Shortly after I got my first place I met Bae, and eventually I moved in with him. A lot of people don’t know, but he is not the biological father of my daughter Neveah. For the first year of Neveah’s life I was a young single mother. One of the hardest things for me as a young single mother was trying to get my own place. I’m going to write some helpful tips not only on getting your first place, but how to budget in order to get to that point. These tips are not just geared towards young single moms, they’re also helpful to anyone who is young perhaps a college student or any single parent. I know the struggle of trying to find an affordable place to rent is all too real!
Look way ahead of time
Sometimes looking for the right/affordable place takes some time, so don’t put it off until the last minute.
Check craigslist, go to every rental agency and ask for a list of their available rentals, and look in the newspaper ads.
I searched for a good 5 months before I found the right place—a 500 sq ft one bedroom/one bath apartment for $495 a month in an okay area. Some people would say the area is kind of ratchet, but the apartments themselves were really decent for the price. It was just the people living in them that were not so decent. I lived in Yuba City, so the worst I got was some tweakers here and there, but even the tweakers in my area were surprisingly nice and never bothered me. 😀
If your not sure about a place because of the area it’s located in VISIT IT AT NIGHT. Take a friend or family member though of course just in case.
To roommate or not roommate?
This is a tricky one.
If you’re a young single college student, then most likely you’ll want to roommate. BE CAREFUL with who you roommate though, sometimes your bestie is not the best choice for a roommate. Things could go south real quick, so you want to choose your roommate(s) wisely.
I was 19 and a single mother. I had a friend who wanted to room, but I quickly dismissed that idea! Why?
Well, she was young, single, had no kids, and liked to party a lot. I knew right off the bat that rooming for me was not the way to go.
My daughter and I needed our very OWN place.
As a general rule your rent should be no more than 30% of your annual income.
Most rental agencies will tell you that you need to be making at least 3x the amount of the rent required for a place.
When money is an issue…
Find a co-signer.
Not just any co-signer, though. Find someone who can trust you, has a good credit score, and a good rental history.
Rental agencies or landlords don’t like when you have: bad credit, no credit, little rental history, or a low income.
I had virtually no credit, little rental history and my income was just below the 3x amount.
Most agencies and landlords will allow what’s called a co-signer. A co signer is someone who simply co-signs with you on the lease, although they don’t live with you. If you are unable to pay the rent the co-signer will be responsible for paying.
My lovely mama took a chance on me and co-signed for my first place!
You need to understand that the person co-signing for you is taking a huge risk and is putting a lot of faith and trust in you. Don’t let them down. Pay your rent on time every month!
Rent month to month or lease?
I leased my apartment for the first six months. I signed a lease because I felt sure that I wouldn’t be needing to move out anytime soon. My lease was signed in April of 2013, and by November of 2013 my lease ended.
November of 2013 was the same month I found out I was expecting Nolan! Due to insurance reasons I saw an OB-GYN in the Yuba City area. I knew I would be giving birth at the hospital in Yuba city, so Bae and I decided that I would continue to pay the rent (month to month rent) on my little apartment there, even though I had already pretty much moved in with Bae. I’m glad I did this because it helped build up my rental history, and shortly after I gave birth Nolan had jaundice. We were given a biliblanket which we took to my place and had a nurse visit us everyday until Nolan’s bilirubin went back down to normal levels.
Another reason why I agreed to a lease is because my rental agency had a deal that if I signed a 6 month lease my first months rent would be half off, so I only had to pay $247 for my first months rent.
If your not sure not about a place or how long you plan on staying there, then it might be better to rent month to month and skip signing a lease.
Expect to pay a security deposit and your first months rent upfront when you finally agree to rent or lease a place. Deposits amounts vary, but they’re usually equal to one or two months rent. My deposit was $500. When I signed the lease I wrote a check for the first months rent and the security deposit amount.
Be prepared and have that deposit money saved up. When you move out if you took good care of the place, then you’ll see your full deposit back! If there were some holes int he wall or things broken expect to see some money taken away from your deposit.
That’s why it’s extremely important to document and photograph everything! Right before you sign a lease they’ll give you the keys and have you do a walk through of the place. I was given a document called move in/move out checklist. I walked through the apartment and wrote down anything I saw to broken or dirty.
Be specific and take lots of pictures of everything! Photographs are always powerful proof (make sure they’re date stamped).
I made the mistake of not being specific enough. When the women who does the final inspections for move outs came in to inspect my apartment she noted that the stove top pans were dirty. That was the only flaw with the whole place! Seriously! I didn’t write down on the checklist that they were dirty though :o, so I was going to be charged for replacement stove tops. Luckily she was really nice and saw how well I cleaned up the place, so she let it go! Yay!
