Living alone can be extremely satisfying, but it can also be considerably more expensive. If you want to live alone but the cost factor keeps you from taking the plunge, or if you are already living alone and looking to cut costs, here are 13 tips to consider.
As a primer to these tips, it would be a good idea to start with a personal budget. A quick check on the internet will tell you that almost every personal finance expert swears by the concept of budgeting to get a realistic overview of your financial health. Simply list your fixed income and your fixed expenses – for instance, your monthly salary as income, and your rent, bills, subscriptions etc. as expenses.
Budgeting can get complicated if you have to factor in variable reimbursements, bonuses, or taxes, so it is best to use a ready template from a credible source. For instance, FamilyMoney has an excellent, free Microsoft excel template to manage family budget, but there’s no reason why you can’t use it for personal use.
Once you have an overview of your income and spending, you can move on to making slight adjustments to your spending habits to make your dream of an authentic, affordable, independent life come true.
1. Get a smaller place
Having a bedroom is great, but saving some cash every month is even better! Consider renting a studio apartment. If a bedroom is a must, look at apartments with a smaller square footage. They will usually have a lower price point.
Though it might seem restrictive, a smaller flat is actually better for living alone. There’s less cleaning and maintenance required, and you can maximise usage from every inch of the place. Air conditioning and electricity bills too might be on the lower side, adding to your savings!
2. Live like a minimalist
Minimalism is often misunderstood. The idea is to live with less, which is an incredible concept if implemented correctly. By all means, buy things you need, but do you really need a massive sofa set, double bed, 10 pairs of sneakers, or even a waffle iron that you might use once every few months?
You can save serious money furnishing your rented home by buying second-hand furniture – only those few items that you actually need on a day-to-day basis. Ask friends and family if they’re looking to get rid of items they don’t have use for anymore, or join online low-consumption communities.
3. Cook at home
This might sound really basic, but takeaway bills add up! If you don’t know how to cook and where to get started, check out easy, follow-along recipes on the internet. YouTube is an excellent resource, as are thousands of food blogs. You can experiment with different styles, cuisines, etc. on a budget!
You’ll be surprised how tasty, cheap, and healthy homemade food can be. If lack of time is your excuse, you can meal prep – cook and store up to a week’s worth of food! Make a meal plan in advance as this helps to reduce expenditure during grocery runs.
4. Reduce your consumption of meat
Though this doesn’t apply to vegans and vegetarians, meat is one of the most expensive items on any shopping list. Cutting down on meat – even for a few days of the week or reducing portion sizes and substituting with vegetables – can help you save quite a lot of money.
5. Bulk buy your groceries
Going to the supermarket every time you need something might sound fun, but is an expensive, time-consuming affair. You’re also more likely to buy stuff you don’t even need. The same principle applies to shopping online – you might spend a lot more on shipping costs, and pick up useless stuff just because it is on sale!
Instead, make a detailed shopping list and stick to it. Bulk buying non-perishable items can be a lot cheaper, and having a well stocked pantry is also likely to encourage you to cook at home!
6. Buy generic brands
From medicines to groceries and household cleaning products, generic, no-name brand products tend to be cheaper. While you might want to consult your doctor before switching to a cheaper medicine brand, using cheaper brands for everyday items or picking up meat and vegetables on sale is a great idea.
Think about it – fresh peas from inside pods might actually taste better in season than branded, frozen peas. Or, frozen foods of a cheaper brand could taste the same as a more expensive brand. Experiment to find what suits you best!
You could also DIY a cleaning solution with baking soda, vinegar and other material. There are ways to even make your own shampoos and other personal care products.
7. Grow your own herbs
Herbs are an amazing addition to home-cooked food, but they can be expensive and have a short shelf life. Instead, grow the ones you regularly use! Herbs like coriander, basil, mint, dill, chives, parsley, and others are relatively easy and quick to grow. You could also try growing vegetables, and though they take longer to harvest, it is a very satisfying hobby to take up.
8. Invest time in regular maintenance
The more you maintain things, the longer they last. So if you take care of your expensive appliances, you get a better return-on-investment on a cost-per-use basis! It is also a good idea to repair and reuse slightly faulty things instead of buying new items to replace them. If you have to, consider getting replacements from thrift stores or friends and family – every household has appliances we think we will use, but never do!
9. Review your subscriptions
Are you making the best use of all your existing subscriptions for apps and services? Chances are that you might have subscribed to fulfill an immediate need, and forgotten about the plan completely! Review all your subscriptions and cancel what you don’t need.
Also be on the lookout for offers on phone and internet plans as they tend to fluctuate. Similarly, you could ask friends and family if they are willing to split costs for multi-user, family-friendly plans; it’s a win-win for all.
10. Look for free entertainment ideas
Keeping yourself entertained when living alone can be difficult, and sometimes even expensive but today, a quick search on the internet can give you multiple leads for free events near you. From art shows, standup comedy events, book clubs, beach clean-up drives, or vintage car and motorcycle rallies, there’s surely something for everyone – for free!
11. Party at home
Living alone doesn’t mean living in isolation! To socialize without spending a bomb, try arranging house parties where your friends and family bring some food and drink. Not only is this a fantastic way to spend quality time with people you love, but also a great opportunity to sample each others’ cooking and exchange tips!
12. Let go of friends with expensive tastes
Unfortunately, not all of your friends will appreciate the effort you have to put – and the costs you have to cut – to live alone. And that’s okay! Remember your endgame – living alone without putting yourself in financial distress. In fact, have an honest conversation with them; they might just respect your decision and see your point of view!
13. Multiple streams of income
Besides lowering costs, the other way to afford living alone is by increasing your income. Moreover, you can also follow some actionable ways to earn money online: Do you have marketable talents? Monetize them! Good at art? Sell paintings online. Good at graphic design? Take up freelance projects with magazines and websites. Know coding? Help startups develop apps. Harvested a big batch of coriander? See if your neighbours want to buy some from you.
From freelance writing projects to walking your neighbourhood dogs – the possibilities to make a little more money in your spare time are endless. Similarly, if you end up saving some money using these tips, you could invest it and watch it grow – adding another stream of income.