5 Things to Think About When You First Move Out of Home
The move to university isn’t just a big educational step. For many people, it’s also the first time they move out of home.
The difficulty isn’t just in choosing a flat where the heating works and you can’t hear every word the neighbours say. There are a whole host of other things that you ought to consider when you move out of home for the first time.
Some of these things are purely practical; for instance, you’ve probably never been too worried about being locked out of home at your parents’ house, because eventually they’ll be home with a key. Once you’ve moved out, you might be stuck relying on less reliable flatmates, or becoming friends with a local locksmith.
Other issues go deeper. After all, when you first move out of home, you put in place habits for how you want to live independently from that point forwards. Taking some time to think about how you want your lifestyle to look isn’t essential, but you might be grateful that you did it later on. Think about cleaning your teeth as an example – most people were taught to brush as children, but not necessarily to floss. As a result, as an adult, brushing twice daily is second nature, but flossing feels like a chore. So if you want to get into good habits when you first move out of your parents’ house, here’s what we suggest you should consider.
1. How you’re going to manage your finances
Of any issue that could cause problems when you first move out of home, this is probably the biggest. It starts with the fact that there are probably a whole load of things where you simply don’t know how much they cost. Have you ever bought home contents insurance? How about a mattress? Or a microwave? Do you know how much a month’s electricity bill is likely to come to, and how much your choices to save or splurge can affect it?
For all that your parents might have tried to teach you about managing your finances, it’s hard to make it feel real until the money is literally coming out of your bank account every month – and for most people, that only happens when they move out. This is the point where it’s vital to set up good habits for the years to come.
It might be that your finances are pretty straightforward at the moment – for instance, if your parents still cover things like your mobile phone bill, and utilities are included in your rent. Under those circumstances, you might think that you don’t need a formal budget. But it’s still a habit that’s worth getting into, even if you take no other advice from this list.
Like it or not, the way you manage your finances is likely to echo the way your parents manage theirs unless you take conscious steps to change that. Are they inclined to spend money as soon as they get it? Watch out for the same impulse in yourself. Or do they deny themselves essentials for the sake of saving a few extra pennies? You might find yourself carrying on these Scrooge-like tendencies unless you deliberately choose to be more generous.
You should also think about your own personality and foibles. For instance, if you have cash in your pocket, are you more inclined to spend it than when it’s ‘invisible’ in your bank account? If so, an approach to finances that’s based on withdrawing your spending money for the month all in one go is not going to be right for you. By contrast, for some people, spending money on a debit or credit card feels less real than spending cash; if that’s you, trying to use cash instead of plastic might be a more sensible approach.
Beyond that, the basics of budgeting are not complicated. Figure out how much money you have, and don’t spend more than that in any given month if at all possible. If there’s anything left over, prioritise saving for a rainy day over treats. This is – of course – easier said than done, especially if your friends have more money than you do, but a sensible budget that takes your lifestyle and personality into account is a good first step.
2. What kind of relationship you want with your flatmates
A lot of the relationship you have with your flatmates will be determined by who your flatmates are. You’re much more likely to arrange parties and cook meals with flatmates who were your friends to start with in comparison with flatmates who are strangers, for instance. But beyond this, there are still a whole heap of decisions to be made.
How you divide the chores will be one of the biggest questions – for instance, if some of you have more time and some of you have more money, could the time-rich people do more chores in exchange for the money-rich people paying more rent? Will different people have different chores – one of you always does the bins while another does the hoovering – or will you each do all of the chores on a rotating cycle? Obviously, you won’t get to decide this unilaterally, but it’s still good to have an idea of what might best suit you for when the discussion comes up.
There’s also a danger with moving in with strangers – especially if you’re not all first-year university students in the same boat – that they’ll stay strangers year-round, and you’ll wind up in a house where no one shares the milk and you’re not entirely sure if anyone’s living in room 6, let alone what their name might be. You can tackle that danger head on by being friendly from the start. When you first move in, you’ll naturally want to get your things unpacked and perhaps go out for a meal with your parents before waving them off. But it’s worth delaying the unpacking if not the meal in order to exchange a few friendly words with your flatmates. It’ll set a good precedent for the rest of the year, and means that if you have to ask them to turn the music down at 3am a week later, at least it won’t be the first time you’ve had a proper conversation.
