Let’s not beat about the bush; living alone is expensive. While there are many wonderful aspects of living alone, the price tag definitely isn’t one of them. How can middle- to low-income spinsters maintain domestic independence without going broke or renting a room in Cracktown?
1. Plan, Plan, Then Plan Some More
While you don’t want to procrastinate, neither do you want to jump into to a new living situation blind. Take a reasonable amount of time to do your research and figure out what you want. Donna Freedman over at Clark has an excellent outline for anyone looking to move out on their own. Check out her article for some tips on how to
I made a post a while back about picking out a safe apartment. But unfortunately, safety often comes at a high cost. Before you do anything, you’ll need to sit down and decide what’s most important to you in terms of housing. Usually you’ll need to consider
- Size: How much space do you need?
- Cost: How much money can you spend?
- Safety: How safe does the area need to be?
- Location: How conveniently located does it need to be?
This will vary for everyone to some degree, but the most ideal configuration I’ve found is this:
- Safety first. You don’t need to live in a gated community with an armed guard, but living in a safe environment should probably be highest on your list. Crime happens everywhere, but some neighborhoods are more prone to violent crime than others. To learn more about choosing a safe neighborhood, check out this post.
- Cost Next. I’d like for cost to be the least important factor, but living on a limited income makes this vital. Make a list of your expenses excluding rent. Now subtract that from your monthly income. Take at least 5% off of that number to compensate for a drop income or unexpected expenses. What you have left is the absolute maximum amount you can spend on rent.
- Then Location. Proximity to your job, shopping centers, and family affects other monthly costs like gas and car maintenance. Work the numbers and see if living in an out-of-the-way area will get you more or less of what you want.
- And Finally, Size. More space is usually more enjoyable, but unless you have so many possessions that you’d have to pay for storage space should you move to a small space, this will the most flexible of all your needs. A studio apartment that’s all your own can make for a far better life than a five-bedroom, single family home with people you dislike.
But what happens when you don’t have the money you need to get the priorities you’ve set?
3. Make The Numbers Work
Don’t give up! With a little perseverance and creativity, you can have your solo home yet. Here’s how:
Get a roomie. One of the most straight-forward ways to save on living expenses is to live with a roommate. The old adage the two can live as cheaply as one is definitely true when it comes to housing expenses, so splitting your living space can mean halving your bill. There are many ways having a roommate could go wrong, but if you know the person fairly well and have a mutual, detailed roommate agreement, it can end up working very well. Sharing your home with an adult friend can offer more privacy than living with parents, depending on the situation, so having a roomie won’t necessarily rob you of your single freedoms.
Haggle. You can also usually negotiate the cost of rent, whether you’re renting from a legitimate apartment management company or a single person. Apartment complexes sometimes offer discounts for residents working for ‘preferred employers,’ or when their residency rate is low. A little subtle negotiating (for instance, letting them know you’re still looking at other places may make people or companies more inclined to offer a discount) can save you hundreds per year.
Haggle some more. Then there’s negotiating with yourself. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom looked so tempting when the realtor walked you through, and you could technically afford it… but what kind of safety net could you give yourself if you took the studio apartment for $175 less per month? An extra 2k per year looks pretty good compared to extra space that – while you could certainly make use of it – you don’t have any real need for.
Finding a way to live safely on your own without getting into debt is possible. It simply takes a lot of planning and perseverance. And I can say from experience that it’s worth the time and mental fatigue you’ll invest running through all the different mathematical scenarios when you can come home to your very own home.
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