Hello, Independence: Life Hacks When Renting Your First Apartment

Your first apartment: your rules, your money — and your problem. Image from Pexels

Moving out of your parents’ house and into your first apartment or condo is probably a huge milestone for many young adults. It’s a step toward independence, nothing like that time your parents paid for you to stay closer to your university.

This time, it’s your money and your rules. But it’s also your burden.

Six months into my job, I figured it was time to move to Makati since I work in the area, and it had always been one of my goals to move here. When I condo-shared in college, I felt safe because I lived with people that I almost always had mutual friends with. But the thought of living in Makati with total strangers triggered my anxiety.

Luckily, one of my co-workers, Jean, was looking for a new place when her contract expired, and she suggested we move in together.

Day one, and we’re already wearing matching outfits. Photo from Jean Aquino

While there are some perks to living with one roommate and a 20-minute walk away from work, there are a lot of responsibilities that come with this independence. And before you choose to move out, you need to decide carefully whether these responsibilities are worth it for your situation.

Think everything through: price, location, and a selling point.

Nothing beats a secure location for your first apartment. Photo from Jean Aquino

For once, I understood why my mom always asked so many questions each time I moved condos in college: because she wanted to make sure she was paying for the best option. This time, it was my decision and my money; as an adult, it would be embarrassing to get my parents to bail me out if I suddenly decided I didn’t want to live in Makati anymore or I couldn’t afford to because of my spending habits.

While Jean and I were looking for places to stay, I considered three factors: price, location, and a unique selling point.

Price

I had a fresh grad budget, so a fully-furnished studio apartment in a high-rise condominium was out of the question. My mom recommends that if you want to save money, your rent should be lower or around the same amount as your monthly commuting expenses.

My rent is a bit higher than that, but I like to argue that I’m paying for the convenience of all these other factors and the fact that I no longer have to start my mornings rushing to get ready and then sardined into a UV Express for an hour and a half. If you can’t find an apartment around the same amount as your commuting expenses, limit yourself to a fourth of your monthly salary.

Location

The only places available that were close to my office were so expensive that the ads for places near the office that fit my budget were for a one-bedroom condo shared with seven other women. Grab is a useful app to have on your phone, but it can get pretty expensive. I have a bad habit where, if I get a bad feeling about getting on a public vehicle or I just don’t feel like commuting, I will choose Grab even if the price is 10 times what I will pay on public transportation.

So as much as possible, I needed to find a place near enough that I can walk.

Unique Selling Point

GIF via GIPHY

 

GIF via GIPHY

There had to be something about the place that made it stand out among the other choices. It could be the rent was inclusive of all utilities and dues, it comes with Wi-Fi, and it has a strong security presence in the area. I know that, with my salary, I didn’t have the right to be picky, but I really wanted my first apartment to be one that I would genuinely enjoy living in.

On my first job, I hastily made the decision to move to a boarding house. While the rent was pretty low, I hated that I was confined to a work week consisting of a cubicle in a job where I rarely talked to anyone and then going home to a bunk bed where I rarely talked to my roommates. It was one of the factors that drove me to quit, which was why I took my time finding the right apartment this time around.

Luckily, after going through several ads that didn’t quite meet my expectations, Jean and I discovered that one of our co-workers’ mom was renting out their apartment, and it fit all the requirements I had.

The price was just right, the location was not a tiring walk to work, and I liked how there was enough room for the two of us; security guards roam the area, and the location has everything I need.

Budgeting is more important than ever.

I now have set aside money for rent and utilities, and make the rest fit for food and other necessities. Image from Pexels

Because I’ll be using my money, it was important that I always saved enough to pay rent and utilities, and have enough for the other things I need. Before I got an apartment, I was the type of employee whose payroll account would diminish to a two-digit number days before the petsa de peligro without any savings whatsoever. I figured it was normal: I was a fresh grad, so I assumed older people in the office made more than me and couldn’t understand how someone can save money amid a soaring inflation rate.

But then I tried to recall my large expenses, and then I realized, for someone who doesn’t make as much, I do like to patronize Tokyo Tokyo, Subway, Wendy’s, Starbucks, Funko Pop, and online plus sized clothes stores. I realized I would have to stop this endless cycle of buying expensive stuff and then barely stretching my paycheck until the next one. Because now, I have to set aside a considerable amount for rent and utilities and make the rest of the money fit for food and other necessities.

Since this realization, I’ve noticed more outlets where I can start saving. For one, I’ve stopped eating fast food every day and tried to bring my own lunch to work if I can. If not, my friends have pointed me to affordable but healthy jollijeeep meals near our office. On the first night we moved into the apartment, Jean and I went to this nearby carinderia for dinner, and I was really surprised that a meal could cost less than P35.

I’ve also found ways to budget my non-food expenses, too. Obviously, I won’t be buying Funko Pops for a while. I don’t really like reading self-help books (because really, who reads 300 pages of some guy telling you how to save money?), but I’ve found some helpful tips on how to save online. For one, if you can’t buy something twice, then you probably cannot afford it. But don’t sacrifice price for quality on some things. And at the same time, just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth less. Some clothe stores, for example, can provide you with a full outfit for P500 or less.

No matter what you say, you’ll always want to go back to your parents’ house.

GIF via Tenor

No matter how far you are from home and how much responsibilities you have, you can always call your parents’ house a home. Whenever I got annoyed or angry at my parents, I would always say to myself, “When I get a place of my own, I’m never coming back home for weeks and they’re going to miss me and regret treating me like this.” And then, come Friday, I would leave the office as soon as possible to take the next UV Express back to Las Piñas.

People may have different relationships with their parents, but if your relationship is anything like mine, you know the feeling when it’s a Wednesday and you suddenly miss your mom and dad and everyone at home. It’s nice to have a place of your own, but at one point it will get quiet and you will miss the noise of your dad in the living room, your mom in the garden, and your sisters playing with the house pets.

Also, they let me take stuff for free. Hi mom, if you’re reading this, you’re running low on dishwashing liquid.

Before you even consider moving out, ask if you’re ready. Maybe not just in terms of finances or if you already have a perfect roommate in mind, but also if you’re ready to leave your home after so many years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.