Similarly, if you want to do any flatmate activities like cooking and eating a weekly meal together, it’s best to get it set up early. Most people like the idea of this sort of thing but bow out at the effort of getting it organised. Make it a habit while you’re all still enthusiastic at the start of term, before essay deadlines start to get in the way.
4. How often you’re going to see or contact your parents
This is another question that will be determined by circumstances as much as by your own decisions. If your parents are ten miles away, you’re likely to see them a whole lot more than if they’re a hundred or a thousand miles away. If you have older siblings, they might also have helped set your parents’ expectations for the level of contact with their children who have moved out.
But beyond this, it is up to you to make some decisions and, if necessary, set some boundaries about when and how you’ll be seeing or contacting them. For instance, would you welcome surprise visits? Most university students wouldn’t, so if your parents like surprises, make it clear to them that if they visit without giving you some notice, they’re likely to find that you’ll be in the library with a coursework deadline all weekend.
Do remember that your parents will also be having feelings about you moving out, especially if you’re the first of your siblings to do so, or you’re leaving them with an empty nest. It can be better to say that you’ll visit every other month and then stick to it, than to give in to their requests that you come home monthly, and then end up needing to cancel more often than not.
Similarly, let your parents know how you’d like them to contact you. Many students have had the horror of receiving a missed call and a text that says, “please call us urgently!” only to ring up and learn that the dog’s still alive, the house hasn’t burned down, and your parents were just worried because they hadn’t heard from you in a while. Suggesting that under these circumstances, the text should read, “we haven’t heard from you in a while – are you OK?” can make a world of difference to your blood pressure. It’s the case for most people that their parents simply want to see and hear from them regularly, so do your best to figure out a way to make that happen that works for all concerned.
5. What expenditure is essential for you
Hopefully, you’ve worked this out in your budget, but it’s something that you might well not have thought about. There are a whole lot of things that your parents might choose to spend money on that you probably take for granted, but that you might be able to do without.
Here are a few: sports packages such as Sky Sports; other TV options, up to and including having a TV (and therefore TV licence) at all; various types of insurance; gym membership (which your university might offer for free); car costs such as regular washes or owning a car at all; subscriptions such as magazine and newspaper subscriptions; manicures.
You can probably think of more yourself. You might think of all of these as optional luxuries, or as essential parts of your lifestyle. What matters is that you’ve taken the time to think about them. Moving to university is a big lifestyle change in its own right, which can make it a good time to throw in a few more lifestyle changes while you’re at it. After all, chances are that even if you’re one of the rare students who brings a car to university, you won’t have time to take it to a carwash anyway. And if you do conclude that the newspaper subscription is essential, why not see if one of your housemates wants to share it with you and split the cost?
6. Whether there are any chores you don’t know how to do
Just as there might be bills that your parents pay that you’re not aware of, there might also be chores that they do that you don’t realise. Similarly, there might be chores that you are well aware of, but simply have never done.
For instance, if you’ve always grown up with a dishwasher, it’s unlikely that you’d have taken the time to learn how to do the washing up properly, because there simply won’t have been the need. But you don’t want to be the person in your student accommodation who’s using instructional videos in order to do the dishes.
Inevitably there will be questions that you forget to ask, and you will end up ringing your parents or googling frantically to find out how exactly you go about fitting out a car for winter, or cleaning an oven, or replacing the fuse in a plug. That’s a normal part of student life. It nonetheless makes sense to try to cut down on these things as much as possible, because it’s also likely that you’ll need to know some of these things urgently, and Murphy’s Law dictates that the most urgent disasters will happen when your parents are on a 10-day cruise with minimal mobile phone signal and no internet access.
Buying expensive, complicated items, dealing with repairs, trying not to be ripped off by letting agencies and salespeople, doing unpleasant chores – all of these are things that you’ll need to get used to once you’ve moved out of home, and that can feel daunting. You’ll also need to get to grips with your newfound independence, self-reliance and general freedom of being young and embarking on new adventures. Moving out of home is stressful, but it’s also exciting – and when you’re arguing with your flatmates over whose turn it is to unblock the sink, and relatedly, who broke the sink plunger, that’s something you’ll want to remember.
Image credits: driving away; grass shoots; piggy bank; eating together; phone; television; washing up