How to Live Alone Without Going Broke
After sharing a four-bedroom apartment with four people, a one-bedroom apartment with another person three separate times (I slept in the living room), and then a two-bedroom apartment with four people (which means sharing a bed), I have been living alone for over a year in a small studio apartment — and I love it. No, really. You have no idea how good it is to come and go as you please with no one around. But after this month, I'm moving in with a good friend, so I thought it was the perfect time to recount the many ways to be frugal while living alone. (See also: What to Do Before Moving in With Someone)
I should let you know — I live like a 13-year-old boy. If you walked into my apartment, you'd see a string of clothes pretty much everywhere, leading up to my bed, which will indubitably never be made, with me sitting in it, hunched over my computer watching Netflix and eating Totino's pizza rolls. In other words, I'm not the healthiest or cleanest person who lives alone, but I definitely am one of the cheapest.
1. Know Your Neighbors
This is extremely important, and will save you (hopefully) on an alarm system. Living alone can be scary, but knowing who you live around is of utmost importance. Make sure they know what you're doing and when (especially if you're going away for a long period of time). No need for them to become an everyday part of your life, but a little familiarity can go a long way.
2. Share the Internet
Yes, I understand that you live alone, but if you're in a one-bedroom or studio apartment, you most likely have close neighbors. I live in a home above my landlord and next to another studio apartment, and the three of us share the internet. The signal isn't the strongest, but it works well enough to save 66% in Internet bills and/or coffee from the local coffee shop.
3. Get a Library Card
I can understand boredom, but if you live alone, I can't justify having cable (unless your main source of income is writing about television shows, in which case, I would like to steal your job please). Library cards are free, and the libraries nowadays usually have a large supply of DVDs waiting to be rented. If you can't live without TV service, use Hulu or get a Netflix account.
4. Make Leftovers Your Favorite Meal
Everyone should plan out their dinners whether they live alone or not. That's a given. But I always talk to people who live alone who say, "I don't cook because there's no one to eat with me!" Well, you have you to eat with, and then you have you to eat with for lunch the next day, and if there are enough leftovers, lunch the day after that. In other words, leftovers are the best thing you can hope for when you live alone and want to save money.
5. Utilize Your Freezer
I have to admit, there's nothing worse than sharing a fridge and freezer with a roommate, especially if you have the same eating habits or your roommate is in a relationship with someone who doesn't understand labeling systems. But mostly, freezers are only so big and can only fit so much, so having it all to yourself is something to take advantage of. Also, you can freeze large amounts of soup, fresh fruit, meat, and more if you don't end up using it all.
6. Remember: Preservatives Aren't the Answer
And speaking of a freezer, don't buy all the crap that I buy just because it's cheap. There's a fine line between being frugal and not taking care of your body. And I have a terrible tendency to buy food that is terrible for me. Just because you live alone doesn't mean that you have to buy food that will never expire. Just plan ahead, and make sure you cook the perishables first, or freeze them. It will be just as cheap, and you'll feel better for it.
7. Buy in Bulk
When you run out of toilet paper when you live alone, you really run out of toilet paper. There's no one to hand you another roll or run to the store. You're screwed. So buying in bulk can be a cheaper and viable option.
8. Start an Herb Garden
Fresh herbs are expensive at the store, but they're super cheap to grow. My attempts at this failed miserably, because yet again I'm a 13-year-old boy who can't cook and only likes eating frozen pizza. So basically, I had a TON of basil. Like a bazillion bunches of basil, and I had no idea what to do with it. Shortly thereafter, it all died. So if you're going to have an herb garden, USE IT!
9. Get an Extra Job or Volunteer
I have two jobs, currently — a full-time job and a part-time one. The full-time is at a non-profit, and the part-time is at a local music venue. This is in addition to my occasional writing. I'm not suggesting an extra job is always the answer, but if you're bored and want someone to talk to, it beats going out and spending money on drinking or dining out or the other typical ways that people who are always alone spend loads of money. Volunteering is also a good way to go, as well. Sometimes you get free meals out of it! And I mean that in a totally altruistic way.
10. Make Sure You Have Enough Space to Work Out
You live alone, so your roommate won't get mad when you flip on the TV to a yoga video or all of a sudden do 50 crunches while watching "New Girl." (I have a tendency to do this because Schmidt is ALWAYS working out. I also sometimes drink whiskey during "Mad Men.") It's your space, so you can do whatever you want. Just make sure you have enough room to work out any time. Saves on the gym!
11. Have a Full-Sized Kitchen
You may be tempted by the price of a studio apartment with a kitchenette, but it really just means you'll eat out more. Having a full kitchen with more than a college-sized refrigerator and two stove burners can go a long way with both saving money and eating healthy. Go big, or don't move in.
If you live alone, how do you do it on the cheap?