Understanding the Cost of Moving Out

The milestone of juvenile dragonhood – the big move, the big leap, the head-over-heels flight from the parents’ nest directly into the big scary world. Some of us manage it earlier than others, wobbling into our first independent den while still in our teens. Others stay in the nest much, much longer, living in dark basements until their scales gleam only in the light of violent video games (or so Millennial researchers would have me believe).

Others – like me – left the nest at somewhere in between. After completing a four-year Bachelor, and spending four months paying a very discounted rent for room & board to my parents, I got the itch. It wasn’t the first time I’d had it. When I first started college I seriously considered moving out, despite the fact that the campus was only a 10-minute bike ride from my parents’ place, but I eventually stayed with the financially-healthier option of living with my parents rent-free through my undergrad.

But here I was, September 2016. I’d just signed the employment offer for my new job as a baby accountant, ready to begin my CPA articling with a local mid-sized firm that paid reasonable money for an entry-level job. A new all-rental apartment building had just been finished being built, a mere block from my new workplace.

I fell in love with an adorable, brand new 480 square foot suite with an excellent layout going for $900 a month, and signed a year’s lease two days after the first viewing.

Entirely terrifying in about 3 billion different ways, let me tell you.

But I’d been planning for this since the first time I got the itch. I had spreadsheets detailing every possible item I’d need to buy, from couch to flatware to bathroom plunger. I had savings set aside for just this very moment, with some smaller things already accumulated in boxes beneath my bed.

As evidence, here, you can see the (yes, absolutely ridiculous, I know) spreadsheet:


You notice how the kitchen listing keeps going? It contains 107 items, no joke. This isn’t a very accurate listing, as everything that I already had or was given as a gift is listed at $0, but the estimated costs/actual costs of stuff I had bought or intended to buy was $5,916.30 per this spreadsheet.

Yep. I was planning to drop $6k on moving out, and that’s not even factoring in damage deposits and moving costs and that first big grocery trip.

And that’s why I’m writing this: Moving out is not cheapWhile yes, everyone experiences the urge to leave the nest, and that’s a good thing, a milestone in adulthood, it is very important that you do so smartly, if you have the choice, and that you understand that if you are going to move out, you need to build savings. If you move out and just end up building up credit card debt because you can’t really afford it, you will be a very unhappy camper, and moving back in with your parents is never a fun decision.

And let me make this abundantly clear to you – I under-estimated the cost of moving out. Even with the spreadsheets, even with tons of research and talking to half-a-dozen adults about the kind of costs I’d encounter, I was still surprised by the final cost:

Deposit $ 450 Half month’s rent
Moving Costs 136 U-haul rental & pizza for family/friends who helped
First Grocery Trip 640 $111.50 of this is just for spices
  Living Room 2,326 Couch, coffee table, side table, storage unit, bookshelf, art
  Washer/Dryer 1,905 The convenience is worth every penny
  Queen Bed 1,252 Bed frame, mattress, bedding
  Kitchen Stuff 1,259 Dining set, small appliances, pot set, utensils, dishes, bakeware
  TV 872 Screen, speakers, Apple TV, TV stand
  Random 493 Vacuum, lamps, coasters, hangers, screwdriver, door mat, mop, broom, ironing board, other household
  Bathroom 234 Towels, shower curtain, mat, bin, soap dish, toothbrush cup
Total Contents $ 8,341
TOTAL $ 9,567  

It is remarkable how fast it can all add up, and this doesn’t even include the hidden costs of moving out – utilities setup fees,  apartment insurance, etc. On top of that, I didn’t even buy everything on my list! I didn’t get a gaming system, or a popcorn popper, and I still do all my baking by hand because I couldn’t justify to myself the cost of a mixer.

Yeah, I know, kneading bread by hand is definitely a first world problem.

But here’s my point – MOVING OUT IS EXPENSIVE. And it is not something you should do on a whim, or when you’re not financially stable.