It was a lesson for me though. I’ve learned that you need to extremely specific about these kinds of things.
Budget wisely once your moved in
When your out looking for places keep utility costs in mind. Some places cover water/sewer/garbage while other places only cover sewer and garbage.
My apartment covered my water/sewer/garbage. I only had to pay PG&E.
Note: If this is your first time renting a place PG&E will ask for a deposit! Deposit amounts could vary, so keep that in mind.
PG&E has a program in California called CARE (California Alternate Rates for Energy).
I signed up for the program right away and qualified. It helped me a lot by cutting my PG&E bill almost in half! You can click here for more information on the program. I highly recommend it if your a bit on the low income side and are worried about PG&E costs.
What you need VS what you want
You need PG&E right, but do you really need cable or that hi-speed internet?
Cable is not cheap especially if t’s your first time getting cable in your own name. The cable companies will ask for a deposit, and it won’t be cheap either (I was quoted a $220 deposit!)
The only other bill I had was my cellphone which has a personal hotspot, so I could connect my phone to my laptop to surf the internet or watch Netflix. Fuck cable.
A lot of young people don’t take int account furniture costs.
When I first moved into my own place I had a bed and clothes. Nothing else.
Browse around furniture places and talk to family and friends.
My mom had an old kitchen table she gave me. I bought most of my dishware, tableware, and other household items from Ross and thrift stores.
My car needed new tires, so I had to spend my money first on getting new tires for my car. It was a full two months before I finally bought a couch, and it wasn’t really even a couch it was a futon couch that could turn into a bed.
Grocery’s are not cheap either. Thank God for WIC. At least I got my basic food necessities from my WIC vouchers.
AND yes—I signed up for and collected “food stamps” for six months. (gasp)
It’s called SNAP now. Anyways, I was given $347 a month. If my mom, my aunt or grandmother needed groceries I always helped out because $347 is a lot for just two people in my opinion.
I used to be really embarrassed when I had to pull out that EBT card…I could feel people judging me left and right, but you know what? If it wasn’t for food stamps I don’t know how the hell I would’ve put food on the table for myself and my daughter. People struggle, and you never know somebody’s struggle, so be careful before you judge them.
I read a great blog post “What does someone on food stamps look like? She looks like this” by another mom blogger and everything she says is on point! You can read her post here
Pay your rent on time
Always, always, always pay your rent on time. Rental agencies will note down if you are late making payments. One time is okay, but if your doing it frequently it’s not a good look for you.
Paying your rent on time shows you care, and that you are responsible. It will also help provide you with good rental history.
When you move out and try to move into a new place your new rental agency or landlord will ask the old agency or landlord if you made rent payments on time. People don’t like late, so if you made a lot of late payments on your last place it might be hard to get a new place.
When moving out
Always provide a written and dated 30 day notice to your rental agency or landlord.
Don’t wait until the last minute to move out once you put your notice in start packing. You should have everything out of the place at least a week before having to return the keys, so that gives you time to just clean the place.
Clean the hell out of your apartment. Clean the cabinets, clean the bathroom, vacuum, mop, clean the fridge, stove, sinks, clean, clean , and clean that is if you want your deposit back. If you don’t care, then I guess don’t clean? Do keep in mind that if there’s things broken or the place is really dirty you could actually be charged more than just your deposit money, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
I was required to have the carpets cleaned. It was actually written in my rental agreement that when I move out I provide a receipt proving that I had the carpets cleaned. Even if you aren’t required to have the carpets cleaned it’s still a good idea to do it because if the carpets are dirty they can charge you for having the carpets cleaned. Look around most carpet cleaning places always have really great deals. You can get a small place cleaned for as little as $40.
I see it all too often the girl with the brand new designer handbag and the shiny new BMW. You might think well she’s doing really well for herself. Well of course she lives with her parents for free (rolls eyes). She pays no rent or utilities. I’m not trying to knock down people who live with their parents because I know how hard it is to live on your own, but if you aren’t helping your parents pay any bills, then I’m sorry but you are not an adult. If you live with your parents at least get in the habit of helping them pay a bill or two! I know it’s not easy getting your own place especially when your young and aren’t making a ton of money, but if I could do it you could do it too!
Now that I look back at the pictures…I can feel myself wanting to cry…damn it was hard…words can’t even explain.
High schools should teach a class on how to budget and pay bills instead of the other bullshit classes they require you to take.
My first place wasn’t anything like I had dreamed it would be. It was nothing like me. It wasn’t glamorous. It was small. I made it work though. It was my first place. My journey into adulthood.
My daughter won’t remember it because she was too little, but I will never forget…mommy and Neveah’s first place.
I hope this post gives you some helpful insight and have a lovely weekend everyone!