Finding Your First Place

Author: Alecia Pirulis

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You’ve done it – you’ve completed college and now you are ready to strike out on your own. The possibilities are endless – do you want to stay close or move far away? Do you want to find an apartment, a loft, or a house? Would the fast pace of a major city suit you best, or would you rather find a place in the suburbs?

Now is a great time to take a few risks, before life replaces your flashy sports car with a sensible sedan. But there are some things to consider – such as distance from family, finances, safety, and practicality. Here is what you want to think about as you look for your first place:

First, distance from family. Sure, you may think being all alone in a new city is exciting – and it may be, at first. But if you are close to your family, the distance could wear on you – especially around the holidays. If you think you’ll want to visit home frequently but don’t want to live in the same city, consider neighboring cities and states – try to keep your drive less than four hours and you can visit family and friends on weekends.

Once you’ve decided how close to family and friends you want to be, it’s time to consider the economic situation of your top locations. Do some research on average salaries, the unemployment rate, the cost of living, and the types of jobs available – this will narrow down your list of potential cities considerably, but don’t start sending those resumes just yet – there are a few other things to consider.

Those cities on your list may be great locations for job opportunities, but do they offer the types of recreation you enjoy? You won’t be working all the time, so consider your interests and hobbies when looking for a new location. If you enjoy skiing, are you near a ski area? If you enjoy surfing, are you close enough to the beach? If you enjoy going out at night, do the cities on your list offer great nightlife? What about museums, theaters, farmers markets, restaurants, and other features you consider important?

Next, consider your lifestyle. If you enjoy walking to work or riding your bike, which of the cities on your list are considered pedestrian- and biker-friendly? Is public transportation available, and what would your commute look like? If you’d rather drive to work, how congested are the highways, and what is the average drive time?

Safety should also be a factor in your decision. Do some research on crime rates and types of crime, and use that information to determine if you’ll feel safe in your chosen location. Also, do you prefer the anonymity of a large city or would you rather live in a small town where everyone knows you?

Now that list of cities you are considering should be much shorter, so go ahead and start researching apartments or other housing and start your job search. Keep in mind that you will need money to move – for the actual move itself and then for first and last month’s rent, the security deposit, the application fees, etc. at your new apartment; money to activate utilities at your new place; and money for food, transportation costs, and other incidentals for at least a month. Keep in mind that although you may start your new job as soon as you move, your first paycheck could be two weeks or even a month away, and you’ll need money to bridge that gap. Start saving now and you’ll be prepared for the big day — moving day!