I do understand however, that not everyone gets an actual choice about moving out. My parents were great about it, to the point that I actually had to low-key convince them to let me leave (oldest child, difficult to accept they’re all grown up, from what I understand). But I’ve met people who were kicked out at sixteen, or who left abusive homes, or who had to leave town for post-secondary because their city was too small to offer a good education. And for those people, I have recommendations:

1. Nix the Unimportant Things

If your building has a laundry room, don’t get a washer/dryer. My building charges $25 per month for laundry, so it’ll take 6.35 years for my washer/dryer to break even. I bought them because I valued the convenience, not because it was a good financial decision. Also, you can cut down a lot of other things – do you really need a dining set? Won’t you just eat on the couch? Do you really need a bundt cake pan? Can you make due with camping-quality silverware for a few years?  Can you handle sleeping on a camp cot (super comfy by the way) for a while? My aunt actually slept on a cot for over a year before she decided she was actually staying in the city she’d moved to and bought a proper bed, and now the cot is a very convenient stored-away guest bed.

2. Cut Costs Where You Can

Check out thrift stores! I found my TV stand for a whole 15 bucks at Value Village, and while it needed a little love, it was not difficult to refurbish. Tons of my kitchen supplies – glasses, baking sheets, plates – are from thrift stores as well. Browse your local Craigslist or look on Facebook for local shop & swap pages as well. I was able to find my compact, solid-wood dining set for $60 that way. I hit up a lot of garage sales as well, as was able to find plenty of good-quality kitchen items.

3. Look for Free Stuff

If you’re thinking of moving out, the first thing you should do is tell as many people as possible. You’ll be amazed how many of your friends and family will have random shit stored in their garages or closets that they’d love to give away. I got an iron from my aunt, was offered multiple used couches, and my great-aunt offered me a free pick from anything at her garage sale. Also – if you’re in school, and you have exchange student friends, they are going to have accumulated a lot of stuff that they don’t have space for when they fly back home. The campus rez will often have tables of household objects sitting out for free at semester-end. As another option, take a drive around some of the residential neighbourhoods in your city and pick up free stuff left out on the curb, or browse the free section of your local Craiglist or Kijiji!

4. Get a Roommate

If you move in with someone else, most of the time, all of the common areas will already be furnished and fully-supplied. All you’ll have to do is bring your wardrobe, hygiene products and maybe a bed, if there’s not already one there. If you’re moving in to a new unfurnished place with a roommate, it’ll also be cheaper, since you can split the cost. However, I would caution against going halvsies when buying things like couches and TVs, if only to avoid the inevitable conflict when one of you moves out. It’s easier to have one person buy one thing and the other buy something else of similar cost, so that the “Hey, I paid for half of that!” argument never comes up.

5. Choose Cost over Quality

I was reluctant to recommend this one, because buying low-quality items tends to create long-term financial pain, but I’ll say it anyway. If you’re in a bad situation and you need to move out ASAP, savings or no savings, don’t go shopping for a couch based on its longevity. Choose a cheap one, and GTFO. Part of the reason my moving-out cost is so high is because I chose to buy higher-quality, new items that I believe will still be in good shape in 10-15 years. But I also bought some cheaper things. My $35 coffee table is from IKEA and was described by my dad as “the cheapest thing I’ve ever seen”, but I fully intend to replace it with a collection-storing table for my rock collection someday, so it didn’t make sense to buy a better one.

And that’s it. That’s as prepared as I can feasibly make you for the leap from the nest. Save. Plan. Proceed with caution. I wish you the absolute best of luck, but remember, you’re probably going to forget something, so keep some cash in backup.

There’s nothing quite as awful as staring at a clogged toilet in your new apartment and realizing that you’re broke as hell and forgot to buy a damn plunger.

Yep. Someone’s been there.

Don’t be that person, fellow dragon. Really. Don’t.