From Dorm to Apartment: Moving Tips for Young Adults on a Budget

August 3, 2023by Christopher Merry

Apartment Budgeting Tips

Moving from a dorm to an apartment is an exciting transition for many young adults. However, with this newfound independence comes the responsibility of managing your finances effectively. Creating and sticking to a budget is essential to ensure financial stability and peace of mind.

Evaluate Your Income: Start by assessing all your sources of income, including part-time jobs, scholarships, and financial support from your parents or guardians. This will give you a realistic idea of how much money you have available to spend each month.

If you plan to live off campus, you’ll need to indicate that when filing your FAFSA. The financial aid calculations are different for students that live in off-campus housing. [1]

List Your Essential Expenses: Make a comprehensive list of all your expenses, starting with the obvious ones like rent, utilities, groceries, and transportation costs. Remember to include other necessary expenses like insurance (auto, health, etc.), phone bills, internet service, and any subscriptions or streaming services you may have. Being thorough will help you avoid any unforeseen financial burdens.

It is advisable to aim for 30% of your income or less as your rent expenses [2]

Compare Income and Expenses: Once you have your expenses listed, add up the total and compare it to your income. This step is crucial as it will give you an idea of whether your income exceeds your expenses or if adjustments need to be made.

Cut Back on Non-Essential Spending: If you find that your expenses outweigh your income, it’s time to look for areas where you can cut back on spending. Consider reducing dining out or entertainment expenses, finding more affordable transportation options, or even negotiating bills and utilities to save some extra cash.

Prioritize Saving: It’s always wise to set aside some money each month for savings. Unexpected expenses can arise at any time, and having a savings cushion can provide you with peace of mind and protection against financial emergencies. Aim to save at least 10% of your income if possible.

Research and Negotiate Rent: When searching for an apartment, consider your budget and look for affordable options. Be realistic about how much you can comfortably afford for rent and utilities. Research different neighborhoods and apartment complexes, comparing their prices and amenities. Don’t be afraid to negotiate rent prices, especially if you find a place you really love.

Furnish on a Budget: Instead of splurging on brand new furniture, consider shopping at thrift stores, garage sales, or online marketplaces for second-hand items. You can often find quality furniture at a fraction of the cost. Focus on essential items like a bed frame, a kitchen table, and a basic sofa, and gradually add pieces as your budget allows.

Be Mindful of Monthly Subscriptions: Evaluate your monthly subscriptions and streaming services. Are you truly getting value from all of them? Consider canceling any that you seldom use or can live without. It’s also worth exploring student discounts that may be available to you.

Keep Track of Your Expenses: Regularly monitor your spending and keep track of your expenses. This way, you can identify any areas where you may be overspending or areas where you could cut back even more. There are plenty of budgeting apps and tools available that can help you stay organized and on track.

Review Your Budget Regularly: Review and update your budget on a regular basis. As your income or expenses change, make sure to adjust accordingly. A budget is a flexible tool that should evolve as your circumstances do.

Apartment living can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to approach it with a well-thought-out budget. Take control of your finances today and enjoy the independence of your new home!


Apartment Budgeting Tips


Consider Roommates

One of the most effective ways to save money when moving from a dorm to an apartment is by considering having roommates.

Sharing your living space with others not only helps cut down on rent and utility expenses, but it also opens up new opportunities for social interaction and support.

Splitting the Costs: By having roommates, you can divide the monthly expenses such as rent, utilities, and internet equally among yourselves. This significantly reduces the financial burden on each individual, allowing you to save money and allocate your resources more wisely. Sharing the cost of groceries and household items means you can take advantage of bulk discounts and sales, further stretching your budget.

Affordable Options: Roommates make it possible to consider larger apartments or more desirable neighborhoods that may have been unaffordable on your own. By combining budgets, you can aim for a more spacious living area, better amenities, or even a fully-furnished apartment. With more options available, you can find a place that suits both your financial needs and preferences.

Social Benefits: Living with roommates offers not only financial advantages but also social benefits. It can be a great opportunity to make new friends and expand your network. You can share meals, have movie nights, or simply enjoy each other’s company. Roommates can provide companionship and support during stressful times, creating a supportive and enjoyable living environment.

Considerations: Before deciding on roommates, it’s important to establish some ground rules and expectations to ensure a harmonious living arrangement. Discuss topics such as cleanliness, quiet hours, and the division of chores and responsibilities. Communication is key in maintaining a healthy and respectful relationship with your roommates.

