How to Start Your Hoard

Surely one must be a large, strong, vicious dragon to start building a hoard, you’d think. Surely fire-breathing will be necessary, angry growly noises will need to become your first language, and hours will be dedicated to sharpening those razor sharp claws. After all, it’s not like some tiny, smoke-spewing, pale-scaled wyrm could survive the stock market, right?

As it turns out, you’d be wrong!

And that, right there, is the very first hurdle that you’ll need to spread your wings and hop right on over.

I’ve had many conversations with many fellow dragonkind, from juveniles still itchy from their fast-growing scales to elder dragons with spikes the size of lances. Surprisingly, fear of the unknown does not discriminate against age. But let’s make this entirely clear:

“Investing is not actually that hard.”

Shock! Horror! Surely not!

It is a very common misconception, and one that everyone would be better off without. Yes, investing seems scary, the stock market seems complicated, it all seems very daunting. But really, once you have the basics covered, there’s really not much of a learning curve. You put money in, you top up your stocks, and you log out.

It’s not like you have to pillage a dwarven city, kill its inhabitants, and then spend the next century angrily spewing smoke signals to keep the riff raff out. That would be complicated. And possibly deadly.

However, there are ways that you can make investing deadly, and there’s a very simple way to avoid this: Accept the fact that you are ordinary.

Accept your fate! Accept it! Can you predict fortune cookies? Do you have an anti-ESP result to predicative card games? Do you have dreams that come true? Do you win the lottery on a weekly basis? No? THEN DON’T TRY TO PICK STOCKS. You will fail, you will lose your entire hoard, your castle, your bond-mate, and then some story-teller will shoot you with a massive arrow, just to top it off. Seriously! Just don’t!

The stock market, on average, makes 7% a year, just by existing. The economy chugs forward, dragonkind makes advancements, inflation happens, and the stocks, on average, just keep going up. This is on a long-term basis, but that’s what good investing is:

  1. Long-term – go for the long-haul, there is no such thing as getting rich quick
  2. Diversified – buy the whole market, and you’ll make that same 7% return
  3. Balanced – have both the stocks that grow and the steady ones that rarely falter

Good investing, which does not in any way involve stock picking, is not scary. It’s easy, it’s routine, and cheap. It doesn’t involve banks, or an advisor. It involves buying the whole market, getting the 7% at very low risk, and living your life just as you already do.

But how do I buy the whole market, you ask? Surely that’d mean you already need to have a hoard the size of a dwarven city!

As a matter of fact, no it does not, because of one beautiful thing: index fund ETFs.

You’ve probably heard of mutual funds – big bundles of stocks that the banks hoard, but they’ll sell you a small slice of it (for a fee, of course!). ETFs, or “Electronically-Traded Funds” are a lot like mutual funds, except for a few key differences:

  • They don’t have managers, so you’re not paying the exorbitant fee for some bank-mad idiot who probably can’t predict the stock market anyway (there have actually been studies where literal monkeys choosing at random do just as good in the stock market as so-called “experts”), and
  • They’re computer-run, they automatically pick up new stocks, and therefore they remain consistently balanced, never “missing out” on any part of the stock market.

ETFs still pay dividends, they’re still publically traded, and they’re way cheaper than mutual funds, usually charging an MER (management expense ratio) of a fraction of a percent, compared to the 2-3% charged by most mutual funds. And in a stock market that makes 6 or 7%, cutting out 2-3% can be a severe drain on overall portfolio growth.

In fact, if you need a million to retire, you put in $10,000 a year, and you only make 4% versus 7%, this is what it can look like:

Years to Retirement at Different Growth Rates

At 7%, it takes 30 years to retire. At 4%? Forty-one years, or eleven years longer. In short, that MER can have significant consequences over the long-term. And this is why, overall, I very strongly recommend ETFs over all other kinds of investing.

But let’s get back to the bare bones of what we’re doing here.


