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Finding Your First Apartment: A Guide for Recent Graduates
06.19.13 |
By David Rudd, Eugene C. Fish Distinguished Chair of Business and professor and chair of business and economics

If you’re graduating college this spring, you most likely “left home” four years ago—but if you’ve been living on campus all that time, it’s possible you haven’t truly experienced living on your own. Finding your first apartment can be one of the most intimidating hurdles in the transition to life after college. Keeping a few important things in mind, however, can cut down on the anxiety of the process and help you know what to look for.

You won’t spend that much time there

When first starting a career, expect to be tremendously busy. While college students are blessed with intermittent breaks between periods of drudgery, the same cannot be said for most recent graduates entering the workforce. You’ll get about 20 days off your first year, including holidays, if you’re lucky. Understandably, your apartment won’t claim much of your time or attention after you’ve moved in. Mostly, it’ll be a place to eat and sleep.

Apartments on the market run the gamut from bare-bones efficiency rentals to spacious units with an onsite pool and fitness center. Don’t get roped into overspending on floor space and amenities you won’t have time to use. Work, not recreation, will be what sets the tone for your lifestyle.

Location and transportation

One of the best ways to maximize what free time you have is to cut down on the time you spend getting to and from work. When choosing an apartment, try locating as close to your place of work as budgetary and safety considerations permit. This will also save you money, given how expensive a lengthy commute can be. The best option is living within walking distance, which costs you nothing and provides some free exercise. Living close to public transportation, such as a local bus route, can also be an inexpensive option.

If you plan on driving to work, you should factor the price of gas, parking and other automotive expenses into your monthly budget. While cars are ubiquitous in parts of the country, it may be worth considering whether you actually need one. If public transportation can get you to work and supports most of your needs, you can save thousands of dollars every year by not owning a car. You can still rent one for those occasions when you really need one.


Many apartments come with essential furniture already installed. Those that don’t may be a bit cheaper, but you’ll want to consider how much it will cost to furnish an apartment yourself. If you don’t have access to inexpensive furniture, or an easy way to move said furniture into your rental, choosing a pre-furnished apartment may be your best option.

Perks of a college town

By now, you’re probably familiar with many of the advantages of living in a college town. In short, they tend to be culturally vibrant places with a lot to do for not a lot of money. In addition to the town’s offerings, most campus events, including entertainment and cultural activities, are open to the public at a very reasonable price. Consider locating near a college or university, if possible, to enjoy some of these enviable advantages.

Roommates and significant others

One tried and true way to defray some of your expenses is to find someone willing to split the costs. Sharing an apartment with one roommate or several is often considerably cheaper than living on your own—and it may be a necessity for affording rent in a high-cost urban area. Each roommate’s contribution toward rent and utilities is usually less than it would be flying solo. Additionally, if one of you owns a blender and the other owns an Xbox, you get to share and reap the rewards—provided you get along.

A couple special rules apply if your roommate is also your significant other. If you’re living together and (perhaps) in it for the long haul, try to build your monthly budget around just one person’s income and bank the other one. Your expenses will never again be as low as they are now, before marriage, children and other considerations swim to the forefront. Sound advice for anyone starting out on their own is to put as much into savings as possible—living frugally now will help you live comfortably in the future.

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