The more you get on the table before moving in together, the more you can compromise and avoid pitfalls, says blogger Kate Sitarz.
Roommate, significant other, going back home to Mom and Dad: No one plans on moving in with someone and having things go south. But without proper planning and communication, you’re not setting everyone up for success.
We’ve already covered the Grownup way to move out of a shared apartment or home, so let’s now tackle how to move in like an adult.
- Look first, then leap
Moving in always seems financially savvy. Whether it’s your friend or significant other, you probably spend a lot of time at each other’s apartments or homes, so why not just move in together?
This sounds convenient (goodbye, overnight bags) and splitting costs may help save money. But before you leap, sit down and discuss both your personal and professional long-term goals. Maybe your friend or significant other wants to move cross-country within the year, quit their job, or has zero interest in doing housework.
Lay it all out, weighing pros and cons, and see if it still makes sense. Going through with it? Super! Keep reading.
- Carefully consider location
Presuming you both have living accommodations, it may seem easier to move into one or the other abode. Everything’s already set up, right?
Not so fast. Consider the fresh start of a new space: No matter how comfortable you are with your potential roommate, it can feel awkward if you’re the one moving into a space that feels less “yours” and more “theirs” (or vice versa). A new space can also prevent nasty territorial claims that may arise, should you eventually go your separate ways.
Make a list of each of your must-have and nice-to-have apartment or home features, such as a driveway, backyard, laundry, and number of bedrooms. Look for places that hit both of your must-haves, and prepare to compromise on the nice-to-haves.
If one of you has a lease that doesn’t line up when the other needs to move, consider moving into that space as a temporary solution as you look together for a new space. If a double move doesn’t sound appealing (or feasible), look into your state’s laws on breaking a lease early.
- Get everything in writing
If you’re signing a new lease, chances are you’ll need to fork over first- and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit. Get everything in writing of who pays what as part of the initial move-in deposit. If you let the landlord know, there should be no problem getting this information included in the lease.
For me, I lost half the security deposit when my ex decided to move out without warning—even though I’d initially paid the entire thing. But nearly three years later, it was a case of he-said, she-said. Lesson learned!
- Take inventory
Before moving in together, you may find lots of duplicates: two toasters, two microwaves, two TVs. Some things are fine in multiples—extra forks and spoons don’t take up much space—but some items, like microwaves, may feel excessive. Decide what you want to keep, toss, sell, or donate—preferably before you move. That way you have less to move to your new location, potentially saving on moving costs.
When I moved in with my ex, he took inventory on moving day. The Uhaul sat outside empty, the cost of the rental adding up. We could have saved both time and money by wrapping this up in advance.
Decluttering can feel great, but give yourself adequate time to make sure you’re willing to part with your belongings. Determine how much you can keep in any storage space your new place may have, or weigh the costs-benefits of renting a storage unit. You don’t want to end up moving out later and have to repurchase the item or think, “Man, I really liked my fish tank, I wish I’d kept it.”
- Choose your movers
Is there an age when you’re “too old” to have friends help you move your couch in exchange for beer and pizza? That’s debatable, but you’ll want to explore your options: do it yourself, enlisting friends, or hiring movers.
Of course, costs and logistics vary, especially by how far away you’re moving and the amount of things to move. Maybe you can load up your car in a few trips. Maybe you need a midway option between professional movers and do-it-yourself (like a moving pod). Take an audit of your belongings, time, energy, and finances to determine what makes sense for your situation. Get estimates from several moving providers—you may find professional movers are cheaper than a pod option.
For me, my several cross-city moves were easy enough to do myself. But when I moved cross-country, packing up a pod allowed me to take more of my belongings and ensure they arrived safely; having the comforts of home helped take a lot off my mind as I grappled with other big changes (like finding a new job). In hindsight, the pod move probably cost more than the value of my belongings. But the peace of mind and time saved outweighed the tangible cost.
- Divvy up the space
If you’re moving in with a roommate, you’ll need to figure out who gets which bedroom. With a significant other, you’ll likely share a room, but make sure you both feel comfortable with logistics (like how closet and bathroom space get divided).
It may only take a quick conversation: “Do you want this closet or that one?” For others, it may require going through each space, figuring out the best cabinet for cups.
- Split the bills
Paying your fair share doesn’t necessarily mean going half and half. If you opt for the master bedroom with en-suite bathroom, perhaps your roommate will expect you to pay a bit more. If you have a six-figure salary and your significant other makes minimum wage, it may not make sense to go right down the middle.
If one of you keeps a tighter budget, perhaps that person pays the Internet, a consistent cost, while someone with more flexibility covers the ever-changing electric bill.
When I moved in with my ex, we didn’t have the split bills talk. He came in with a spreadsheet itemizing every purchase for the house, from monthly bills to toilet paper. At the end of the month, the sheet would say who owed whom what. It was fairly even, and I’d often forego adding my receipts to the spreadsheet. (I didn’t mind spending extra.) For my ex who was used to living with roommates, adding up each transaction was fair.
Figure out what works for you and your roommate or significant other and, if you can, make this part of the initial move-in “talk.” The more you get on the table beforehand, the more you can compromise and avoid pitfalls—or maybe change your mind.
Kate Sitarz is a freelance writer living in Germany. Her work has been featured on Yahoo Travel!, The Huffington Post, and USAToday, among other outlets.
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