The Basics:

Building your hoard is a fairly straightforward process, which can be broken down into five steps:

  1. Open an investment account.
  2. Choose your risk allocation.
  3. Choose your ETF allocation.
  4. Buy your stocks.
  5. Wait, and repeat step 4 on a regular basis, topping up each ETF based on your allocation in Step 3.

Slowly but surely, over years of repeating this process (and hopefully putting increasingly more gold) your hoard will get bigger and bigger, until it gets to the point where you can retire. You’ll never have to rely on a bank manager, or risk losing all your money. And at the end, if you want, you can take it all out, convert it into gold, and then curl up and sleep on top of it for a couple of days, just for the sheer pleasure.

…I take that back, that’s a good way to attract dwarves. And you know, get killed violently. Moving on…


STEP 1: Opening an Account

This can actually be one of the most daunting parts of starting your hoard, if only for the massive number of options that are available. But before you begin a Google search, which will ultimately scare you off, let me break it down. There are two main types of investment platforms:

  1. Bank-owned investing platforms, such as TD WebBroker, Scotia iTrade, or BMO InvestorLine, and
  2. Dedicated investing platforms, such as Questrade and Qtrade Investing.

The main difference between the two is this: One is primarily a bank. The other is primarily a broker. Banks are large, diversified, and tend to offer their investing platforms as a side-business to their bank accounts and mortgage operations. Dedicated brokers, however, are primarily about helping people invest, and so they tend to win the awards for best user experience, best customer service, and best fees. Banks generally also charge more than dedicated brokers, though this is not always the case.

If I were to recommend one investing platform over all others, I would recommend Questrade, for many reasons:

  1. Incredibly user friendly,
  2. Easy to put money in (just like any other bill payment),
  3. Easy to open an account, or multiple accounts,
  4. Excellent monthly reporting,
  5. No monthly fees if you’re under 25 or carry over $5,000,
  6. Buying ETFs is free, no commission, and
  7. Carrying both USD and CAD is hassle-free, no extra fees.

I have considered a TD WebBroker account simply due to the convenience of being combined with my banking, but it has yet to be able to beat out the advantage of absolutely no fees.

Once the trading platform is chosen (I recommend reading some reviews if you are unsure), the next steps are easier. You simply go to the bank branch or website of your choice, and you fill out the forms and hand over the appropriate information to prove you are who you say you are. Then, you choose your account. This, again, can seem daunting, but there are three main kinds of investment accounts:

  1. Tax exempt accounts – such as the TFSA or Roth IRA
  2. Tax-deferred accounts – such as the RRSP or traditional IRA
  3. Taxable accounts

For the average person making the average salary, it is best to first max out your tax-exempt accounts (which you can use as emergency savings and pull from whenever you need), and then max out your tax-deferred accounts (which you can’t), before you ever open a taxable account. For a Canadian, this means that you max out your TFSA, then your RRSP, and then you open a taxable account. So, wherever you are in that progression, open the account you need.

Just make sure you choose a direct-investing account, and not a managed account, because the whole point of this is to be your own DIY expert in investing.

You might have to wait a few days for everything to be set up, but that isn’t a big deal, because you’ll need time to….


STEP 2: Choose Your Risk Allocation

I know I said that ETFs are low-risk, but that doesn’t mean no-risk. This is because ETFs come in big baskets of similar stocks. For instance, you could choose an ETF that holds bonds. Bonds are very stable, very safe investments. They pay very little in dividends, but they always pay dividends. They are dependable.

On the other hand, you can also choose an ETF that holds high-growth American REITS (Real Estate Investment Trusts). Real estate is sometimes a bit wobbly, it can pay huge dividends in some years and barely force out a trickle in others. They are riskier, but they also have more potential for growth. Bonds don’t grow. They just sit there. Like rocks. Really stable, valuable rocks.

In short, most ETFs can be classified into two different categories:

  1. SAFE  – which consists of dependable, low-return things like bonds and preferred shares, and
  2. GROWTH – which consists of fluctuating stocks that can grow a lot in value, like REITs and equities.

