10 Frugal Hacks for Single Living

Getting a roommate may be a surefire way to save money, but sharing a living space isn’t the ideal scenario for everyone. For instance, you're in medical school or law school and need plenty of quiet time to study and rest. You're a single parent and don't want another person's influence on your kids. You're recently divorced and want to entertain friends and guests. These are all good reasons to want to live alone. However, living alone doesn't mean you must forgo frugality.

Here are 10 frugal living hacks for anyone who prefers to live alone.

1. Live, Work, and Play in the Same Neighborhood

Major city centers are ripe with live, work, and play communities, but it shouldn't matter in what area you live. You should be able to carve out the right balance to conveniently commute between work and home and find activities in your area that keep you balanced.

2. Rent a (Spacious) Studio Apartment

Save on rent by renting a studio unit instead of a conventional one-bedroom. And if you live in anything larger than that, downsize and rent it out to sock away the extra savings. I understand there are reasons one might want to purchase a three-bedroom home, but until you're ready to start using all those rooms, be smart.

3. Rent in a Building With Luxury Amenities

For an extra couple hundred bucks per month, you could rent the same apartment in a nicer building. If you're a fitness buff, rent an apartment in a building that has a gym (pool, racquetball, etc.) and save by not needing a sports club membership. The building might have a business center, which could be great if you work from home. Or, the property could have a car sharing program and other luxurious money-saving amenities. Meanwhile, it's a great way to network and get acquainted with neighbors, which could one day lead to business.

4. Cook Meals

Pizza is perhaps the cheapest dine-out meal you can buy. But it doesn’t matter how you slice it, preparing meals at home is the best way to go. Although you will be cooking for one, it still makes sense to prepare meals at home and take leftovers to work the next day.

5. Buy in Bulk

As someone living alone, it doesn’t always make sense to buy in bulk, but it may be smart to grab family packs of non-perishable foods and meats. Separate meats into smaller quantities of two to four, and freeze them in freezer bags. Now, you only need to do major shopping once per month for minor things, like fresh veggies, bread, and dairy. (See also: Save Big at These 4 Discount Supermarkets)

6. Take Public Transit

When you live and work in the same community, you eliminate the need for a car, and in the case of most major cities, the cost of a parking space. On occasions when you do need a car to visit family or weekend getaways, use a ride sharing program like Zipcar or Uber. It will give you peace of mind and save you time and money. Not to mention, some transit services offer perks that include discounts around the city. For instance, using Philadelphia's SEPTA Pass Perks includes discounts on Zipcars, attractions, restaurants, and more. (See also: Car Sharing: Why Own When You Can Just Share?)

7. Ditch Cable Subscriptions

Don't get bullied into expensive cable subscriptions that will cost at least $100 per month. Cable providers now try to rope subscribers into package deals, where at first glance it actually appears to make more sense. Really, how often are you going to be home to utilize a cable subscription? Netflix it instead. Netflix subscriptions start at $7.99 per month. For Internet, consider an Internet-only provider and don't pay more than it's worth.

8. Sign Up for Discounts

Just because you live alone doesn't mean you shouldn't be a frugal shopper and sign up for in-store discount savings programs. Also join a program like AAA and save at hundreds of merchants, including on rental cars, hotel stays, restaurants, attractions, and more. They even offer discounts with area cell phone, Internet, and cable service providers.

9. Check Out Intuit's Benefit Assist

NOTE: Intuit Benefit Assist is no longer available.

Use Intuit's Benefit Assist to find out if you qualify for discounted health insurance, reduced utility bills, low-cost cell phone service, cheap auto insurance, and/or have unclaimed money laying around. The website says you could qualify for as much as $2,000 in benefits.

10. Put Yourself on a Budget

It's easy to overspend when there's no one to think about or care for other than yourself. That can cause people living alone to overspend on activities and shopping. Be mindful of your spending habits and put yourself on a budget. Although you're on your own, you shouldn't need to spend more than $50 to $100 per week on miscellaneous things. What you save could be going towards your retirement. (See also: Build Your First Budget in 5 Easy Steps)

Live alone? What frugal tricks do you use to contain your spend?

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Guest's picture

I'm not sure you understand the economics of housing in some areas. In Los Angeles, for example, renting an apartment near where you work can cost more than buying a house farther away and commuting. Studio apartments were running a minimum of $1,600 near my job, and 18 miles away, in a reasonable (not great) neighborhood, I bought a small house to fix up for $1,200 in mortgage, property insurance AND property taxes (I put enough down not to pay PMI). Using public transportation to commute, it's much less to own than to rent and I'm building equity every month. The extra $400 per month has been going to my DIY repairs, and taking care of the deferred maintenance is increasing the value of the house.

Please do the math - spending $200-$300 more per month for an apartment with a fitness center? A gym membership can cost $35 per month, why would you waste $165-$265 for that building? You can work from home without a business center, as I do some days, and take the bus to a Zipcar pick-up location if you choose to car-share.

Guest's picture

I clicked on the Intuit Benefit Assist link and Intuit said they no longer do this service. Instead they provided links directly to the social service websites that do.

Guest's picture

Zip lock bags and your freezer.
Cooking for one is not generally inspiring, but when I cook something special for myself or for guests, I make More than I need. Then I freeze my spicy peppered chicken soup, 11 breakfast muffins, lasagne, or chicken cordon bleu in zip lock sandwich bags.

I shop for one "special" meal that I can freeze each week and freeze at least 4 baggies.

They thaw quickly in small servings, provide variety, eliminate a lot of waste, have healthful ingredients, and are ready to eat in minutes.

Not a big deal, but it beats drive-through S.