Living on your own is a big change and something that may feel difficult at times. Moving into my first house, I had no idea what to expect. I came in with no idea what it would be like, and it certainly did take a while to get used to. But I learned over time, through mistakes and through settling in, to find the do’s and don’ts of living on your own for the first time. These are some of the most important things I picked up in the process.
Learn how to budget your money
Dealing with your own money and expenses can be hard if you aren’t aware of how much you’re spending vs how much you’re taking in each month. Living on your own is expensive, and sometimes it seems like a never ending cycle of money leaving your wallet each and every day. Budgeting is a good way to stay on top of things.
I have a calendar that I mark each month for every bill I have to pay, whether it’s rent, my gym membership, or streaming subscriptions. That way I never forget an upcoming payment. At the beginning of each month I set aside the total amount for my bills, gas for my car, and money for groceries each week. I also try to put at least $20-$50 into my savings account each month. Then, with whatever’s left, I use for my own personal expenses like coffee or food, random trips to the store, or online shopping.
While this exact process may not work for you, it’s good to have some type of plan set up for budgeting and keeping track of your money.
Plan out a grocery list
The first time I went grocery shopping for myself I walked in without a plan— overly confident that it couldn’t be that hard.
I was wrong. After spending almost two hours at the local Walmart constantly checking prices and searching the depths of my mind to remember what food I even liked, I walked back to my car with only orange juice, Italian-style bread, and bagged pretzels in hand. That wasn’t even enough to make a single meal in my still empty kitchen.
Eventually I got into the habit of making a grocery list. I checked online flyers and sales to find the most cost efficient foods, planned out my meals, and was able to buy foods accordingly. After writing it all down on a piece of paper folded away in my pocket, I was a hundred times more prepared to shop. While I may feel like my mom walking up and down the aisles, wrinkled paper in hand, scribbling out the picked up foods as I go, it’s a lot less stressful and has led to a much better cooking experience. It has also worked to get rid of those days where I have a glass of orange juice and plain toast for every meal (or at least most of the time).
Practice cooking and baking
Living on your own is a great time to practice new skills! One of the most important skills being cooking for yourself. Growing up my mom loved to make every meal; she loved to cook and try new recipes, so I never had to. That also meant that coming into college I had no idea how to make anything besides cheap microwave meals.
But I knew it couldn’t be like that for the rest of my life. I had to learn and I had to start soon. Which is why moving into my own place and finally having access to my own full kitchen was such a blessing. I scoured the internet, reading possibly every article online about different meals, jotting down the ones that seemed appetizing as I went. Every new recipe was always a process of trial and error, but I learned new skills. Even better, I learned new foods I liked that I would have never even considered before.
Living on your own is a great time to practice these things. If you mess up, or it doesn’t come out like you wanted, there’s no repercussions (except maybe the dishes) and you can always try again. Just like any new skill, it takes time and practice, but everyone gets better over time.
Make a chore list
If you’re living with others, it’s a great idea to make a chore list. Whether it’s the same weekly chores each person prefers, or one that switches every week, this allows every person in the house to have an easier workload. It also prevents each person from ignoring chores and accumulating mess. As well as arguments or frustrations that can occur from anybody slacking off or avoiding these responsibilities by assigning everyone an equal share.
Some chores on the list could be washing the dishes, taking out the trash, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, swiffering the floors, etc.
Choose a select laundry day
This is something I do that not everyone else does, yet I find it very beneficial. I’m someone who will put off chores for as long as I can, and doing laundry happens to be one of my very least favorites. Keeping a designated laundry day (or days) is one of the things that helps keep me on track and on top of things.
Since I have possibly the smallest washer/dryer in the world, I do my laundry on Wednesdays and Sundays. That way, I’m not without my clothes for too long, and it also doesn’t pile up into a frightening, overflowing tower of dirty, sweaty clothes. This way, if I never need anything in particular, I can just do smaller, more individual loads in between.
Make sure to stay safe
Every night I’ve gotten into the habit of closing and locking all our windows, closing the blinds and checking and locking both doors. It’s become a nightly ritual I do, following the same pattern and same steps day after day. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and actively taking steps to keep yourself safe, especially when living on your own.
I know a lot of people who never necessarily felt the need to lock their doors at home and even more on campus who’ve told me locking their doors while they’re out or while they’re sleeping isn’t their biggest concern. Living off campus can be quite different though. Being new to the area I don’t know very many of my neighbors, or know much about my neighborhood or past experiences here. While that doesn’t mean that I’m by any means unsafe, I think it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Right now my housemates and I are collecting cans and bottles trying to save up for a Ring Video Doorbell. Even if it never actually helps us in any particular way, it’s always there to at least make us feel better and safer.
A few more thoughts
Some things you may not think about that you should definitely bring when moving into your first home:
- A tool box
- Rock salt
- A shovel
- First aid kit / supplies
- Multipurpose cleaner
- Batteries and lightbulbs
My biggest piece of advice is to make this place feel like home. This is where you’ll be spending the majority of your time, you’re going to want to stay in a place that makes you feel good. Decorate it how you like, put up those silly decorations, set up the mismatched furniture, hang posters, put up pictures, do anything that makes you feel comfortable and happy where you are.
Also, don’t forget how to relax. Being responsible for yourself is hard work and it’s okay to be overwhelmed sometimes. Make sure you’re listening to yourself and know when you need to take a break. It’s okay to skip a chore or two sometimes or swap out a home cooked meal for takeout and a soda. You should be putting yourself as a priority over anything else. Make your experience fun, do whatever you need to do to enjoy your time, and also enjoy yourself.