To successfully live on your own requires managing both your health and your money well. If you’re living on your own for the first time, there are helpful tips you can follow to ensure a smooth transition into a new chapter of your life. Create a realistic budget, save money, maintain your living space, and take safety precautions as you start this new adventure are a good start.
Living on your own is an exciting time of life for many young adults. Finally, you have new freedom in your own space, and it’s an opportunity to start creating your own life by exploring your interests. But this new chapter also comes with a whole set of new responsibilities and living expenses, and with those come new worries.
If you’re moving out of your parents’ house into your own place, here are 13 tips on how to live on your own to help you to minimize the stress and enjoy this new phase in your life.
Create a budget
The very first thing you should do when planning to live on your own is create a budget. Living by yourself is an unfamiliar experience, and living expenses quickly add up. It would be nice to be able to buy all the things you need as soon as you move in, but this is often unrealistic. For example, your parents likely accumulated their home furnishings over several years. Trying to replace them all immediately can be a financial pitfall.
Creating a budget gives you hard numbers you can use to make good financial decisions. Following that budget closely will keep you from going into debt and hurting your credit score. It can even improve your mental health by preventing the stress that comes from not being able to afford a necessary payment, like rent.
Find an apartment
Getting your own place is exciting, and now that you have a budget, you should know how much you can afford in rent each month. Most landlords require that you pay the first and last month’s rent in addition to a security deposit when you sign a lease, which means you need to set aside more than twice the monthly rent before you move into a new apartment. So if an apartment is $2,000 per month, for example, you will probably have to pay around $4,500 for the first month.
Search for apartments by looking at apartment listings or networking with friends and coworkers. Urban areas tend to have higher housing costs than rural areas, so if you need to save money on rent, you may be able to find a place just outside city limits that costs much less. When hunting for a place to live, try to be flexible; while you probably want a two-bedroom apartment, you may find that you only have enough money for a one-bedroom with less square footage.
Before signing a lease, check if the apartment comes fully furnished and if the monthly rent includes utilities. If there’s room in your budget, you may also want to consider purchasing renter’s insurance; for a small monthly rate, you’ll be covered for incidents like fire and theft.
Prioritize your needs
It’s important to know the difference between needs and wants. The newest phone on the market may be tempting, but don’t upgrade if it doesn’t fit into your budget. Remember that it is better to have an older phone than to miss a rent payment.
Practice self-control by analyzing your budget and prioritizing your needs over your wants. This will help you to be more responsible, a skill that will come in handy in other areas of life as well.
Avoid credit card debt
Think of credit cards as tools, not free money. A credit card is vital for expenses like car payments and subscriptions, but remember that credit is borrowed money, which means you must pay it back later.
By borrowing only as much as you can pay back immediately, you can use credit cards to build your credit and achieve a good credit score. If you spend outside of your budget, however, your credit card debt can grow out of control and become increasingly difficult to pay off. In short, don’t spend money you don’t have.
Make payments on time
Pay rent and your other bills on time. Just one missed payment can negatively affect your credit report. Make a schedule with reminders for each payment, or set up autopay for your bills.
It may seem insignificant at first, but your credit score will greatly impact your future finances. If you have a poor credit score, you may be denied apartment rentals, home loans, and even some employment opportunities.
Set a goal to save 20% of your paycheck each month. If you can’t save 20%, go over your budget and determine what you can save. Even if you can only put aside a small amount every month, developing the habit of saving will help you build financial stability.
In addition to your checking account, it’s a good idea to open a savings account and deposit money in it every month. You can even set up an automatic deposit from each paycheck so you can save without even thinking about it.
Learn to cook
Yes, it is more convenient to buy a meal than to cook it yourself — and depending on your culinary skills, it may taste better too. But a habit of frequenting restaurants or ordering takeout will quickly deplete your food budget.
Plan your meals before you go grocery shopping. You can even print out a few recipes and take them with you. Remember, food is usually less expensive in larger portions, so even if you are cooking for one, you can cook larger meals and freeze the leftovers. Not only have you saved money, but you also have meals ready to go for the nights you feel too tired to cook.
If you’re not used to cooking, you may be inclined to find it unpleasant at first. Instead of viewing it as a chore, treat cooking as a new experience or a new challenge to master. Many first-time cooks eventually grow to love cooking, even coming to view new recipes as adventures and familiar ones as relaxing.
Keep your home clean and organized
A clean home is a happy home. Even if only you will see it, resist the urge to let the dishes pile up in the sink. Taking just a few minutes after each meal to clean up can boost your mood and give you a greater sense of calm.
