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Tips for leaving home for the first time

So it’s time to move out at last! Perhaps you’re going to university, or you’ve found a new job away from home – or maybe you’ve just decided it’s time to be independent.

Flying the nest may well be the biggest life decision you’ve made so far.

Like many big decisions, leaving home for the first time happens only once, so it’s always daunting.

Here are some tips from other peoples’ experience that will help you make the leap with confidence.

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First steps: choosing your new home

To start with, you’ll most likely be renting your home. When choosing a place, ask yourself the following questions.

  • What’s my maximum monthly budget? (including bills)
  • Do I want to live in a shared flat/house, or alone? What can I afford?
  • If sharing, will I share with existing friends or ‘recruit’ flatmates once I’m set up?
  • Do I want/need a double or single room?
  • What areas am I interested in?
  • How close can I live to work/campus?
  • What are the transport links like? (bus/train etc.)

Now list the factors in order of ‘most important’ to ‘least important’. This can come in handy when it comes to making a final decision on a property.

You’ll probably have to compromise in a few areas, particularly where cost is involved.

If you’re lucky enough to have the money to buy your first home already, you can find out about that here.

Getting ready to move out

Leaving home involves a huge to-do list, and it can be difficult to know where to start.

Your priorities are:

  • Finding a home
  • Finding flatmates/housemates
  • Sorting out your belongings and deciding what to take and what to leave
  • Acquiring any necessary furniture not already provided
  • Acquiring any kitchen equipment you need
  • Preparing to move: getting storage boxes, arranging transport (will you need a van or is a car sufficient?), stocking up on essentials for your first week
  • Notifying friends, family and official bodies of your change of address
  • Getting spare keys cut – give a set to a family member or trusted friend in case you lose yours

Set a reminder on your phone and give yourself one small job each day. Make sure the job fits in with your schedule and is achievable.

Last but most importantly, make sure you create a physical file for all your vital documents.

This will include your property documents (e.g. your signed contract, proof of deposit, utility bills and any other paperwork), but also things like bank statements, pay slips, insurance policies, birth certificate, passport and so on.

Part of living independently is knowing where to find any necessary document at a moment’s notice!

I’ve moved out: what now?

Now comes the fun part: making your home your own.

If you’re renting, speak to your landlord about what is/isn’t allowed when it comes to decorations, to make sure you don’t breach the contract (this could put your deposit at risk). Some landlords are more flexible than others.

Getting set up with internet and Wi-Fi will most likely be a priority – be sure to shop around to get the best deal, now that you’re the bill payer.

If you’re a student (and even if not) you may want to consider your working space. Make sure you have enough room for your desk, plenty of storage for books and good lighting.

Resist the temptation to have a massive blow-out housewarming party in your first week.

Get to know your new home first, and introduce yourself to any neighbours.

When the time does come for your party, tell the neighbours (even invite them) to minimise the chances of upsetting anyone. Making enemies is not the best way to start!

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Food shopping and housekeeping

Your first food shop will probably be the biggest one you need to do.

Write a shopping list with your essential food items, as well as the staple, versatile ingredients you’re most likely to use.

Buy all your herbs and spices, condiments and sauces now, and these should last you for a good few months.

Food may be on a tight budget, so it’s a good idea to make a weekly meal plan when you start, and buy only the ingredients you need for that (this minimises waste).

Also stock up on bathroom toiletries (shampoo, soap, toothpaste, loo roll etc) and on cleaning products, bin bags and other essentials. These are easy things to forget about!

If you’re in a house share, you may want to split the cost of shared items like cleaning products, toilet tissue and so forth.

A rota of household chores is also a very good idea – though it can be hard work getting people to stick to it.

How to lead a healthy lifestyle

Your health and wellbeing are important, so you need to make this a priority when you move out. 

Register with your local dental practice and doctor’s surgery. This is free to do and will only take a matter of minutes.

You can find which surgeries you’re eligible to register at through the NHS website. Remember to check what form of identification and proof of address you need before going along. 

If you do get ill, even if it’s just a cold, make sure you know what medicines to buy in each case, and how often to take them.

For anything more serious than a cold, make sure someone knows you’re poorly, and see a doctor if you think you need to.

A lot of minor health issues among newly independent people can simply be down to a poor diet, so make sure yours includes enough fresh fruit and veg.

Managing your money living away from home

One of the trickiest parts of living independently is being wholly responsible for your own budget.

When trying to make you money stretch, consider the following:

  • The cost of rent
  • How much you spend on food
  • Utilities (gas, electricity, water etc.)
  • Petrol or transport costs
  • Other essentials (phone bill, internet etc.)
  • Non-essentials (social and leisure activities)

In your first couple of months, keep track of what these are costing you and see how well it compares to your income / savings / loan.

You’ll then be able to see if your currently level of spending is sustainable, or whether you need to rein in your finances.

Switching utility providers may be one way of saving money, as is changing your mode of transport.

For more tips, read our article on renting your home.

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About the author
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.