Dear WWW,

I want to move out of my home in a year when I turn 18, but I’m scared.  Each of my older sisters said the same, but now they’re in their 20’s and still living at home. Do you have any advice?

Signed, 17 & Scared

Dear 17 & Scared,

Moving out and being on your own can be very scary, but very fun.  The fun part is gaining your independence and being told less what to do.  It can feel really good.  But, you have to be ready.  You must examine your motives and like any big decision in your life, you should make a PLAN and stick to it!  Don’t move out on a whim or because of an emotional reaction or fight with your parent.  And don’t do it because someone is pressuring you.  Do it for YOURSELF and only after you’ve created a PLAN.  There are some instances, such as when you’re being exposed to violence or economic struggle, where you must move out abruptly.  That’s when you can ask for help from shelters, treatment centers and supportive friends and family.

But if you’re just interested in moving out to gain your independence, then take your time to create a reasonable move-out-plan and commit yourself to getting a job before your big move.  Create a “budget,” addressing all your expenses and income, so that you know how much you must be making to move out.  Sign up for a checking and savings account so you can build up a reserve of cash.  You’ll need it for things like moving expenses, rent, appliances like a fridge and microwave, towels & food, turn-on utility fees, and rent.  As with any big life choice, you need to know the costs, benefits, risks and rewards.

Once you have a steady job and understand your budget, think about getting a steady means of transportation that is WITHIN your budget.  Don’t live above your means-it’s not attractive.  Depending on your budget, it might mean a car, bus, metro, bike, or just walking.  It doesn’t matter how you get from Point A to Point B, but it DOES matter that you’re ON TIME, SAFE and CAN AFFORD your means of travel.

To keep costs down, see if you can find a trusted roommate, like a family member, friend, or friend-of-a-friend, who can help share the rent.  Make sure you check into their background and ask questions because there’s people out there who can take advantage of you or have “issues” you DON’T need in your life – like addictions, drama & peer pressure.  Hit yard sales and discount stores to keep the costs of furnishings & home goods down.

Don’t forget to consider going AWAY to college too, because that can help you move away from home and gain your independence while gaining a degree.

Also, be mindful that you’re going to be spending time ALONE when you move out, so make sure you find something that can keep you busy.  Consider a hobby like racket ball, helping others, starting a business, or volunteering at a place like the community pantry.  Also, strive to find your strength and passion.  Be mindful of depending on others because you want to create your financial savings to accomplish your goals.

If you have a supportive family, ask for their guidance though this process so you can make a smooth transition to your new place.  But if your family is not supportive, make sure all your arrangements are in order (job, school, apartment, roommate), then write a letter to your family and read it to them about why you have made your decision to move out.  If you don’t write it, be sure to spend a little time thinking ahead about what you’re going to tell them about your move-out.  Watching a young woman become independent and moving out of the home can be very emotional for parents and siblings.  So, let them know you’ll return to visit, are available to them and would appreciate their support.  Keep in mind to deliver the news with empathy, putting yourself in their shoes, and delivering it realizing they will be affected by the news.

Then, JUST DO IT!  Take a leap of faith!  It’s always going to feel scary, but if you just do it AND DO IT RIGHT, like by planning ahead, you will feel good about your decision to move out.  Don’t forget to stay on track with your goals.

The truth is that when you are no longer getting family financial support (even if it’s just a roof over your head), it can be really challenging.  So make sure you’ve prepared yourself in advance for the hardships you expect to face.  This preparation comes from making a budget, being honest with yourself, and talking to others who have taken the same leap of faith you wish to!

Good luck,

WWW Voices from Southwest Juvenile Hall (Spring ’13)