moving out

How Much To Save Before Moving Out: The Definitive Answer

I’ll never forget my first apartment. It was 250 square feet of pure freedom. The feeling was kind of like falling in love – absolutely amazing!

However, the initial freedom and love-like bliss soon turned into anxiety and terror – I hadn’t saved up nearly enough.

With roughly $1,000 in my account after the initial expenses and no paycheck in sight, I hopped on the infamous “ramen diet”. I do NOT recommend it.

Luckily, I landed a job as a telemarketer within a couple of weeks and got the first paycheck in advance. This saved me from moving back in with my parents.

Today, I want to help you avoid this mistake. The fact that you’re reading this article is a good sign and shows that you’re thinking things through.

Anyways, let me get straight to the point:

For frugal people, saving $6,500 is enough to move out. For complete safety, you should save up $21,850 before moving out. This covers all expenses and gives a six-month safety net with a normal lifestyle.

It’s perfectly possible to move out on less than $6,500. However, $6,500 is the least amount of money necessary to be reasonably safe, financially speaking, when moving out.

In extreme cases, it’s actually possible to move out on as little as $2,000.

Of course, the exact amount of money you need to have saved up before moving out depends on a bunch of factors. In the rest of the article, I’ll help you calculate YOUR number. Let’s get into it!

Suggested reading: The 4 Steps To Save A Lot Of Money Fast

How To Calculate YOUR Required Savings Number

In general, here are some things you should have in place BEFORE moving out:

  • A safety net equivalent to three-six months of expenses and rent.
  • Some money to buy packing equipment like boxes and tape.
  • Money for “new stuff” at your new place.
  • Enough money to cover the security deposit.
  • Determine if you need a moving truck, or if a friend or parent to help you.

Only after you’ve calculated everything above do you know how much YOU need to have saved up before moving out.

That’s a lot of work, but I’ll guide you through each step in the following sections of this article.

Let’s begin by determining what kind of monthly expenses and rent you can expect, depending on where you live. This will give you a target for the safety net.

Calculating Your Safety Net Before Moving Out:

Below you’ll see my “ball-park” suggestion for safety nets. I’ve got suggestions for “frugal living” and for “normal living”. Frugal living basically means to live 40% cheaper than the median in an averagely expensive city. I’ll go into more detail on that in a bit.

Frugal LivingNormal Living
Three Months$5,199$8,667
Six Months$10,398$17,334

Personally, I think some people can move out with $5,000 saved up. But it’s gonna require a really frugal mindset and you need to get a job quickly.

It’s generally better to wait and save up more. For example, moving out with $15,000 is much more comfortable.

The numbers above are not customized for your needs, but they give you an idea of where you should aim. I’ll explain what the suggestions above are based on, and help you estimate your own personalized estimate in the next part:

Make a budget to get YOUR numbers:

You don’t need to spend months on this and make it totally perfect. It just needs to be “good enough”.

You should also overestimate your expenses a bit just to be sure. I generally like to add 20% to the total when budgeting, just in case.

The following is what I wish I had done before moving out…

First, figure out what you’re likely to spend on the following:

  • Housing – Rent and utilities like electricity and water.
  • Transportation – Are you able to ride a bike or walk? Or will you need/choose to drive a car? In that case, how much will the gas and insurance etc. cost?
  • Food – Will you be eating out? Are you going to host parties or barbeques or something? How much are groceries in the area you’re moving into?
  • Insurance – Are you going to buy stuff like life insurance? What about insurance on your belongings?
  • Clothes – How much do you spend on new clothes? Try to figure out the average monthly spending, even though you probably spend more some months and less others months.
  • Personal Care – Are you going to sign up for a gym? Do you spend money on expensive products for your skin, hair, makeup, or exercise supplements?
  • Subscriptions – Do you have your own Netflix, Spotify or Disney subscription? If so, write it down!
  • Hobbies – Do you have hobbies you spend money on? For example, I play the guitar and spend money on new strings and other equipment, and should therefore include this in my budget.

The items/categories above are the most significant, but there are several others. You’re the only person knowing how you spend your money, so feel free to add additional items. Write them all down, and organize them in a table similar to the one below:

Personal care$80
Other Stuff$330

I just put some random numbers into it, but you get the point. You should calculate/estimate what YOU will spend on each item.

Basically, just list all the different categories/items you will spend money on. Estimate how much you’ll spend on each and add it all together.

The “other” category is just in case I’ve forgotten something (which I usually do…).

I like to put 20% of the sum of all the other things into “other”. This is just to be on the safe side.

It’s kind of difficult to budget if you’ve never lived on your own. After all, everything is just guesswork if you don’t have any experience.

Therefore, I’ll give you a hand in trying to “guesstimate” your monthly expenses and rent, depending on where you live.

Average expenses and rent in different cities:

Location is probably the number one factor when it comes to expenses and rent. For example, living in New York is WAY more expensive than for example Tulsa.

To give you an idea of where it’s expensive, and where it’s cheap, I’ve put together a table showing the median living expenses and rent in a bunch of different cities for single people.

