You’re finally on your own. Now what?
While it may be tempting to focus on your new-found independence, staying organized and living according to the budget you’ve created is essential.
In this chapter, you’ll find information related to practical planning topics like essential groceries for college students and new renters, a house cleaning schedule, savings hacks and other information on how to survive on your own.
You’ll find that a little planning can go a long way. Keep reading to learn more.
Cooking for One: Tips for Eating Cheap When Living on Your Own
Your new home will have an empty kitchen. This may make it tempting to over-purchase food to fill it up, or to try a new recipe each day. However, this tactic could lead to waste. It’s estimated that Americans throw away 25% of the food they purchase or prepare, wasting $1,400 to $2,300 per year.
Meal planning is a way to cut down on this waste. By taking the time to deliberately plan ahead, you can shop more efficiently while taking advantage of sales and coupons to create a menu each week. Pay attention to online coupon services and consider subscribing to your local newspaper to watch for coupons and extra deals. Look for special pricing and create a menu accordingly.
Other ways to save money on food include:
- Shopping your pantry. Once you’ve started shopping regularly, you may be surprised by the items you have on hand to create a meal. Before going to the store, review what you already have and think of how you could incorporate those items into your weekly meal plan.
- Eating leftovers. Cooking for one usually means you’ll have extra. Use leftovers for lunches and consider eating them for dinner the next night. This will cut down on your amount of wasted food.
- Freezing leftovers. If you’ve made a large crockpot of soup, you’ll have leftovers. If you won’t eat it right away or aren’t a fan of eating the same meal two days in a row, save what remains by freezing it. Be sure to label and date each meal you freeze. Each week, take an inventory of your freezer and look for a meal or two at a time.
- Signing up for rebate programs through store loyalty cards and apps. Sometimes getting the best deals means shopping at a few different stores. Find a way to work this into your schedule and determine whether this tactic is cost-effective for you.
If you’re unsure of where to start, consider using the grocery list below. Focus on the staples that will be helpful in a variety of recipes and are good to have on hand for the long term. This is not a comprehensive list, but it’ll help you stock your pantry and fridge. Make modifications as needed to meet your requirements.
While setting out on your first grocery shopping trip, and every trip after that, take advantage of savings and coupon offers. Couponing doesn’t have to be extreme. Instead, it can be a simple way to save a little on each shopping trip.
To make the most of coupons in your area, consider:
- Signing up for store cards and watching for weekly circulars.
- Visiting online sites that offer coupons in your area.
- Clipping coupons each week and keeping them in a single location. Go through them before you go to the store each time and discard expired coupons.
- Focusing on products you’ll use. Don’t use a coupon just because it’s available.
- Paying attention to stores that offer double coupon incentives.
- Combining store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons for extra savings.
- Make a one-time purchase of reusable bags – some stores offer money off each time you bring your own.
Shopping can be fun. Look online for healthy recipes for college students in apartments and others who are on their own for the first time — and be creative! You may come up with a few new favorites.
Saving on Utilities
Another area you can focus on cutting down on is utilities. While you can’t live without them, there are ways to save.
When maintaining your heating or cooling system, consider:
- Making sure all registers are open and not blocked to ensure proper air flow and circulation.
- Installing thick curtains and window treatments. “Thermal” curtains are designed to help maintain a steady indoor temperature.
- Adjusting the thermostat up or down for the season. A simple change in your clothing – like throwing on a sweater – may increase your comfort without having to change the thermostat.
- Taking advantage of cooler evening outdoor temperatures during the spring and summer. Open the windows instead of relying on your air conditioning system.
Focus on lowering your electric bill. A few tips in this area include:
- Setting computers and televisions to turn off when not in use.
- Unplugging “vampires” like phone chargers and coffeemakers that use electricity even when they’re not in use.
- Installing energy-efficient light bulbs.
- Air-drying laundry.
- Watching for “free” electricity day offers and other specials. Shop around for the best deal.
If you’ll be using public water, you may be able to save by:
- Installing energy-efficient toilets and shower heads.
- Limiting shower times.
- Running the dishwasher only as needed, rather than out of habit if it’s not full.
Taking a few simple steps like those listed above could go a long way toward cutting down on your monthly expenses. You should also consider visiting utility company websites to learn about rebate and savings programs and talking to your landlord about potential repairs and upgrades.
Doing your own laundry, especially if you haven’t already gotten into the habit, can be a new challenge to conquer. However, the task doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Consider the steps below to make the process more efficient. It will become part of your normal routine in no time.
- Doing laundry for one means you’ll probably do less laundry than when you were living at home. This means some stains will have a longer amount of time to set in. Take the time to invest in stain treatments you can apply before you toss clothes in the hamper.
- Invest in laundry bags for delicate items so you can reduce the number of loads you need to do by throwing them in with normal clothing items.
- Set up dark and light hampers in your room or laundry space to save time. Sort as you remove your clothes instead of as you’re preparing to do a load of wash.
- Use cold wash cycles to save on energy costs.
- Consider air-drying your clothes on an indoor rack or outdoor clothesline if you’re permitted to do so.
- Remove laundry as soon as it’s dry and spray a wrinkle remover on dress clothes to cut down on the need to iron.
- Read your clothing labels. Washing clothes correctly will prevent damaging them during the cleaning process.
Create a List of Household Chores
One of the most effective ways to keep up with the cleaning and chores that your new home deserves is by making a weekly cleaning schedule. The following chores should be completed regularly. Take the time to sit down, look at your calendar, and make a schedule to keep yourself on track.
With a little planning and deliberate action, you can save money and find a weekly cleaning schedule and shopping routine that works for you. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep the tips above in mind as you start your new life on your own.
Read Our Other Chapters
- Chapter 1: Questions to Consider Before Moving Out
- Chapter 2: How to Budget for Living on Your Own
- Chapter 3: How to Save to Live Alone for the First Time
- Chapter 4: How to Find Your New Space
- Chapter 5: How to Move Out and Get Started
- Chapter 6: How to Manage Groceries, Cleaning, and More
- Chapter 7: What College Students Need to Know Before Living on Their Own
- Chapter 8: Tips for Living Alone