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Ruby’s Real Money Diaries: We chat to first-time renter Lily

24 September 2021

First-time renting? It’s a big process when you factor in property inspections, budgeting for your rent and expenses and making sure you have the right documentation for the applications. Meet first-time renter Lily and hear her tips for navigating the first-time renting process.

About Lily - our first-time renter

Age: 22

Location: Sydney

Occupation: Television production runner and casual retail assistant

HECS / HELP debt? Yes

Any other debt? No

Income: Roughly $65k annually, but can fluctuate due to work being contractual

Do you have any savings? Yes

Are you actively saving? Yes

RUBY: You’ve recently moved out of home and are renting for the first time. What was it like going through the rental process – any surprises?

It was more confusing than anything because I knew little to nothing about the process before I went through it myself. All your documents are considered – employment, income, references from co-workers, personal references, and other things like paying phone bills. You’re basically putting it all on the table and it’s a bit jarring.

RUBY: How has renting changed your spending habits?

I used to mainly spend money on food and drink because I was always on the go travelling between Sydney and the Central Coast for work, uni and my social life. Then I moved to Sydney and the weekend after I moved out, I started a full-time TV role, so I’ve been working 10-12 hour days instead. And my spending’s changed in the sense that I now have to account for things I didn’t before like groceries, insurance, bills and rent.

RUBY: Do you have a savings plan, or wing it from week to week?

It’s easier to wing it when I have the same amount of money coming in from a full-time contract – but I have a plan in place for when my weekly/fortnightly income fluctuates.

RUBY: Do you have an emergency fund?

I’m currently working on building up my emergency fund with my leftover income each week.

RUBY: Where did you learn about money?

Mostly from my parents. They were strict about putting money aside in case something went wrong. Other than that, I think it’s important to spend money on things you actually need, rather than impulse buying (hard as that is!).

RUBY: How do you feel about your finances today?

I’m just starting out and have a lot to learn about managing money, but I feel good about it the fact that I’ve moved out and can afford to live independently.

RUBY: What did you wish you knew earlier about finances?

There are always people to turn to if you’re confused about opening a bank account, investing, savings and stuff like that. In the past I was quite embarrassed to talk about money and salaries with friends, but if you don’t talk about these things with anyone it’s hard to understand where you sit in the status quo!

“Your whole financial life is on the table when you apply to rent, and that can be jarring.”

RUBY: What’s your number one tip for readers who are looking to move out?

Do your research first. You have to be really up close and personal with your finances, and consider if you want to live alone, live with friends, or have flatmates as part of your day-to-day life. Establish a budget and make sure your current income is enough to cover all those extra parts of renting, too – that’s important.

RUBY: What was the rental inspection process like for you?

I’ve heard of so many people inspecting a property online, and then signing the lease before ever seeing the place. I could never do that! I blocked out a few days and would go from one inspection to another. Once there was a place I really liked, I literally took photos of everything as it was. That’s probably the most important thing I learned through this entire process. Take photos of anything you think might be an issue, so you cover yourself. Also speak to the agent showing you the property as they can give a lot of insight you wouldn’t otherwise get.

RUBY: Have you got any long-term financial goals?

I would love to own my own property in Sydney and that’s what I’m working toward.


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