Your risk allocation, which is your own to choose, is simply the percentage of SAFE versus GROWTH ETFs that you’d like to hold. As an example, a 40:60 ratio of safe to growth is considered a fairly conservative, safe risk allocation, which is recommended by most investment advisors for those in their mid-30s and up. If you’re younger (and therefore have more time in which to accidentally lose money and make it back later), you could consider a riskier ratio, such as 20:80 safe to growth. If you’re an elder dragon just retired to a nice desolate castle and worried about the longevity of your hoard, a 60:40 allocation might be better.

As a 22-year-old dragonette, I could probably slot myself into the “young and reckless” category, but part of me freaks out at the idea of losing up to 50% of my hoard if the economy tanks, and so, like a 50-year-old, I actually do hold a nice, conservative 40:60 risk allocation. Which, might I add, still makes 6-7% a year in returns. And I have not, at any point, despite Trump and Brexit, lost any money at all.

Once you have your risk allocation decided, next up is:


STEP 3: Choose Your ETF Allocation

Essentially, the idea here is to pick ETF categories that match into your risk allocation that you picked above, while also diversifying on a global scale. To give you an idea of what that looks like, here is my basic allocation:

SAFE

(40%)

Government Bonds 8%
Corporate Bonds 7%
High-Yield Bonds 5%
Preferred Shares 20%
GROWTH

(60%)

Canadian REITs 5%
American REITs 10%
International REITS 5%
Canadian Equities 19%
American Equities 14%
International Equities 7%

To be clear, your allocation can be more complicated or less complicated than the one above (more complicated is easier if you have more cash to buy with). For instance, you could choose to buy exactly two ETFs (this is called a “couch potato” portfolio, but is a very valid investment strategy), one that is safe, and one that is growth, such as a Preferred Share ETF and a Global Equity ETF.

Once that’s done, it’s just a matter of choosing specific ETF stocks that fit into the category that you want. My way of doing this involved a spreadsheet with different tabs for each category, while I did a couple hours of Googling and wrote down every ETF I could find in each category. I then sorted them based on their dividend payout rates and MERs and chose the ones with the highest dividend payout rates and the lowest MERs (logically, the highest return).

My information would be two years out of date and not especially useful, so I recommend that you do a similar search. Regardless of what you choose, ETFs rarely lose money over the long-term, and there is no “wrong” choice as long as you are choosing a diversified enough category. For instance, if you buy an ETF that specializes in British Columbia wineries, this will be much higher risk than a buying a Vanguard or iShares ETF that holds a huge number of American corporate growth equities.

I am somewhat preferential towards iShares and Vanguard ETFs, which are strong dividend-payers, and also to anything that specifically has “Index” or “Index Fund” in the name. However, your own research will indicate what you prefer, and I encourage you not to be scared by the influx of information. Look for these four things and these things only:

  1. The name and symbol of the ETF,
  2. The “dividend payout ratio” or the “dividend yield” or “yield”,
  3. The MER, or sometimes just “Expense Ratio”, and
  4. The price per share, which will be relevant when calculating how many to buy.

For an average investor, those are the only things you need to care about. Everything else is just window-dressing. Once you have your stocks and your allocations, it’s on to…


STEP 4: Buy Your Stocks

The first and most important part of this is actually putting money in your account. It can be as little or as much as you want, though some brokers have a limit that requires an initial $1,000 minimum deposit. Once you can see the money in the account, it’s off to the races.

Main things to remember when buying stocks:

  1. When you calculate how many stocks to buy, make sure you convert any USD shares into CAD, or you may find yourself with the incorrect allocation.
  2. It is best to buy stocks when the stock market is open (9:30AM to 4:00PM Eastern Time on weekdays, or 6:30AM to 1:00PM in B.C., where I live). In off-hours, sometimes there are restrictions where you are required to buy in “board-lot” sizes, which is generally either increments of 10 or 100 shares. This can also mess up your allocation.
  3. Leave yourself a bit of wiggle room if you are exchanging currencies, as exchange rates sometimes change and having a buy-order denied due to lack of funds is never a fun thing.

