Living on your own is like passing through the gateway of heaven… except heaven is adulthood. You finally made it. All that saving and decision-making are finally paying off. The process can be grueling… Picking the apartment, planning the move, the decorating, getting all your bills squared away, picking an Internet plan (this alone took me a week). It was harder than picking a favorite Audrey Hepburn movie or choosing a Ben & Jerry’s flavor.
But the hardest part for me came after I moved in.
What do you do when your air conditioning unit starts leaking? How do you take care of a fireplace? Why does my smoke alarm constantly beep even when I’m not burning anything? When do I turn my air off and my heat on; is there a widely accepted date or what? What temperature do you set it on when you finally do turn the heat on because you can’t put another pair of socks on?
So here are some things that I’ve learned living on my own for the first time.
1. Stay Organized
I am about as scatterbrained as they come. I am so unorganized and when it comes to being an adult and paying bills, organization is key. I would be lost without the organizing binder my mom made for me. I put all of my recipes in it, all of my bills in it, and there’s even a calendar where I keep track of my bill payments and due dates. I write on it religiously. I also have a budget, again, thanks to Mom, and it keeps me on track and organized. It reminds me to put money in savings and keeps me from having panic-attacks when I feel like I’m running out of money.
2. Do Your Research
I didn’t know anything about electric, water, or cable plans until I moved in alone. There’s surprisingly a ton of stuff to know. There are probably a few different companies available in your area for each service and they’re all offering different options. The key is finding the best one for your needs, with the best track record amongst it’s customers, and the most affordable price.
3. Stay Busy
Here’s the truth: living alone can be awesome. On a regular basis I walk around in only my underwear and a T-shirt and there’s no one to judge me other than my cat. I can do what I want, when I want, because I want. The other side of the coin is that living by yourself can be really lonely. It’s quiet, isolating and sometimes boring as hell. As the oldest of 5 siblings and an aunt, I am so used to noise and commotion that the silence of living alone is deafening. Luckily, I work a ton. So not only am I hardly home, but when I am I’m sleeping or cooking dinner or Netflixing. That’s about it. Don’t let yourself get too holed up. There’s a fine line between enjoying the peace and quiet and becoming a hermit.
4. Think Before You Spend
The best thing that my budget has done for me is making me stop and think. Do I need three bottles of wine or is one enough? Do I need to go out every day of every weekend? Do I need to spend $50 at the bar? Probably not. Hold yourself accountable for everything you do, because it matters. There’s no one there to bail you out anymore. There are also tons of life hacks on spending. Couponing is BAE. Chances are your parents get tons of coupons at their house because of newspapers and junk mail (I don’t get any coupons delivered to my apartment so I steal them from my parents; sorry Mom.) Sign up for a rewards card or a membership at a wholesale store. Shop at different places for the best deals. You don’t need to get every single thing on your list at the most expensive store. Some things you can save on by buying them at other places.
5. Make Yourself Clean
It’s so easy to get into a slump living alone. There’s no one there to hold you accountable so the dishes pile up, the laundry litters the floor and the milk in the fridge becomes extremely questionable. I don’t have any shame in admitting that this all happens to me. I have an extremely busy schedule and sometimes I don’t feel like cleaning, doing laundry or grocery shopping. Making myself do these things makes me appreciate what I have and the place I live in. Go through your fridge in a timely manner. Get rid of things that go bad and make sure everything stays organized. That way you always know what you have and what you need. Keep track of what you eat and what you end up throwing away so you can save money. Keep up with your laundry and clean regularly. My cleaning and laundry day has become Sunday. I don’t know why, maybe a childhood spent watching Jersey Shore? The point is that it works.
There are plenty of awesome things about living on your own; you just have to also work through the struggles. Homeownership isn’t always easy but the awesome thing is that you’re working for something that is totally yours. Something that you can enjoy and appreciate despite its frustrations. Just try not to burn anything down and everything else is pretty fixable.
Feature Image via Christie.