Finding Roommates: If you don’t already have potential roommates in mind, there are various ways to find compatible individuals. You can reach out to friends, classmates, or colleagues who are also looking for housing. Many universities and colleges offer roommate matching services that can help you connect with others in a similar situation. Online platforms and social media groups dedicated to roommate searches are also valuable resources.


Consider Roommates During Your Move


Look for Apartments Early

The earlier you begin your search, the more options you will have and the better chance you have of finding a place that fits both your needs and your budget.

Starting your search early allows you to take advantage of the best deals and specials that landlords and property managers may offer. Many apartments offer discounted rates or waived application fees for those who sign a lease early.

By being proactive and starting your search ahead of time, you can potentially save a significant amount of money.

Looking for apartments early gives you the opportunity to thoroughly research and compare different options. You can explore various neighborhoods, consider commuting distances and transportation options, and find out about nearby amenities such as grocery stores, restaurants, and parks.

This extra time allows you to make a well-informed decision and find a location that suits your lifestyle and preferences.

Another advantage of starting your apartment search early is that you can avoid feeling rushed or pressured to make a decision. Moving on short notice can be stressful and can lead to settling for a place that may not be ideal for you.

By giving yourself sufficient time, you can carefully weigh your options, visit multiple apartments, and ensure that you find a place that feels like home.

To begin your apartment search early, start by creating a list of must-haves and preferences. Consider factors such as the number of bedrooms, amenities like a gym or swimming pool, and the maximum budget you can afford.

Use online resources like apartment listing websites and real estate apps to browse available options in your desired area.

Reach out to friends, family, and colleagues who may have recommendations or know of apartments that are soon to become available.

Word-of-mouth referrals can often lead to hidden gems or opportunities to rent from individuals rather than large apartment complexes.


Research Apartments’ Areas

When it comes to apartment hunting, it’s not just about finding the perfect unit – the location and neighborhood play an important role in your overall living experience.

Consider Your Commute: One of the first things to think about is your daily commute. Are you looking for an apartment close to your workplace or university? Take note of the distance and transportation options available. Keep in mind that living closer to your destination could save you time and money on transportation costs.

Safety First: Safety should be a top priority when choosing where to live. Look into crime rates and check the local police department’s website for any recent incidents. You can also visit websites like NeighborhoodScout or City-Data for detailed information about the safety of the area.

Explore Amenities: Take some time to explore the amenities available in the neighborhood. Are there grocery stores, restaurants, parks, or recreational facilities within walking distance or a short drive away? Access to nearby amenities can save you both time and money in the long run.

Research Schools: If you have children or plan on starting a family, research the quality of schools in the area. Look for school district ratings, parent reviews, and proximity to educational facilities. Living in a neighborhood with good schools can have a positive impact on your children’s education.

Check Local Events and Activities: Research the community’s social scene and cultural events. Are there local festivals, farmers’ markets, or art galleries? Engaging in community activities can help you build connections and make your new neighborhood feel like home.

Visit at Different Times: Try to visit the neighborhood at various times of the day to get a sense of the atmosphere. What may seem peaceful during the day might transform into a noisy nightlife hotspot in the evenings. Exploring the area during different times allows you to understand its dynamics and decide if it aligns with your lifestyle.

Talk to Locals: Strike up conversations with people who live or work in the area. It can give you insights into the neighborhood’s pros and cons, hidden gems, and any potential issues you may not have considered.


Research Apartments' Areas Before Moving


Don’t Choose the First Affordable Apartment You Find

Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t choose the first affordable apartment you come across:

Limited Options: By settling for the first apartment you find, you might be missing out on other potentially better options. Take the time to explore different neighborhoods, visit multiple apartments, and compare prices and amenities. This will ensure you make an informed decision and find the best possible fit for your needs and budget.

Hidden Costs: Choosing an apartment solely based on the affordable price tag without researching further could lead to unexpected costs down the line. Before signing a lease, inquire about additional fees or expenses such as utilities, parking, maintenance, or security deposits. These costs can add up quickly and impact your monthly budget significantly.

Lack of Amenities: The first affordable apartment you come across might not offer the amenities you desire. Consider what amenities are important to you, such as a gym, laundry facilities, or a swimming pool. Don’t settle for less if you value those features, as it can affect your overall living experience.

Safety Concerns: While affordability is crucial, the safety of the neighborhood should never be compromised. Research the area’s crime rates, talk to current residents, and check online resources for more information. Opting for a slightly more expensive apartment in a safer area can provide you with peace of mind and ensure your well-being.

