Living alone for the first (or fifth) time can be fun, exciting, overwhelming, and even a little bit scary.
Whether you’re moving out on your own from your parents’ home, leaving a house full of roommates, or leaving your ex-lover in the dust, here are six tips to master living alone.
1. Set a Budget — and Stick to It.
Without a roommate or significant other to share rent, utilities, and your grocery bill, living alone can quickly sink your budget. Financial experts advise following the 50-30-20 rule, which commits 50 percent of your take-home pay to required expenses like housing, renters insurance, food, health insurance, and car payments.
One easy step is to change the way you shop for groceries: make a list, use staples you already have in your pantry, and compare prices across brands and stores. Batch cooking on the weekends and taking leftovers for lunch all week can help cut time, cost, and stress.
“It can be easy to fall into the trap of eating out every day or every night,” says teacher Brian Rock. “Before long, that can add up and put a huge dent into your budget.”
Since you have little control over your rent other than choosing a cheaper place, shop at thrift stores for used furniture, and cut utility costs by ditching the cable package you don’t watch and turning off lights when you don’t need them. You can also ask your landlord if you can help out around the property in exchange for a break on your rent.
2. Invest in Extra Security.
A big part of going solo is the real or perceived safety risk. Look for a place that already offers internal and external security features like high-quality locks and motion-activated lights. You can also invest in a few simple upgrades like security cameras and stronger window locks.
Your personal habits can also protect you. Adrianne Harris says she checks in regularly with friends and family, chooses carefully the evening plans that keep her out after dark, uses large reusable grocery bags so she only has to make one trip from her car to her home, and skips out on scary shows and movies at home.
3. Get to Know Your Neighbors.
Whether you live in an apartment building or a single-family home, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to your neighbors. With these relationships, you’ll have people who are there when you need help and who can watch your dog, loan you a cup of sugar, check on your place when you’re gone, and socialize with you when you’re lonely.
4. Adopt a Pet — or a Plant.
A pet can keep you company, comfort you when you’re sad, and give you a meaningful purpose. This may not be feasible depending on your schedule and your landlord’s rules, but you can start simple with a single fish or even a low-maintenance indoor plant.
5. Make Room for Guests.
Even the smallest spaces can be arranged to have friends over for a glass of wine or a movie night. Invite guests to dinner, a housewarming party, or even just coffee to avoid isolation and to show off your new digs. It’s not a bad idea to have an air mattress and an extra set of sheets on hand in the event too much champagne gets popped.
If you are naturally a homebody, having guests can help stem feelings of loneliness and boredom.
6. Walk Around Naked.
Ok, even if you don’t hang out in the nude, one advantage of living alone is the opportunity to make your space your own.
Pick out your favorite bedding, set aside space for your creative projects, hang prints on the walls, fill your living room with plants, and sing loudly in the shower without worrying about what anyone else thinks.
“If you are someone who doesn’t want decorative pillows on the bed, then there is no reason to buy them or have extra laundry to do,” says professor Andrew Selepak. “You get to decide when you want to eat, when you want to shop for groceries, when you want to clean the house.”