommendation is to spend no more than $1000 on rent. The real estate website   Zillow has an affordability calculator to help you determine how much rent you can afford.  

I recently wrote a post describing how to find your first apartment and navigate the application for your first apartment. That post can be found  on our site by clicking here.

In order to get your first apartment, you will have to determine how much apartment you can afford.

If you plan to move into a rental, you will need to pay a security deposit. For my rental this was one and a half month’s rent.  Since my rent was $1200, my security deposit was $1800. 

Budgeting for Monthly Transportation

A monthly budget includes some form of transportation. If you live in a large metro area this may include the cost of bus or train fare. If you drive a car this will include car payment, insurance, gas, tolls, & any parking fees.  When I moved in to my first apartment, my transportation costs were high. Parking was included in my rent, but my car payment, insurance, and gas  costs put my transportation budget at $700.

Grocery Budget for your New Apartment

The grocery budget for your new apartment will vary depending on how much you cook at home vs. how much you eat out. A good starting budget for someone living alone is between $200-$300 per month. If you enjoy gourmet food or purchase organic food than $400 would be a more liberal budget for groceries.

Debt Payments

If you are in the process of paying off student loans, personal loans, or credit card debt.  These need to be considered as part of your monthly expenses.


Cable, Streaming Services etc. are optional. However, at a minimum I’ve found most people need internet to be comfortable in their new apartment.


When computing your monthly expenses, don’t forget to consider your cell phone bill. A cell phone is a common recurring monthly expense.

Upfront Expenses for your New Apartment

Before I moved in to my new apartment, there were some things that I saved for before moving into my apartment. These included items such as security deposit, furniture and a television.

The table below describes my upfront costs for renting a one bed room apartment in New Jersey. I purchased my furniture new. These expenses can be reduced by purchasing some items used, or asking friends or relatives to purchase these items as gifts.  If you decide to finance furniture, this cost could also be lower if you choose to finance furniture and electronics.

Security Deposit $1800
First Month $1200
Bedroom Furniture $2000
Living Room Furniture $1500
Electronics $1500
Application Fee $50
Minimum Savings $7500

Furniture for your First Apartment

What Furniture do I need for my First Apartment?

When you first move in, at the bare minimum you will need someplace to sleep. Also, some living room furniture so that you have someplace to spend time while you are awake.  As you make your self more comfortable in your home, you can add additional furniture.  For instance, you would eventually need a table and chairs, but you may find it easier to invest in a set of folding table trays, then to buy a dining set. This set of trays available on amazon could be a good alternative to purchasing a dining set. amazon by clicking here to see the current price.  

Bed Frame or Box Spring  
Night Stand  
Sofa Table  
Side Table  

How much does it cost to furnish your First Apartment?

I spent about $3500 to furnish my first apartment. I purchased a bedframe , a mattress, a dresser , a Sofa , a love seat and  a storage ottoman when I first moved in to my first apartment.  I purchased everything new from discount furniture stores.

I crashed on a couch at my grandmother’s place, so I needed to purchase a bedframe and a mattress. I wanted something that would last for a while, that investment cost me about $800 and it paid off.  In fact, 9 years later it is in my house as a guest bed.  

Other items that you can add gradually as your budget allows are a dining set, book shelf, computer desk & other storage solutions. As you get settled in your new apartment you will begin to fill it with accent furniture that suits your lifestyle.

How Can I furnish my first apartment for cheap?

 To furnish your apartment for cheap, purchase used furniture.  The internet makes it easier than ever to find used furniture in excellent condition. I joined a local Facebook swap group and people often post furniture in excellent used condition for very affordable prices. You can get a great sofa for $100. I’ve even seen whole bedroom sets for as low as $250. You may need to hire movers, or rent a moving truck and enlist the help of friends, but you can easily cut the cost of furnishing your apartment in half!

You may also choose to purchase the large items new, and pick up accent pieces that easily fit in your car from swap groups. You can browse local swap groups or craigslist for accent tables, rugs, night stands, and art work. You will be surprised at the quality you can these items for a great price!

The one thing I would buy new no matter what is a mattress. For sanitary reasons, this is the one item that is not worth the savings.



The essentials are a skillet and a small saucepan, .

Bedding & Linens

Plan to purchase a set of sheets and a pillow for your first night in your new apartment.  Two towels and two wash cloths should be enough to get started.  When family & friends found out I was moving into a new apartment they would offer to purchase something as a house warming gift. Bedding and linens make an EXCELLENT housewarming gift. If someone asks if you need anything THIS can be  a good answer.  

Mimi D.

Mimi D is the creator of Dream Plan Smile. An NYC native, she is a wife and mom with a passion for crafting. She holds a Bachelor's in Engineering and a Master's in Project Management. In her current role as a working wife and mom, she is getting a crash course in budgeting, planning, & organization.

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