Lease Terms: Leases can vary greatly from one apartment to another. Don’t sign a lease without carefully reviewing and understanding its terms and conditions. Pay attention to the lease length, penalties for breaking the lease early, and any restrictions on pets or roommates. Taking the time to read and comprehend the lease will prevent any unforeseen complications in the future.


Packing and Shipping Supplies

When it comes to moving from a dorm to an apartment, one of the most essential tasks is packing and shipping your belongings. Whether you’re moving across town or to a different city, having the right packing and shipping supplies can make a world of difference.

Create a List: Before you start packing, create a list of all the items you plan to take with you. This will help you determine the quantity and types of packing supplies you’ll need. Divide your list into categories such as kitchen items, electronics, clothing, and furniture to make organization easier.

Stock Up on Boxes: One of the first things you’ll need for packing is sturdy cardboard boxes. Don’t rush to buy brand new boxes; instead, consider visiting local grocery stores, bookstores, or even liquor stores to see if they have any boxes they’re willing to give away. You can also check online marketplaces or community groups for people offering free or discounted moving boxes.

Use Packing Paper: Instead of buying expensive bubble wrap, opt for packing paper or newspaper to wrap fragile items. You can find packing paper at most hardware or home improvement stores, and it’s an affordable alternative that provides adequate protection for your breakables.

Utilize Suitcases and Bags: Don’t forget to make use of your suitcases and duffel bags when packing. Not only does this save you money on boxes, but it also maximizes space. Pack your clothes, linens, and other soft items in suitcases and bags to make the most efficient use of your available packing supplies.

Label, Label, Label: As you pack your boxes, don’t forget to label them. Clearly mark each box with its contents and the room it belongs to in your new apartment. This will make unpacking a breeze and help you find the items you need right away.

Consider Renting Reusable Plastic Bins: If you prefer a more eco-friendly option or don’t want the hassle of finding and disposing of cardboard boxes, consider renting reusable plastic bins. Some companies offer rental services that provide sturdy plastic bins designed specifically for moving. They’ll deliver the bins to your current location, and you can simply return them when you’re done unpacking.

Research Shipping Options: If you have items that you won’t be able to transport in your car, such as large furniture or heavy appliances, research shipping options. Compare prices from different shipping companies or consider using peer-to-peer shipping services, which can often be more cost-effective.


Making the Most of Space When Packing

When moving from a dorm to an apartment, it’s important to make the most of the space you have when packing. Whether you’re moving into a larger or smaller space, efficient packing can help you save time, money, and stress.

Utilize Vacuum Bags: Vacuum bags are a great investment when it comes to maximizing space. These bags allow you to compress your clothes and linens, reducing their size significantly. Not only do they save space, but they also provide protection against dust, bugs, and moisture.

Roll Your Clothes: Instead of folding your clothes, try rolling them. Rolling clothes takes up less space than folding, allowing you to fit more items into your suitcases or boxes. Plus, it helps prevent wrinkles, so you’ll save time ironing later.

Fill Empty Spaces: When packing boxes, make sure to fill any empty spaces with smaller items or packing paper. This prevents items from shifting during transit and utilizes every inch of space. Remember, wasted space is wasted money!

Disassemble Furniture: If you’re bringing any furniture with you, disassemble it as much as possible. Take apart bed frames, tables, and desks to save space in your moving truck or car. Keep all the screws and small parts in a labeled bag or container so you don’t lose them.

Use Storage Containers: Utilize storage containers within boxes to maximize space. Plastic or fabric storage bins are great for storing smaller items, such as electronics, books, or kitchen utensils. They stack easily and are reusable, making them a smart investment.

Pack Vertically: Instead of stacking items horizontally, pack them vertically. This applies to everything from books and dishes to clothing and shoes. Stacking items vertically not only saves space but also makes it easier to access items without having to unpack everything.

Utilize Wall Space: Don’t forget about the valuable space on your walls. Hang hooks or use adhesive wall storage solutions to hang lightweight items like hats, belts, or towels. This not only saves space in your drawers but also adds a decorative touch to your new apartment.

Utilize Furniture as Storage: Choose furniture pieces that serve dual purposes, such as ottomans or coffee tables with hidden storage compartments. These provide extra storage space for items like blankets, board games, or DVDs.

Think About Optimal Placement: When packing the moving truck or your car, strategically place heavier items on the bottom, with lighter items on top. This ensures that fragile items won’t get crushed and that you’re making the most of the available space.