Even a small apartment will seem larger and more welcoming if you keep it organized and uncluttered. Don’t forget that crumbs can be an open invitation to pests; maintaining a clean apartment will keep them away and make for a much better living space. If it’s too much of a challenge to stay organized, you can try to make household chores more enjoyable by listening to music as you clean.
Your neighbors have the potential to greatly impact your living experience, so it’s best to have them on your side. Getting to know them can make you feel more connected to your neighborhood, and being considerate to your neighbors will often make them more considerate toward you.
Even if you never become close friends with them, your neighbors will be your closest source of help. So long as you maintain a good relationship with them, they may be willing to keep an eye out for you in an emergency or hold on to packages for you while you are away. In essence, being kind from the beginning can result in a large return on investment.
Practice good safety
If possible, change the locks when you move in, even if you have to pay for it yourself. You will have greater peace of mind knowing that you are the only one with a key to your apartment.
Install a video doorbell. These are relatively inexpensive and will allow you to see who is at your door before you open it. Many of these doorbells come with mobile apps that allow you to monitor your home while at work or on vacation.
You’re excited about finally living on your own, but no matter how tempted you are, do not post about your new home on social media. As a general rule, you should never post anything that gives away your location, whether you are away or home alone, or what valuables you have in your apartment. You may inadvertently be inviting intruders into your home.
Cultivate a social life
You’re probably excited to be living alone. Maybe you enjoy the quiet and focus you get from having a place all to yourself. Or maybe circumstances forced you to get your own place and you’re still getting used to the idea of living by yourself.
Either way, you should make time in your schedule for a social life. Call or video chat with your friends, or get out of the house to visit them in person. Make new friends and enjoy a meal together. Socializing with other people, especially people who care about you, will boost your mental health and stave off feelings of loneliness that can come with living on your own.
Prepare for emergencies
Add emergency contacts to your phone, or write them down in a place that is easy to access. These contacts should include your building superintendent, the water company, the power company, a trusted neighbor, a locksmith, and the nearest hospital or emergency room.
Living on your own means no one will be around to help you if you get sick, so be prepared by stocking items that will get you through a bad day or week. Stock up on tissues, painkillers, over-the-counter medicine, and any prescription medication you take.
It’s also good practice to put together an emergency kit. Consider everything you would need if your power were to be cut off for three days. Be sure to include nonperishable food and water in your kit, as well as flashlights and spare batteries. Remember, once an emergency strikes, it will be too late to prepare.
Finally, don’t panic!
Being on your own for the first time is a big adjustment. You will face problems, some of which you anticipated and some of which will blindside you. Don’t panic. Tackle one issue at a time. If you need to, break it down into steps you can manage. Each difficulty you overcome will build your confidence in your ability to handle the next one.
You may be living by yourself, but you have support. Family, friends, and even neighbors may be able to help you with problems that seem too daunting for you to solve alone. And don’t forget, the more experience you gain, the better equipped you will be to take on the next challenge. In time, you may find that you thrive living on your own!
How much money do I need to live on my own?
That depends on your expenses. In general, your necessities (rent, food, clothing, transportation, etc.) should account for up to half of your monthly income. This article provides a more detailed to answer to the question of how much you should save before you move out.
What is the cheapest way to live by yourself?
Minimize your expenses. Since your largest expense will likely be your home, look for the cheapest housing you can find (which may include living in an RV) or find a roommate or two.
Can I survive living on my own?
As long as you have enough income and spend money within your budget, you can survive living on your own.
Is it smart to live on your own?
That all depends on you! Some people thrive on the freedom of living alone. Others have medical or emotional conditions that make living on their own inadvisable. In the end, only you can decide if living alone is a smart choice for you.
- Create a budget before moving into your own place, then stick to it.
- Pay your bills on time and set money aside in a savings account.
- Keep your place clean and organized.
- Take steps to keep yourself safe.
- Be a good neighbor and maintain an active social life.
- Don’t panic when you run into problems. Face each challenge one at a time.
While there are many factors that determine how successfully you can live on your own, your credit score will affect what options are available to you, whether you’re looking to rent an apartment or finance a house. You can check your credit score using a credit monitoring tool and take steps to improve your score so you can get the home you want.
View Article Sources
- Seven Financial Rules for Living on Your Own for the First Time – Money Management International
- Life Skills Academy: How to Live on Your Own – San Jose Public Library
- Independent Living Skills Teens Need Before Leaving Home – Understood.org
- On your own: Becoming self-sufficient – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Setting Out on Your Own – Consumer Advice, Federal Trade Commission
Jesse Hughes is a personal finance writer who loves to research complex and poorly understood topics and explain them in plain English. Jess has a background in technical writing and over a decade of experience working with mechanical engineers, so he understands the value of clear and precise writing when covering complex topics.