And the next part is easy. Take the cash you’re putting in, multiply it by your allocations, and divide by the ETF’s price to get the number of ETFs you are buying. For example, if I have $1,000 and I’m buying 40% of ETF 1, which costs $5.50, and 60% of ETF 2, which costs $14.75, I might do the following:

$1,000 – $25 (wiggle room) = $975

For ETF 1 = $975 *40% = $390/$5.50 = 71 stocks

For ETF 2 = $975 *60% = $585/$14.75 = 40 stocks

Due to rounding, I will end up spending $980.50 and having $19.50 in cash left sitting in my account (less than the wiggle room, which is why the wiggle room is important). Just make sure you use the price that is in the currency you are spending when doing these calculations.

Once that’s done, it’s just a matter of pressing buttons. In Questrade, for instance, I would:

  1. Log into the trading platform,
  2. Click “Buy/Sell”,
  3. Type in the Symbol for the ETF I am buying,
  4. Type in the amount of shares I’m buying,
  5. Choose the “Market” option as I just want to buy the stocks at the price the market is selling them for, and
  6. Click Buy.

Almost instantly, during trading hours, you will receive an “Order Filled!” notification that tells you that you are now the proud owner of an ETF. And that’s it, you have successfully invested!


STEP 5: Rinse and Repeat

Over the next few days after undertaking Step 4, you’ll probably feel an overwhelming urge to constantly log in and check on your investments. I encourage you not to. Investing is meant to be passive, and long-term. The ups and downs of a day are generally nothing over the long scheme of things. Log out, have a barrel of liquor of your choice, take a nice relaxing flight outside, maybe roast some knights, and continue with your life. At next month’s paycheque, that will be the time when you can log in again, because it’ll be time to put in more cash and top up your investments.

Time to build that hoard! Some prefer to do biannual or annual investments, but I generally prefer to get the cash out of my bank account and into the hoard ASAP, if only to avoid spending it on books or shiny things.

…I have a dragonish weakness for shiny things….

So go on and log back in. If you bought an ETF that pays monthly dividends (some pay quarterly and some annually), you might actually see that your cash balance has increased as well, like magic. Once you’ve put in your new investment, you should remember to add the current cash balance to the new deposit, and then it’s back to the calculations.

This time, you’ll need to add up the market value of your ETFs plus your cash balance. Lets say your stocks from Step 4 are now worth $995, and you have an initial $25 in cash (yay dividends!) plus another $200 that you’re putting in. That means your total amount is $1,220. Again, we have to multiply this by the allocation rates:

$1,220 – $25 (wiggle room) = $1,195

For ETF 1 = $1,195 *40% = $478

For ETF 2 = $1,195 *60% = $717

However, we already have stocks, so we can’t just divide this by the current stock price and buy more stocks – we wouldn’t have enough cash. So, instead, we have to deduct our current ETF values from the amount we want. Let’s say our 71 stocks in ETF 1 are now worth $400 and the 40 ETF 2 stocks are worth $595, and their prices haven’t changed.

For ETF 1 = $1,195 *40% = $478 – $400 = $78/$5.50 = 14 stocks

For ETF 2 = $1,195 *60% = $717 – $595 = $122/$14.75 = 8 stocks

We buy these, spending $195 (leaving $25 in our cash account as buffer), and we’re back to our same allocation. In some cases, you might need to sell some stocks and buy more of the other to get back to the correct allocation, and this is also fine.

And that’s it! If this same process is repeated, and more and more cash is funnelled in throughout your lifetime, eventually, you will reach a point where your hoard is large enough to truly be a hoard! It might be a retirement hoard, a new-hatchling hoard, a fly-free-and-travel-the-world hoard, but it will be yours, to do with as you please.

