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How to be a Real Adult?


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I'm absolutely thrilled about being accepted into my first choice MFA program, and now I'm jumping feet first into getting ready. I'm going to have to move halfway across the country and experience fun "adulting" things like renting an apartment for the first time. This isn't the first time I've lived away from home, but in previous situations my housing was covered by scholarships.


So, any advice for a baby adult who has no idea how to move efficiently across the country or what to look for when renting an apartment (specifically, I'm looking to rent in Michigan)? Any other general adulting wisdom to give me as I get thrust into being a grown up?

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There's lots of advice already on this website, as well as elsewhere. One important piece of adult wisdom is knowing how to use it -- use the search function to find relevant information here and elsewhere, and come back with more detailed questions. That will increase the likelihood that you'll get replies. (= help us help you!) What you're asking now will require a whole lot of time to answer, and not everyone will want to spend that time on this question, given that we've already answered it multiple times in the past. 

Another piece of advice is to start creating a network. Reach out to current students at your program to find out information about where students live, how much rent costs, if anyone is looking for a roommate, when is the right time to search (the housing market might have a yearly cycle and you'll need to know when leases tend to begin to know when apartments go on the market). More experienced students will have all of this information at their fingertips and some will be willing to help, I'm sure. 

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  • 10 months later...

This is an old post, but amongst my age-similar friends, I am often called on to be the adultiest adult.  It may not apply to you anymore...but maybe it will apply to someone else looking here in the future.  Therefore, my Adulting advice. 


- Know how much you want to spend on things like rent.  Be sure to calculate in approximate costs for electric, water, Internet, etc.  For me, I worked backwards, and said that I wanted my household income to not be taken up by more than 50% of rent, bills, car payments, etc.

- For moving efficiently across country (or anywhere, for that matter), there are three factors: Time, Cost, and Ease/Quality.  If you have an infinite amount of money, you can pay someone to come and pack up all your stuff, move it for you, and unpack it.  It's extremely expensive, but it's easy and fast.  Most grad students are likely to prioritize low cost and low time.  So you're probably looking at getting rid of a lot of stuff (I'm looking at you, old sofa) and renting a Uhaul.  Don't forget that you can ask friends to help drive, but be willing to pay them for their time.  Don't be That guy.

- It's okay to move somewhere temporarily while you figure out the area.  Look for a sublet - generally, 3-6 months of someone who needed to get out of their lease.  That'll give you a good feel for the area.  It comes at the "cost" of having to move your stuff again, but depending on how much stuff you have, living out of boxes for a few months is generally okay.  You don't *really* need to unbox all your crafting, family photos, etc.

- Scan a lot of stuff in.  You probably don't need hard copies of your 2012 tax returns.  Scan it, then shred it.

- Keep the important stuff.  Know where your birth certificate is, your passport, etc.  Keep it in a fire-proof envelope or something if you can't afford a safe deposit box.

- Ask for help.  Be vulnerable.  Surprisingly, I've found people respect both of these things.  Or most people do.  The ones that don't aren't worth your time.


And, here's my #1 piece of advice:


Nobody has any idea what the hell they're doing.  Everyone is faking it.  All the time.

So when you think, "Whoa, I don't know what I'm doing, everyone else does, and I'm just a big Phony McFakester."  Take a step back and realize that nobody else has it figured out either.  Nope, not your parents, or that old Professor Emeritus everyone looks up to.  This is both terrifying (Abraham Lincoln had no idea what he was doing), and exhilirating (if Abe didn't know that freeing the slaves would turn out okay, it's okay if you don't know whether or not your career choice will turn out okay).  Everyone is making the best decisions they can with the information they have at the time.


Of course, this also means that I have no idea what I'm doing...so everything above might be wrong.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

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Keep everything. in. writing. 

If you have a phone call with the landlord or the plumber, follow up with an email. Cc all of your housemates in these emails too, so that they have a copy for their own purposes, and also for having a stronger paper trail. 

Have attention to detail. 

Think ahead. Will you need somewhere to store stuff over the summer? Is the rent per month, or is the monthly figure calculated as four weeks? Get someone else to read important emails so that you have the right tone (the right tone is generally making no accusations but still making your point). 

Buy in bulk, and pay attention to your banking. 

This is only really valid if you have a small pool of savings to begin with. When stuff we buy a lot is on special, we buy as much as we can carry (partner just bought 10L of soymilk because it was half price, and we also bought 30 cans of tuna half price... should last us a few months). 

It is very much worth looking into combinations of checking and high interest accounts. Interest rates are so low at the moment, but it might be more important if they increase. The bank I used to be at (the largest in the country) had half the interest rate that my current account has, with the same risk profile. Some people also get credit cards which have points and get free things this way. We always use loyalty cards at the supermarket and every now and then get good savings.  

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