Moving to the City After College? What to Expect- apartments, moving costs, and more!

Photo by Antonio Gabola on Unsplash

After anxiously awaiting my move to the windy city of Chicago for many months, I have finally made it! Moving day was nothing short of an adventure, so I’m sharing my experience in the hopes that others will better know what to expect for their big city move.

This is my first apartment out of college, so my aim was to keep this move as low-budget and hassle free as possible. I’ll talk about some money-saving tips as well as the expenses you should plan for when planning your move.

Apartment Hunting

Real Estate Agents

Luckily, in Chicago, real estate agents get paid by the property management company or landlord rather than the renter. This allowed me to use a real estate agent to manage my search and show me properties I was interested in. My agent was an alumna from my alma mater, so I knew I could trust her, and she had better insight into which locations I might like based on where people from my school usually end up.

If you can work with a real estate agent, I think it’s worth it because they have access to the MLS which is a real estate listing platform that frequently has properties that don’t show up on Zillow or the likes.

Apartment Criteria

When looking at apartments, I kept a mental list of non-negotiables that I would evaluate my options against.

  1. Location (less than 30-minute commute, close to grocery stores and public transportation)

2. Enough space for two people to work from home comfortably

3. Price (less than $1000 for my half of rent)

4. Washer and dryer in building, preferably in unit

When thinking about your non-negotiables, here are some more things that might make it onto your list that didn’t make it onto mine

1. Elevator in building

2. Closet space

3. Free parking

4. Heat/gas/other utilities included

5. Walking distance to work

6. Doorman in building

7. Separate bathrooms for roommates

Deciding on an Apartment

One of my biggest fears when apartment hunting was that I would miss out on a great apartment in the hopes of finding an even better one. Luckily, that didn’t happen. The last apartment my roommate and I looked at was the best one we saw and the one we ultimately ended up with!

The apartment checked all my boxes that I mentioned above, and it even had in-unit laundry, great closet space, a cute aesthetic (huge windows, hardwood), and an elevator in the building which were all nice-to-haves, but not necessities.

In general, I think that not settling on something is key because there is bound to be a great fit out there if you just look hard enough. Working with a real estate agent gave us an edge because we were able to see this unit the day it hit the market!

Apartment Costs (Even the Hidden Ones)

The thing I mostly focused on when it came to evaluating expenses was rent. Obviously, that is the biggest portion of housing expenses. However, it’s important to consider all the other expenses that are associated with moving and renting!

Monthly Expenses:

  • Rent: my rent is a little below the average for a two bedroom in Chicago, so that combined with splitting with a roommate makes it very affordable relative to other big cities.
  • Gas: gas powers my heater and stove, so it will likely be higher in the winter and lower in the summer.
  • Electric: electric powers my A/C, water heater, washer and dryer along with all my devices.
  • Cable and internet: free with my apartment, the building offers a complimentary package to all residents which is an awesome perk!

Overall, I expect my monthly expenses to total around $1000–1100 which is very close to my original rent budget, yay!

Moving Expenses:

  • Application fee ($75): Luckily my roommate and I only applied to one apartment, so we only had to pay this once.
  • Move-in fee ($400): some places charge a fee to move-in and it can range from $50 to a few hundred!
  • Deposit: although I’ll get this back once the lease is over, I still had to make sure I had enough money available to send this hefty check to my landlord.
  • First month’s rent: I had to pay this upfront!
  • U-haul ($450 + $150 gas + $33 tolls): my parents helped me do a DIY move, so we didn’t have to deal with movers. My company reimbursed this expense!

Moving Day

I mentioned that my parents and I attempted a DIY move in the busy city of Chicago. Moving from home and only transporting my belongings from college and a small amount of furniture, we thought it would be fairly easy to do ourselves. Although we were plenty able to physically move everything, we greatly underestimated the stress and complications involved with navigating a 15’ U-Haul through the streets of Chicago.

If I were to do it again, I would probably hire movers because they are much better equipped to deal with everything. Attempting it ourselves meant that we were rushed, disorganized and ultimately put a lot of physical strain on ourselves from moving such heavy items.

The other thing I would do differently is making sure everything is packed in a box rather than a bag or open container. I like reusing things and cutting down on waste, but every time I move, the open containers really make things more difficult than they should be and I never learn.

Making My Apartment a Home

Currently, my roommate and I are living pretty minimally. We haven’t received our couch, yet and we have not purchased a dining table. We are very intentional about what we choose to buy because we don’t want clutter and we don’t want to overspend.

Most of our kitchenware is second hand or things that we already had. There are plenty of things we don’t have, yet, but we are planning to buy as we go only if we need it.

When we first went grocery shopping, we didn’t stock up, rather, we’ve been buying based on what we need for meals for the week and are letting our pantry/staples naturally accumulate.

Overall, I’ve spent just around $1200 on furniture and household items since moving in. Both of our parents generously contributed some things, so a more realistic estimate adjusting for that would be closer to $1400.

Moving is expensive. Before deciding to move, I think that the most important thing to do is to be realistic about what the upfront cost could end up being and make sure that you have the means to cover that. Taking a minimalistic approach can help to cut down the initial cost and help smooth it out over more weeks and months as long as you are okay living without a few creature comforts for a while.

Two Cents with Julia