Donate or Sell Unnecessary Items: Moving is the perfect opportunity to declutter and get rid of items you no longer need. Donate or sell clothes, furniture, or appliances that you no longer use. This not only frees up space but also gives you some extra cash or a tax deduction.


Making the Most of Space When Packing


Tips for Safely Transporting Valuables

When it comes to moving, the safety of your valuables is of utmost importance. Whether it’s sentimental items, expensive jewelry, or important documents, you want to ensure that they arrive at your new apartment unharmed.

Pack with Care: Start by using high-quality packing materials, such as bubble wrap, packing paper, and sturdy boxes. Wrap delicate items individually and provide extra padding to protect against any bumps or jostles during transit. Label each box as “fragile” to alert movers or yourself to handle them with extra caution.

Carry Valuables with You: When it comes to your most valuable items, it’s best to keep them with you at all times. Whether it’s expensive jewelry, important documents, or sentimental keepsakes, pack them in a small bag or box and keep them by your side during the move. This way, you can closely monitor their safety and avoid the risk of loss or theft.

Secure Electronics: If you’re transporting valuable electronic items such as laptops, cameras, or gaming consoles, make sure to back up important data before the move. Also, remove any batteries and pack them separately to prevent accidental damage from power surges or leaks. Keep these items in padded cases or boxes to protect them from any potential impact.

Consider Insurance: If you’re moving valuable items, it may be worth considering additional insurance coverage. Check with your moving company or renter’s insurance provider to see if they offer coverage specifically for valuable items during the move. This will provide extra peace of mind knowing that you’re financially protected in case of any damage or loss.

Take Inventory: Before and after the move, take inventory of all your valuables. Create a detailed list, including descriptions and photographs of each item. This will not only help you keep track of your belongings but also serve as evidence for insurance claims if needed.

Research Moving Companies: If you’re hiring professional movers, do thorough research to ensure they have a good reputation for handling fragile or valuable items. Read reviews, ask for recommendations, and inquire about their experience with transporting valuables. Choosing a reliable and experienced moving company will significantly reduce the risk of damage or loss.

Communicate with Movers: Clearly communicate with your movers about any fragile or valuable items that require special attention. Provide detailed instructions on how to handle and pack these items. If possible, be present during the loading and unloading process to oversee the handling of your valuables.


Tips for Safely Transporting Valuables


Have a Game Plan for Your Move

Start early: Moving often involves more tasks than you might think, so it’s important to start planning and packing early. Begin by making a list of all the items you own and determine which ones you want to take with you to your new apartment. This will give you an idea of what you need to pack and what items you may need to purchase.

Set a realistic budget: Moving can involve various expenses, including packing materials, transport, and setting up utilities in your new apartment. Before you start spending, assess your finances and determine a realistic budget for your move. This will help you prioritize your spending and avoid unnecessary costs.

Sort and declutter: While packing, take the opportunity to declutter your belongings. Sort your items into categories such as “keep,” “sell,” “donate,” or “throw away.” This will not only help you reduce the amount of stuff you have to move but also give you the chance to make some extra money by selling items you no longer need.

Utilize affordable resources: Moving can be expensive, but there are ways to keep costs down. Consider checking out garage sales or thrift stores for essential items like kitchenware, furniture, and storage bins. You can also join local Facebook groups or online communities where people often give away items for free.

Pack smart: Maximizing space and minimizing breakages is essential when moving on a budget. Use towels, bed sheets, and clothes to protect fragile items instead of purchasing packing materials. Additionally, pack heavier items in smaller boxes and lighter items in larger boxes to make moving them easier.

Compare and save on services: When setting up utilities like internet service or renters insurance for your new apartment, take the time to research and compare different providers. Look for student discounts or bundled services that can help you save money in the long run.

Ask for help: Moving doesn’t have to be a one-person job. Reach out to friends or family members who can lend a helping hand. Not only will this make the process faster and more efficient, but it can also be a fun bonding experience.

Take advantage of student benefits: As a college student, you might have access to various discounts and benefits. For example, some furniture stores offer student discounts, and streaming services may have special rates for students. Take advantage of these opportunities to save money during your move and beyond.

Master Movers is a Western Wisconsin moving company that offers moving at an affordable price. If you are looking for movers in Western Wisconsin get a free estimate from our professional moving company today.


[1] Dorm vs. Apartment: Which is Cheaper | (2021, December 16).

[2] How to Plan Your Move from a Dorm to an Apartment. (n.d.). How to Plan Your Move From a Dorm to an Apartment.

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