LocationLiving ExpensesMedian RentTotal
New York, NY$1,393$2,800$4,193
San Francisco, CA$1,351$2,492$3,843
Oakland, CA$1,274$2,156$3,403
Washington, DC$1,184$1,929$3,113
Boston, MA$1,177$2,091$3,268
Pittsburgh, PA$1,125$1,053$2,178
Nashville, TN$1,107$1,659$2,766
San Diego, CA$1,105$2,013$3,118
Miami, FL$1,104$1,982$3,086
Chicago, IL$1,078$1,533$2,611
Philadelphia, PA$1,071$1,359$2,430
Los Angeles, CA$1,069$1,975$3,044
Dallas, TX$1,039$1,457$2,496
Atlanta, GA$1,021$1,344$2,365
Las Vegas, NV$992$1,138$2,130
Orlando, FL$973$1,391$2,364
Austin, TX$966$1,702$2,668
Huston, TX$930$1,233$2,163
Tulsa, OK$895$814$1,709
(Data sources: Cost of Living and Rent Index, Cost of living in New York, Median rent in New York)

The above list is the median numbers in each state. That means 50% of people have higher numbers, and 50% have lower numbers.

This means that you should use the table above to get an idea of what expenses to expect, but not as the definitive answer.

If you’re able to live frugally (like you should), you can decrease monthly expenses and rent by up to 40%. (learn more about how to live more frugally in this article)

In the rest of the article, I’ll therefore use $2,889 as the “normal” monthly expenses, and 60% of that, $1,733, as “frugal” monthly expenses.

To be perfectly clear, living frugally doesn’t mean eating ramen and living in a tent. It just means renting a small-ish apartment and not driving an expensive car.

Basically, it means living kind of cheap, and not spending lots on the big things like housing and transportation.

In fact, housing and transportation are the two largest items BY FAR Americans spend money on. These two combined are on average over 50% of the budget.

Therefore, if you can be frugal regarding housing and transportation, you can live far beneath the median numbers listed above.

Suggested reading: Is $7,000 Enough To Move Out?

If you’ve never thought about where your money goes, creating a budget might be difficult.

Below you’ll see a table from The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that you take inspiration from. It shows the spending habits of the average American household:

ItemMonthly CostPercentage of Budget
(Rent or mortgage and utilities like electricity and water)
(Car payments, gas, bus tickets, vehicle insurance etc.)
(Groceries and restaurants)
Insurance & Pensions
(Personal insurance like life insurance, pension savings etc.)
(Subscriptions, TV, Speakers, a new Phone etc.)
Apparel and Services$1202.3%
Personal care$541.1%

Read more about the different items over at The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/cex/csxgloss.htm

Once again, the numbers above are not for single people, but the median of all households. If you’re gonna live alone, your numbers will be lower. However, you should use the “percentage of budget” part to get an idea of how much “most people” are spending their money.

Now, use the budget to calculate your safety net:

At this point, you should have a rough budget in place. At least a draft.

Use this to calculate the necessary amount saved up by multiplying your total expenses by the number of months you want your safety net to last.

Generally, it’s good to aim for six months. However, most people get by on three.

Personally, I like to get a good view on this, and write out for three, four, five and six months, like this:

Number of MonthsAmount Required
(monthly expenses = $1,666)

Alright! With the estimated safety net in place, let’s move on to the other stuff!

Calculate Your “One-time” Moving Expenses:

“One-time” moving expenses just means the costs associated with the actual moving, and the expenses you’ll have to put upfront. For example, do you need to rent a truck to move your stuff? Are you going to buy a new couch? Does the bed need to be upgraded?

The security deposit is also included in this category.

The sum of these expenses depends largely on the place you’re moving into and can be difficult to estimate before finding a place.

However, you can determine some things with decent accuracy, and “guestimate” the rest.

In the table below, you can see typical “one-time” moving expenses. The prices/costs listed are “average”, and may vary based on your location!

Renting a Moving Truck$60/day (including insurance) + $1/mile
Packaging Material
(boxes, tape, bubble wrap etc.)
$120 for a studio, $250 for a small house
Help From FriendsTwo Large Pizzas (important ritual!)
(this is a hard one. Read more about it here)
Everything (New): $3,000-$5,000.
Everything (Used): $1,000 – $2,500
Some Used Stuff: $300 – $1,500
Security DepositUsually twice the rent. Say $1,000-$2500

These days, lots of apartments are already filled with furniture. In addition, maybe you don’t have a lot of stuff to bring and therefore don’t need to rent a truck.

Based on the numbers in the table above, I will now give two different estimates – a frugal one, and a “normal” one.

The frugal one is for people not needing a truck and moving into an apartment with usable furniture.

The “normal” one is for people with average amounts of stuff moving roughly 250 miles.

Renting a Moving Truck$0$350
Packaging Material $50$150
Help From FriendsTwo Large PizzasTwo Large Pizzas + Beers
Furniture $200
(there’s always something…)
Security Deposit$1,000$2,000

There you have it. When moving, you’ll probably pay somewhere between $1,250 and $4,500 “up front”.

We now have everything you need to calculate how much money you need to save before moving out:

Conclusion: From $6,500 up to $21,850

I have estimated the necessary savings before moving out for four different scenarios. I’ll summarize them in a table below:

Three Months Safety NetSix Months Safety Net
Frugal Person$6,500$11,648
Normal Person$13,200$21,850

Conclusions we can draw based on these estimations above:

The least amount of money you should save up before moving out is $6,500. This is for people desiring a frugal lifestyle with little luxury and waste.

To be completely safe, one should save up $21,850 before moving out. This covers all expenses regarding the actual move and gives a six-month safety net for a lifestyle with median expenses in an averagely expensive city.

For most people, saving somewhere around $10,000 seems to be enough to move out.

Suggested reading: