By: Chris Lowell
College ends with commencement. Huh? Isn’t college graduation the dramatic conclusion to a challenging academic career? The moment literally builds from the first day of preschool through the last day of finals. It is the end, not the beginning. Or so I thought. But now I understand why they call it commencement.
Since graduating in May, I’ve begun a lot: graduate school, a part-time job, and a job hunt. It has been a busy, exciting time full of homework assignments, job expectations, networking events, and interviews. Having applied to eleven accounting firms, I attended multiple interviews each week for a month. Some interviews led to second round interviews and others did not, but eventually I received a job offer. All my hard work paid of in an instant. However, I quickly learned that finding a job pales in comparison to finding the right apartment.
I couldn’t wait to start looking for a place. Living at home was never an option. I began by narrowing down my search based on location. At first, I was interested in living downtown—somewhere near the heart of the city—but I changed my mind after realizing how little space lots of money buys. I was hopeful to find an apartment with sufficient space for small gatherings. Yet, there are places in the North End that couldn’t fit three guys around a TV to watch a football game. Needless to say, those were not an option. So I expanded my search to the surrounding burrows.
Most of these areas offered the space I wanted, and still featured a commute under thirty-minutes. With that being said, I was never hoping to find a luxurious bedroom with an en-suite bathroom. I just wanted to find an apartment that didn’t make me feel trapped inside a cave. Having a private entrance sounded nice, too.
I envisioned hardwood and exposed brick. Surprisingly, I found quite a few apartments with both. However, hardwood was more important to me—I learned how much dirt and beer ends up on the ground during college. I also wanted it to be plain and normally shaped. I saw quite a few apartments with annoying half-walls or built in shelves. The simpler, the better. I was eager to put my creativity to work.
My thoughts about the bedroom were similar. Closet space was never a priority, but having a closet sounded nice. I needed somewhere to hang my half dozen dress shirts and a couple suits. Mostly, I was interested in peace and quite. Thin walls were a definite concern.
Next, I focused on the amenities. I expected working appliances in the kitchen. Otherwise, I wasn’t too picky. I was more concerned with the available countertop space because I like to cook. I also hoped to find enough space for a breakfast bar or a high top table because I’m not ready to commit to a more traditional dining set.
In terms of shared amenities, I didn’t have an opinion until I saw some apartments. Living in a complex with a pool sounded cool, but the prices reflected these luxuries like the water reflects the sun on a hot day. It made me uncomfortable. The same goes for fitness centers, function rooms, and trash collection. I am willing to walk my trash to the dumpster if it saves me some money. I didn’t need to live somewhere with a fitness center, either. There happens to be one in my new office building. However, off-street parking was hugely important to me. I didn’t look anywhere without a parking space. Even if I didn’t need a car to get to work, I wanted one for the weekends.
Finally, I considered pulling in some roommates. I debated, “Do the pros outweigh the cons?” Roommates reduce rent and initial expenses related to buying furniture. In fact, some of my friends knew relatives who were willing to give away old couches and tables. Roommates also help to dilute the cable and Internet bill. But do these benefits outweigh nuisances like sharing a bathroom? And how do I feel about their friends coming over? These questions deserve serious consideration. I decided in favor of a roommate. I enjoy having someone to hang out with and talk to. Any financial benefits are just icing on the cake. Though I wish I had decided on this earlier. Having to restart my search with a roommate in mind created twice the work.
Searching for an apartment is tough mudding and equally exciting. I was exuberant to finally sign a lease for a place that met all of my requirements. It’s important to be picky. There’s nothing worse than paying for an apartment that you do not like. Try to balance open-mindedness and reason. This brings me to my final point: do not overspend!
I thought that I could spend a small fortune each month and still get by. Upon further consideration, I realized how important it is to save as much money as comfortably possible. First, life has a habit of not going according to plan. You never know when your car, computer, phone, etc. might break. Thus, it is important to maintain a flexible budget. Second, it is important to save up and buy a home. Investing in a house usually makes more sense than paying rent. Unfortunately, it can take years of saving to accumulate enough money to secure a mortgage.