This fall, I moved into my first apartment. I’m twenty-one and have moved from my family home to university residence buildings to room rentals in my neighborhood. And now, finally, my girlfriend and I have a little place to call our own!
When Meagan asked me if I wanted to move in with her, I was ecstatic. Not only would we get to live together, but sharing a place meant we could broaden our search in regards to our budget. We both go to school at York University in Toronto. And as most of you probably know, Toronto is incredibly expensive. Essentially, this move would be a great decision for our relationship and our finances. Our goal was to make living in an unaffordable city, a little more affordable.
- How I Survive on Less Than $1,000 Per Month in Toronto
- Your Guide to Stocking a Home Bar on a Budget
- How I Moved Across Canada on a Shoestring Budget
Meagan has been through many more moves than me. So this was definitely a learning curve. But, through our treacherous search and gradual house-making, I’ve come out of this experience with important lessons that will stick with me for any futures moves!
It takes time
Looking at an empty apartment and loads of suitcases when you first move can be overwhelming. Turning empty rooms and blank walls into a home might seem like an impossible task, but trust me, you’ll get there.
You don’t need to perfectly furnish and decorate the whole place at once. In fact, if you take it slow, you’re more likely to be able to find and afford the things you really want. The only furniture Meagan and I purchased before moving was a bed and side tables. Obviously, a bed is essential. So we wanted to ensure we had what we needed before we bought anything else we wanted. The side tables were fairly cheap so we added those to our order to make the delivery fee a little more worth it!
Make a list of immediate essentials
We had quite the hectic month before our big move which didn’t allow us as much prep time as we would’ve liked for saving up for decor, furniture, and miscellaneous household items. I decided to make a list of essential items for us as a guide to how much we could spend within the first few weeks of living in our new place:
- Comforter and sheets
- Recycling and garbage bins (moving tends to involve lots of cardboard that you’ll be eager to get rid of)
- WiFi router
- Shower curtain
These are pretty basic items, but nonetheless they’re important to remember seeing as we need to sleep, eat, shower, and work. Of course, this means we spent a bit of time eating our dinner in bed, but we made it work.
Like I said, it takes time. It can be frustrating to finally make your move and still have it not feel like home but patience is key in this situation.
Your apartment won’t be perfect
We went to multiple showings, and each unit had its own different pros and cons. What I instantly realized was that our apartment wouldn’t be perfect. Meagan and I made a list of wants for our new apartment before heading into showings. We were hopeful, but realistic about it:
- Accessible transit
- Nearby grocery store
- Good natural lighting
- Utilities included
- Maximum rent of $1400
After each showing we’d review our list and develop another list of pros and cons for each unit we visited. Keeping in mind location, costs, our impression of the landlord, and overall quality of the apartment, we were able to decide on a place that checked off the most of our boxes. And we ensured any of the unchecked boxes would be manageable by alternative means. For example, our apartment doesn’t have a laundry room so we located a local laundromat and asked my sister who lives nearby if we could do a load any time we come over to hang out (thanks Sarah)!
The apartment we went with cost a bit more than some alternatives, but we decided that its pros outweighed the higher cost. Sometimes it is worth it to spend more money (if you can) for the effect it will have on your life. Despite a basement apartment we viewed being $100 cheaper, we went for a place with higher rent because we know we function better in a well-lit place, especially in the colder months.
You don’t need to spend all your money
When I remembered the lack of furniture I own, I was immediately stressed. I wondered: how can I afford to furnish a new apartment on such a tight budget?
Well, past Emily, you don’t need to spend as much as you think!
The dollar store is a great place to start for household items. On our first trip we left with a broom and dustpan, drying racks, tea towels, utensils, storage bins, garbage bags, and a few cleaning supplies. This haul cost us about $30 and let us check tons of necessities off our list!
Plus, if you’re moving in with someone else you can sit down and decide how to divvy up the shopping fairly between you. Meagan wrote about how we combine (and don’t) our finances, which is a great thing to consider with your partner upon your moving adventure.
We also made sure to shop the sales when it came to furniture. You know that button on online stores that lets you sort the prices from low-high? Use it. Seriously, this was our first step. From there we’d check out the lower-priced items and read through their descriptions and reviews before making a rushed decision based solely on price.
You’re going to spend money on a bed frame regardless. As much as you want to see the lowest deduction from your bank account, you also don’t want to waste money on something insufficient.
Ask for help!
This is one the hardest parts of any experience, especially situations like moving where you know there is loads of work to be done. But if you’re lucky enough, let yourself lean on the people who are willing and offering their help. You won’t regret it!
Being city-livers, neither Meagan nor I have cars. But we were able to save money on moving vans by having my angel of a mom help us out with her car. It may take a bit more time, but it’s worth it if you have such an option.
Same goes for furniture. Meagan and I were eager to set up our office so we could start working from home right away! But a desk wasn’t in our budget at the time. Luckily, my brother in law had just replaced his desk and offered us his old one (thanks, Matt). If you know a relative or friend has furniture they don’t use, see if you can borrow or buy it from them! You can also buy used furniture from other places too.
Making your own little home is worth the stress
And I can personally attest to this. Despite the bumps in the road, having a little home to share with Meagan, as opposed to our past living situations, makes it all worth it. Overall, my moving experience has been stressful, but exciting.
Having great people in my life to help me take on this adventure was definitely a perk. But even if you struggle to get and/or ask for help while you’re moving, the lessons I learned from it can guide you! With a little bit of patience, even someone on the tightest of budgets can turn a bunch of empty rooms into a home.