With an initial bit of courage and some dedication, yes, even tiny, smoke-spewing, pale-scaled wyrms can have a hoard that would make Smaug red with jealousy.

Wait, isn’t he already red?

We must be doing well then!!!

Finding the Motivation to Work Beyond the 9-to-5

Finally, it’s May. I’ve survived the hellfire that is tax season, my scales only a little scalded, my wings trembling only slightly. I’ve lived through 11+ hour days, 9PM curtain draws, and 5AM alarms. I’ve given up Saturdays and lunch breaks, traded sleep for time with people I love, and learned that free food is always amazing even if it’s food that I hate.

The end result of it all? A healthy fear of the words “this one’s a rush”, the experience of preparing over 200 personal tax returns while under strict time constraints and still keeping up with corporate work, and a lovely monthly report showing over 250 hours of banked overtime.

My hoard thanks me for all of it. The thing about working a ridiculous amount of hours is that you suddenly run out of time to actually spend money. My budget surpluses have exceeded all expectations. And that 250 hours of banked overtime? That will turn into a cash payout of about 1.5X my usual monthly salary, and a nice 13% boost on my expected annual income.

Was it worth it?

Well, that’s rather the question, isn’t it?

Working beyond the 9-to-5 is stressful, time-consuming, and results in a hell of a lot of trade-offs. Co-workers who have hatchlings had to do overtime at expense of time with their kids. On Saturdays, I’d hear tax partners get calls from their bond-mates asking when they were coming home. Another hour at work is another hour lost that could have been spent doing something else.

Another hour at work is also another hour of pay. In some cases, even more. Non-CPAs in my profession get time-and-a-half. At my firm, an 11-hour day earns an extra $10 “meal credit”, as does a 5-hour non-weekday.

At what point does that trade-off stop being worth it?

For me, the threshold’s pretty high. I am single, both bond-mate and hatchling-free, and I don’t even have the responsibility of a pet to come home to. I have no volunteer commitments, my hobbies are unscheduled affairs, and the most expected of me is attendance at weekly family dinners. In short, there’s no real reason for me not to be at work every second of the day, except perhaps my mental health or a lack of work to do, the latter of which is a rare occurrence in my workplace.

Motivating myself is a pretty straightforward process, because of that. All I have to do is think about financial independence, of finally being free of having to trade time for pay (and never having to do overtime ever again, I will admit). I think about someday being able to afford a house (when the markets stop being ridiculous, that is), and of being able to pursue any number of dreams, such as:

  • Starting a business and seeing if I like it,
  • Spending weeks hiding in beautiful, deserted places and just existing,
  • Writing whenever I want, instead of scheduled around work,
  • Going back to school and pursuing a Doctorate,
  • Volunteering for causes I care about, and
  • About a billion other things I dream of at night (and sometimes during waking hours, for that matter).

I once had a conversation with a professor. At the time, she was a single parent, a newly-fledged CPA, and was telling me about the hard-earned process that was her financial stability. I asked her how she did it all, juggling multiple jobs, a child, and the hard-won 3-year process that is getting a Canadian CPA designation, and she told me this:

“I made myself a fake business card, with “CPA”, after my name, and I stuck it in the corner of the mirror. Every day, I’d see it, and I’d think about being able to be home with my kid. I’d think about not having to work multiple jobs. I’d think about stability and being able to provide for him. And then I went and earned it.”

F.I.R.E. is far from a walk in the park. It’s not a flight bolstered by a summer breeze, or as easy as sparking a flame with lighter fluid.

But it is worth it. For me, it’s worth it for the freedom to pursue my passions. For her, it was worth it for the stability it provided her son. What makes it worth it for you?

Find those reasons, and stick them to your mirror. Write them on the wall. Tattoo them on your skin.

My reminder is a dragon – many of them, all throughout my apartment, in paintings, nicknacks, drawn on whiteboards, etched into this blog:

logo-design-1-cube-smaller

My dream? Being free to fly.

Where will your freedom take you?

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:

moving-out-listing

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
Contents
  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.