The prospect of moving out and living on your own for the first time is exhilarating, and it’s a huge leap towards becoming independent. All the rules have gone up in smoke, and you’re free to go where you want, when you want and with whomever you want – bliss.
Sadly though, the real world has a habit of catching up alarmingly fast; and most of us find ourselves shocked by just how many things are now our responsibility, and even more so, just how much everything seems to cost. Here are some tips to help keep those embarrassing pleas to your parents for help down to a minimum. With a little guidance, the road to independence can be a little bit less bumpy, and an all-around more enjoyable ride!
Get in the habit of budgeting – even if you don’t stick to it
Every adult will tell you that having a budget is one thing, sticking to it is completely another. This is something many of us battle with our whole lives – but the earlier you start, the better your chances of reaping the benefits of this powerful habit. It might take some experience to learn what actually needs to go on your budget too.
The first month or so it’s tempting to say: my rent is X, the rest is mine to spend, budget complete. It might take a few months of running out of groceries the last two weeks of every month to realize that you need a weekly budget for food, for example. There are loads of helpful apps that can make this easier and let you know when you’re straying which can be super helpful – but they only work if you take the time to set your budget honestly and in detail.
Keeping all your slips for a month or two and seeing how much you actually spend where and on what can be a real eye-opener as to what a realistic budget would look like. Use an old school or work diary and paste the slips from each day (or scribble them down from your electronic records) into the corresponding slot, then break down what you spent each day into categories like food, fun, transport and other essentials. At the end of the month, add them all up and see what you actually need to budget for each category and where you need to stop wasting money.
Learn how to reduce costs
Once you have a better idea of where your money’s going, most people come to the inevitable conclusion that they need more of it! If you’re always struggling to make ends meet come month end, it’s time to see where you can shave off costs. If you’re spending too much on transport it might be a good idea to look at apartment rentals closer to school or work. Moving into a student digs is often a great way to save costs and make new friends too – although if you’re a stickler for tidiness prepare to get a lesson in compromise! Finding a flatmate can also make paying the rent a lot easier, especially if you gel together well and can split grocery bills and other expenses too.
Take a look at the items you buy regularly and see what you can buy in bulk at the beginning of the month. If you have a favorite takeout meal, learn how to cook it yourself! Make use of public transport or get in the habit of walking or taking your bike wherever you can. The internet is an endless resource for finding money saving hacks – become an expert!
Learn to compare prices and budget for unexpected costs
So your secondhand TV has given up the ghost, maybe you can live without replacing it. But if the fridge has packed up, you’re going to have to find the money to fix it somehow. Appliance repairs are just one of those areas you never expect to see come up in that monthly budget – that doesn’t mean things aren’t going to break. The same goes for vehicle repairs, your computer failing and you having to get data recovery done, medical bills and a host of other unpleasant surprises. Making room in your budget each month for a slush fund or putting money into a separate savings account for rainy days is one way to deal with them, if you don’t want to go crawling back to your folks for a loan that is!
Learn to shop around for the services you need, it’s often quite surprising how much more one provider charges than another for the same thing. Don’t go with the first quote you get, and always keep your eyes open for ways to save money.
Most importantly, don’t be dismayed when things don’t go according to plan. More than anything else, learning to live on your own is about learning from your mistakes. Setbacks will happen, but how you react to and learn from them is what will ultimately make you a successful, solo adult!