First-time Apartment Renter? How to Create an Airtight Budget


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Moving into your first apartment can be an exciting time. However, one of the most important things to nail early on is your budget. In the end, knowing how much apartment you can realistically afford is essential. With that in mind, let’s see how every first-time apartment renter can create an airtight budget.

The Importance of Setting a Budget

Without setting a budget and understanding the costs associated with renting your first apartment, you’re essentially going in blind. As those unexpected costs mount up, your finances will start to strain, putting you in a tricky spot. By calculating an accurate budget in advance, you can narrow your apartment search to those that fit in your comfortable price range.

Knowing Your Numbers and Setting Limits

In general, out of your total income, you should not spend more than 30-35% on living expenses each month. However, it’s important to understand that there are several costs and fees to consider besides your monthly rent payments. Let’s take a closer look.

The Main Monthly Costs for First Time Renters

Monthly Rent

Rent payments can vary wildly depending on the area and type of location you plan to move to. For example, the average rent prices for a 1-bedroom apartment vary from around $1,400-$3,500 across major cities. So do your research and see what the average rent is in the area of your choice – this way, you can be sure you’re not paying too much.


In some rentals, the cost of utilities is built into the monthly rent payment. However, they’re often billed separately. Utilities include electricity, heating, cooling, gas, water and even garbage disposal. The cost normally ranges from $120 to $350 per month in most major cities.


Whether you eat out regularly, order take-out or cook for yourself, food is an essential cost that must be factored into any reliable budget. Prices vary by location, so be sure to research how much things cost in your new area.

Internet and Phone

In this day and age, most of us are fairly reliant on the internet and our smartphones. As such, it’s important to take the cost of a monthly subscription into account when budgeting for your first apartment. On average, a typical internet bill will cost between $30 and $60 a month.

Miscellaneous Costs

Depending on your lifestyle, many additional monthly costs are worth considering. For example, laundry fees should be calculated if you don’t have your own facilities, and be sure to consider any subscriptions you might have, such as NetFlix. Maintenance tasks such as snow removal might also be charged, and if you have a vehicle, it’s essential to add in any parking costs you have.

Renters Insurance

You’re generally not obliged to take out renters insurance, but it can be a useful policy to have. It will cost around $12-$16 a month on average and can keep you protected against many disasters.

Building a Lump Sum for Your First Apartment

No budget would be complete without considering the upfront costs you’ll need to pay as a first-time apartment renter. It’s good to have this sum ready to go, as you’ll often be required to pay after signing your lease agreement.

Security Deposit

The security deposit is typically the equivalent of one months’ rent. This will be refunded after your lease has expired, as long as the place is free from damage.

First and Last Months’ Rent

In some cases, the landlord will charge the first and last months’ rent before you move in. This differs slightly from the security deposit, although the rent for the last month of your lease can also be used as a security deposit. This system can be good in the long run for both the tenant and the landlord, but it does increase the initial price of renting an apartment.

Application fees

Application fees go to the landlord and are usually used to cover costs such as running a credit check. The exact amount collected varies – around $30 is a typical figure, although, in some areas, it can exceed $200.


Some apartments are rented unfurnished. If this is the case, you’ll need to bring your own bed, tables, chairs, etc. So, as a first-time apartment renter, you’ll likely have to buy new items. This can add up to a substantial sum, so be sure to factor it in.

Moving costs

For out-of-state moves, prices can easily exceed $1,000 if you use a professional moving company. Even locally, you can expect to pay around $350 for a one-bedroom apartment on average. Of course, you can `make the move yourself to reduce costs, but factor in the price of van hire if necessary, as well as gas.


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