The Hidden Cost of Living Away from Home for the First Time

If you’re a student preparing to live away at school for the first time, or you’re entering the job market and looking to get your first apartment, you may find that there are hidden costs of living away from home for the first time.

You probably are already aware of the basics, like rent and food, but there are a few more that are unique – and often unknown – to someone who is setting up their first living arrangement way from home.

Moving expenses

We can think of this as Rude Awakening #1. Before you can move into your first apartment, you’ll first need to transport any possessions you have to the new location.

This may not even be an expense if you have very few possessions. If you can fit everything you own into your car, there will be no extra expense to move your stuff. But more stuff requires a bigger vehicle, and that’s can be a big one of those hidden costs.

Hidden Cost of Living Away from Home
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It can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars to move your possessions from your home to your new location. Exactly how much it will cost will depend upon how much you have that you need to move, and the method that you will use to do it.

Related: Moving Tips – Making Relocation Less Stressful

If the new location is fairly close to home, you may be able to rent a trailer or even a light truck for $50-$100. If the location is farther away, and you’ll need the vehicle for several days, you’ll need to pay several hundred dollars in order to move your possessions. At the extreme high-end, if you hire a moving company and you have a significant amount of furniture and equipment, the move can cost you several thousand dollars – before you even move into your new place.

Security deposits

Typically when you move into an apartment you’ll be required to pay a security deposit in advance of the rent. This amount will usually be based on the amount of rent that you pay – as in one or two months rent – or could even be a flat amount.

Utility companies will often require security deposits as well, even though they will be much smaller. They will often do this because they have no history of you as a customer. The deposits may be only $100 or so per utility, but when added to your rent deposit you could be easily looking at being out of couple thousand dollars.


Even people who are moving out on their own for the first time are aware of the fact that they will have to pay certain utilities. But the shocker usually comes in the number of utilities that are required. When you are living at home with family, you are not exposed to the number of utilities, or how much they cost. When you’re out on your own, it will become obvious to you in a hurry.

Specifically which utilities will be required will depend upon what services that you expect to have, and which utilities may be paid as part of your rent. The typical ones include electric, heat, water and sewer, trash removal, and Internet and cable TV connections. And you can add your cell phone expenses on top of that list. All will increase your monthly carrying costs, as they will be in addition to your rent payment.

Stocking the house with necessities

When you live at home the refrigerator and the cupboards are usually full. It’s not just basic foodstuffs, but it’s also those unusual things that you don’t think of, such as spices, cooking oil and cleaning materials.

Once you move in to your own place, you’ll need to provide all of these – in addition to your basic food requirements. Look around of your family home and pay close attention to all those things that you usually ignore. You should look through the kitchen, the bathroom, and even your garage for clues. You’ll need toilet tissue, paper towels, dish detergent, laundry detergent, certain spices that you favor with your cooking, and a basic supply of staples, such as rice and pasta. None of those items will be in your new place unless you put them there, and that will take a little bit of money up front to make it happen.

Doing your own cooking, cleaning and repair work

Most families have what we might think of as a division of labor. That is, certain people – usually your parents – perform certain key tasks around the house. And those tasks that someone else performed represented a job that you were shielded from having to worry about. Now that you have your own place, you will be the person who handles any job that needs to be done.

You may be able to do all of these things yourself, but you might bump up against time constraints or even skill limits. Either may force you to pay someone else to do these jobs for you. It could be something simple, such as cleaning your home, doing your laundry, or the occasional necessity of fixing something that’s broken. But anything that you have to pay someone else to do will represent another hidden cost.


I saved this one until last because it’s one that people often avoid having in an effort to save money. But once you have your own place, you’ll least need to insure your contents (furniture, entertainment equipment, and personal effects) against fire and theft.

Your family probably had such insurance on the entire home, but now that you’re on your own you’ll have to pay for this coverage yourself. Expect it to be anywhere from $10 to $50 per month, depending on where you live and how much stuff you have.

Can you think of any other hidden costs that come with living away from home for the first time?

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11 years ago

Liability insurance is even more important than insuring your own stuff. Some places require it, but even if they don’t, it’s important to have in case the stove is left own causing a fire in the building.

Those deposits and moving fees can be killer in the pockets. Everything is really hidden since now everything comes out of your own pockets. I remember moving the deposit for electric, apartment and then getting my own car insurance. I felt so broke.

11 years ago
Reply to  Koala

Good point Koala!

11 years ago

Stocking the house with necessities was the thing for me. I never really appreciated all these details until I’ve lived on my own. Those little things can rely pile up and costs a lot of money.

11 years ago

Here’s a hidden expense: getting wasted randomly. When you’re at home, you can’t really do this. When you live on your own, you never know when someone can randomly show up with a case of beer.

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